Scorchers begin campaign with big win

Perth Scorchers have broken a long-running hoodoo in style after convincingly winning their first ever Big Bash League (BBL) season opener during a 48-run romp over winless Adelaide Strikers at the WACA on Friday night (December 23).

Astoundingly, considering their dominance of the tournament throughout the years, the Scorchers had never won their opening match of a BBL season. After missing out on a final’s berth last year for the first time since the BBL’s inception, the Scorchers made a strong start to their 2016-17 campaign, while the Strikers have started the tournament with successive losses after an opening defeat at home to Brisbane Heat.

Batting first, the Scorchers plundered 197 for 7 and were brilliantly led by new recruit Ian Bell (61 off 42 balls) on his BBL debut. In reply, the Strikers never recovered from a horrid start to finish well short of the victory target at 149 for 9. Brad Hodge, the Strikers captain, played a lone hand with an entertaining 33-ball 56 as wickets tumbled around him.

The Strikers were rocked early by Scorchers allrounder David Willey (2 for 15 off 4 overs), who claimed openers Ben Dunk (0) and Jake Weatherald (1). In tatters at 7 for 2 in the third over, the Strikers needed star batsman Travis Head to play a blinder but he was soon caught behind off young tearaway fast bowler Jhye Richardson to leave the visitors reeling at 15 for 3.

Finally playing in his first ever BBL match, a year after he retired from international cricket, Mitchell Johnson (3 for 33 from 4 overs) was given the ball in the eighth over to a rapturous ovation from the WACA faithful. Perhaps showing some rust, his first delivery was clubbed to the boundary by a white hot Hodge but the left-armer quickly bounced back claiming dangerman Kieron Pollard (4) later in the over.

Hodge attempted to engineer a comeback with a daring counterattack, which at one stage included four consecutive boundaries off Richardson. But his audacious innings ended when he was outfoxed by a slower Johnson delivery, as the match petered out to an inevitable Scorchers victory.

After the Strikers won the toss and elected to bowl, the Scorchers notched a highly competitive total through Bell, who was part of successive 57-run partnerships with Sam Whiteman (22 off 17 balls) and a belligerent Mitch Marsh (31 off 19). Bell’s third-wicket stand with Marsh came off a mere 32 balls to lay an ideal platform for the Scorchers.

Bell, the veteran English batsman, is better known for his prowess in the longer formats but showed he can perfectly adapt his game to the Twenty20 mode with a slew of gorgeous strokes given a nudge by slightly more brutality than his trademark finesse.

Marsh, who has endured a difficult start to the summer after being dumped from Australia’s Test team, showcased his innate power with several sizzling shots, including a bludgeoned straight drive that nearly took out Strikers paceman Michael Neser in his follow through.

When Marsh departed, the Scorchers were 121 for 3 in the 13th over as a total of more than 200 beckoned. However, the home side lost 3 for 13, including the run out of Bell through a brilliant direct throw from Weatherald, to lose momentum.

Ashton Turner, the powerful Scorchers batsman, came to the rescue with an array of brutish blows to propel his team to a sizeable total. Turner smashed four sixes, including one off the final ball of the innings, during his match-turning 19-ball 44.

The Strikers were at times ragged in the field and dropped several chances, replicating a recurring theme of botched catches blighting the tournament thus far. They will need to be far better across the board in their next game against the Sydney Sixers at home on New Year’s Eve.

The Scorchers will be looking for successive victories when they travel to Sydney to play the Sixers on Tuesday (December 27).

Brief scores: Perth Scorchers 197/7 in 20 overs (Ian Bell 61, Ashton Turner 44*; Michael Neser 2-37, Chris Jordan 2-48) beat Adelaide Strikers 149/9 in 20 overs (Brad Hodge 56, Kane Richardson 45; Mitchell Johnson 3-33, David Willey 2-15) by 48 runs.

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