The BBL’s two most successful clubs meet in their fourth final and their three most recent meetings point to a fascinating match-up
Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers are historically the two powerhouses of the BBL. The teams will meet on Saturday night for the fourth time in BBL finals and the fourth time this season. The Scorchers are chasing a record fourth title while the Sixers are hoping for back-to-back trophies to draw level with the Scorchers on three overall.
But more relevant to Saturday night is the three most recent meetings this season and specifically the last two. The Scorchers humbled the Sixers in Perth earlier in the season but the Perth Stadium surface is a completely different prospect to the SCG. There has not been a single BBL game played at the venue this season due to Covid-19 although there were two high-scoring T20Is between Australia and India.
The two most recent meetings between the sides occurred in Canberra with the Sixers claiming both with relatively comfortable chases. Here are the key points that could decide the Final.
To bowl or not to bowl
The bat flip could be vital again. Firstly, there is rain forecast for Saturday night which could give an advantage to the chasing team although the Sixers won last year’s rain-affected final batting first. Dew isn’t normally a factor in Sydney but a wet ball might be. Ashton Turner admitted on Friday that he got the toss decision horribly wrong in the Qualifier as the dew played a big part in the Sixers’ winning chase. However, the Scorchers trademark is to bat first and defend. The Sixers love to chase and are the best chasing team in the BBL by far. The SCG is also a chasing ground. In the last three years, the chasing side has won seven of 12 matches at the SCG with the average first innings score being just 156. If Turner wins the toss, he will have a dilemma on his hands, whereas Moises Henriques will be unlikely to hesitate in choosing to bowl first.
Josh Philippe and James Vince vs Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff
This is a mouthwatering match-up on both sides. The Sixers batting Powerplay could well decide the match. It virtually has done in the last three meetings. In the first face-off at Perth Stadium, the Scorchers’ new-ball duo came out on top. Jason Behrendorff bagged Josh Philippe and Jhye Richardson claimed James Vince to leave the Sixers 2 for 10 chasing 184 and they lost handsomely.
The Sixers duo exacted their revenge twice in Canberra with Philippe making 84 in the home-and-away win and Vince’s 98 not out in the Qualifier to each claim Player of the Match honours. The match-ups are as clear as day. Philippe has scored 37 off 20 balls against Richardson for one dismissal, while Vince has scored just 31 off 30 against BBL’s leading wicket-taker. The opposite is true for Behrendorff. Vince has a better career record against left-arm quicks, with a high strike-rate and average. He has also scored 29 off 16 without being dismissed against Behrendorff, although Behrendorff did knock him over with a peach in the 2019 World Cup. Philippe has enormous trouble against left-arm quicks with his strike-rate dipping to just 6.25 per over, and it dips to 5.47 against Behrendorff. The Scorchers pair will think long and hard about the lines and lengths they bowl to the inform Sixers duo having strayed far too straight in previous encounters.
The two sides have been among the best Surge batting teams in the competition and possess some of the most destructive Surge batsmen. The league scoring rate in the Surge has been 10.23. The Sixers have four players, Jordan Silk, Daniel Christian, James Vince, and Moises Henriques who exceed the league average with Silk and Christian among the most prolific Surge players this season. The Scorchers have three in Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Turner, and Josh Inglis.
Turner and Inglis clattered 34 off Sean Abbott and Ben Dwarshuis in the Qualifier while Marsh scored 28 on his own in the Surge against Brisbane Heat. The question for both teams will be the bowling match-ups to the bevy of hitters on both sides. The Scorchers have been the best bowling team in the Surge with Richardson and Andrew Tye doing the job almost exclusively all year with both going at less than 9.58 runs per over. The Sixers have been the worst Surge bowling side in the BBL taking just seven wickets for the season and conceding 13.45 per over. Statistically, their best Surge bowlers are Jake Ball (three wickets at an economy rate of 10.66), who may not make the final Sixers’ XI but could be an X-Factor, and Carlos Brathwaite (two wickets at 12). The Sixers will need to choose their options wisely.
Spin to win
Curiously, both sides will likely play the final with just one specialist spinner. Fawad Ahmed has been the lone hand all season for the Scorchers with Ashton Agar out injured. The Sixers have used two spinners at times but settled on Steve O’Keefe as the sole spinner in the Qualifier with the other 16 overs being bowled by pace bowlers.
The Scorchers haven’t got a strong record against spin, particularly legspin, but the Sixers resisted the urge to pick Lloyd Pope in the Qualifier and will likely avoid doing so in the final after Liam Livingstone’s assault on the Heat’s two legspinners in the Challenger. But spin traditionally has been more effective at the SCG in the last three seasons with spinners taking 50 wickets at an economy rate of 7.44. The quicks have taken 84 wickets but conceded 8.20.
O’Keefe and Ahmed may hold the key for their respective sides. O’Keefe has choked the Scorchers’ top order in recent meetings. There is a case to made for Turner to face as many balls as possible of O’Keefe as he has scored 45 runs off 25 balls against him in six career meetings. But O’Keefe will likely bowl in the first 10 overs, and therefore Livingstone and Inglis will be the best match-ups. Both score at more than 10 an over against O’Keefe but both have fallen to him. Ahmed hasn’t been a wicket-taker against the Sixers this season, with just three, but he has been able to hold the run-rate somewhat. He’s conceded 79 runs in 60 balls in the three meetings with only one six being struck off him. Vince and Philippe will look to attack him but would need to be careful not to expose the middle order to him.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne