29 January, 2018

The Perth Scorchers were named minor premiers once again after topping the ladder courtesy of a four-wicket victory over the Adelaide Strikers. It was the perfect way to say farewell to the WACA and it set up a tantalising semi-final clash with the Hobart Hurricanes. George Bailey’s men defied the odds to finish fourth in the ladder, and the Strikers became another surprise package by finishing second. They were widely written off after losing key men ahead of BBL7, but Rashid Khan has been absolutely sensational and they deserve their place in the semi-finals. But they face a tough game against the experienced Melbourne Renegades, led by Dwayne Bravo. Here we preview both semi-finals:

Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes

The Scorchers have displayed remarkable resourcefulness in topping the ladder despite losing a host of key players to international duty. Coach Justin Langer will now have a selection headache as he heads into the semi-final: does he stick with the guys that got them to this point, or should he reintroduce the likes of Shaun and Mitch Marsh straight away? It seems highly likely that he will choose the latter option as the Marsh brothers have the star quality that can get Perth into another grand final. Andrew Tye remains with the Australia squad for the T20 internationals against England, and Ashton Agar has also been called up, but the Scorchers will welcome back Jhye Richardson.
The hosts have won their last seven home games, but they came at the WACA and they will have to quickly adapt to their new home, the Optus Stadium. They will hope the leadership of Langer and Adam Voges can see them through.

This Perth team blends youth and experience to devastating effect, and Cameron Bancroft is another fantastic weapon for them. He hit 54 off 36 balls as the Scorchers beat the Hurricanes by five wickets and with four balls to spare on January 20, so they should have the psychological edge going into the game. The Hurricanes have suffered a huge blow as D’Arcy Short, the BBL’s leading run scorer with 504, was called up to the Australian T20 squad for the first time. To cushion the blow, they get test and ODI wicket-keeper Tim Paine back, but they will be heavily reliant on captain Bailey. As it stands, the Scorchers should win this one comfortably and head into another final, and they look a good option at $1.61 in the Big Bash odds at Oddschecker to do so.

Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades

The Strikers have defied expectations to get this far, but it could be the end of the line as they have been utterly ravaged by international call-ups. Alex Carey, the second highest run scorer in the Big Bash so far after Short, has been selected for Australia’s T20 team, along with Travis Head and Billy Stanlake. Head was superb against England in the fourth ODI at the Adelaide Oval, so the Strikers could have done with his talents.

To even things out a little, the Melbourne Renegades will be once again without their captain and star man, Aaron Finch. He has been Australia’s leading batsman in the disappointing ODI series and has been chosen as vice-captain for the T20 games, while Kane Richardson has also had a call-up. However, the Renegades welcome back Cameron White to captain the side, and all-rounder Tom Cooper believes his team has a great chance of seizing glory in the Finals. “We have got momentum at the right time of the season,” he said. “If we go out and play our brand of cricket, we'll be in with a real good crack.” The Renegades are also blessed with the talents of Bravo and veteran Brad Hodge, so they will not fear the trip to Adelaide.

If they make it through to the final, the Strikers will lose Khan, the breakout star of BBL7 and its leading wicket taker, as he has to go off and play for Afghanistan. But leading them into the grand final would be the perfect leaving present and he has the ability to pull it off. The Strikers beat the Renegades a week ago, with Colin Ingram and Ben Laughlin leading the charge, and that could give them the edge in the semi-final.

Adelaide have home advantage and are the favourite to win the game, priced at $1.91 with the bookmakers on Oddschecker, compared to $2.00 for the Renegades. Ingram and Laughlin are still there, and fans are convinced the Strikers can pull off another win over the Renegades as most of the betting action has gone on the home team so far. If they make it through to the final, it will be a remarkable achievement as their selectors were heavily criticised for their off-season decisions and they were widely tipped to finish bottom of the ladder. However, if they find themselves up against the Scorchers in the final, deprived of the services of Khan, they will be the serious underdogs and we could be looking at a fourth Scorchers victory in seven years.

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