BBL – Josh Brown – ‘To do what I did in a pressure game was surreal’

Brown received effusive messages from celebrities and fellow athletes to underline his jaw-dropping performance that made headlines throughout the cricket world. He understandably struggled to get much sleep following his match-winning 140 off 57 balls, which powered Heat past Adelaide Strikers on the Gold Coast in the Challenger.

“It [messages] hasn’t stopped,” Brown told media in Brisbane on Tuesday. “I haven’t really felt it [sink in] yet. I’m pretty tired. It was pretty special to do it in a final… for the team and rewarding for myself.

“To do what I did in a pressure game was surreal.”

Heat had been the form team through the regular season to finish on top of the ladder. But there had been fears over their batting order, which had been gutted ahead of the finals following several withdrawals, most notably batting imports Colin Munro and Sam Billings, who left for the UAE’s ILT20.

A revamped Heat could only muster 128 against Perth Scorchers at Optus Stadium in their first defeat of the season. They then were routed for 113 by Sydney Sixers on a two-paced Gold Coast surface to suffer a 39-run loss in the Qualifier.

It led to many writing off Heat’s title hopes as they found themselves pitted in a must-win clash against in-form Strikers, who had turned around their season through the unstoppable legspinning tandem of Cameron Boyce and Lloyd Pope.

Brown had been hoping to step up at the top of the order, but made a scratchy 15 off 22 balls against Sixers. He played out a maiden to start the innings as he repeatedly struggled to get bat on ball before being put out of his misery after nicking off to seamer Ben Dwarshuis.

“I played and missed at everything, swung too hard,” Brown said.

Brown regrouped by focusing on slowing down his swing and making sure he watched the ball closely. Advice from Heat assistant coach Darren Lehmann rang in his ear too.

“Don’t change your intent, but hit the ball where it is meant to go,” Lehmann told Brown ahead of the Strikers match.

What happened next was extraordinary for a batter who had shown glimpses of his muscular batting before but had never quite put it together. In 21 previous BBL innings, Brown had only averaged 20.52 with one half-century.

Heat elected to bat first on a surface that appeared better for batting than in the Qualifier and Brown hit crisply from the get go. He blasted sixes over midwicket off seamers Henry Thornton and James Bazley, and Strikers turned to legspinners Boyce and Pope, who had combined for seven wickets against Scorchers in the Knockout at the pace-friendly Optus Stadium.

An aggressive Brown pummelled them in a belligerent display, including smashing a trio of sixes in one over off Boyce, who had only been hit for eight sixes in ten previous matches this season.

He seemed likely to mow down the fastest BBL century set ten years ago when Craig Simmons blasted a 39-ball ton for Scorchers, only to fall short.

But on his 41st delivery he thrashed Boyce over the covers for his ninth six to reach a maiden BBL century. Brown finished with a record 12 sixes to submit the highest innings in BBL finals history.

His batting was lapped up by his teary-eyed mum, who was visibly emotional watching on from the stands.

“It was very special, they [his family] know how hard I worked to get to where I am now,” Brown, who has never played first-class cricket, said.

Brown’s big-hitting heroics did take a physical toll as he battles a hip niggle ahead of the final. “Pulled up pretty bad and will have to keep managing it,” he said. “The way I was batting was not too good for the body. Should be [okay].”

He has the “tough” challenge of quickly resetting against Sixers on an expected slow SCG surface. Heat will start as underdogs, but did beat Sixers on the road in last season’s finals series before falling agonisingly short against Scorchers in an epic decider.

“Definitely a motivating factor, we learned a lot. As a group, we’ve become so much stronger,” Brown said about Heat’s bid for redemption. “We did knock them [Sixers] off last year. It will be a cracking game.”

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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