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Recent Match Report – Heat vs Strikers Challenger 2023/24

Brisbane Heat 214 for 7 (Brown 140, McSweeney 33, Payne 2-17, Pope 2-39, Boyce 2-50) beat Adelaide Strikers 160 (Nielsen 50, Kelly 41, McSweeney 3-3, Johnson 3-20) by 54 runs

Opener Josh Brown took Brisbane Heat into the BBL final after bludgeoning the joint-second-fastest century in the history of the competition to halt Adelaide Strikers’ barnstorming late-season run.

In an extraordinary display of power-hitting on the Gold Coast, Brown smashed a record 12 sixes in his 140 off 57 balls to finish with the third-highest individual score in BBL history. He destroyed the in-form spinners Cameron Boyce and Lloyd Pope to completely dominate Heat’s huge total of 214 for 7 in the Challenger final.

Brown made the two-paced surface look easier than it actually was as Strikers fell well short in the chase with Heat speedster Spencer Johnson starring with three wickets.

Heat will look to end an 11-year title drought when they face Sydney Sixers in Wednesday’s final at the SCG.

It was a strong bounceback from Heat, who had suffered a 39-run home defeat to Sixers in the Qualifier after finishing top of the table.

The in-form Strikers were left deflated after having entered the game with confidence after five straight victories capped by an upset road victory over defending champions Perth Scorchers in the Knockout.

After being routed for 113 by Sixers, Heat rejigged their batting order by picking opener Charlie Wakim for his season debut. Heat also reverted their tactics by electing to bat first in what proved a wise move on a surface that appeared better for batting than in the previous match.

After Wakim fell lbw in the second over off quick David Payne’s first ball, Brown took over by initially blasting sixes over midwicket off seamers Henry Thornton and James Bazley.

Strikers were rattled but looked to legspinners Boyce and Pope, who had proven an unstoppable tandem during Strikers’ winning streak. They had combined for seven wickets against a tentative Scorchers batting line-up at the pace-friendly Optus Stadium, but an aggressive Brown decided to take the aerial route in favourable conditions with little spin on offer.

Boyce leaked nine runs in his first over, and Pope fared even worse by conceding 14 when he entered the attack in the seventh over. Brown motored past his half-century in 22 balls and decided to take down Boyce and Pope before drinks. He smashed a trio of sixes in one over off Boyce, who had only been hit for eight sixes in ten previous matches this season.

Brown had shown glimpses of his muscular batting before but hadn’t quite put it together. In 21 previous BBL innings, he had only averaged 20.52 with one half-century. It all clicked into gear with Brown continually hitting over the covers with brute force as he eyed the fastest century in BBL history set ten years ago when Craig Simmons blasted a 39-ball century for Scorchers.

In the Challenger, Brown fell short of that mark, but on his 41st delivery he pummelled Boyce over the covers for his ninth six to reach a maiden BBL century. He looked like he might run out of steam in humid conditions, but continued to stand and deliver.

Brown shared a 119-run partnership with captain Nathan McSweeney, who played the support act to good effect with 33 runs off 29 balls to be the only other batter to reach double-figures.

Glenn Maxwell’s BBL record of 154 not out was seriously under threat before Brown finally holed out in the 17th over as Heat fell away at the death.

Strikers’ late fightback gave them faint hope as the pressure fell on skipper Matthew Short to lead from the front. He started fast before holing out in the fourth over to Johnson, who two balls later dismissed opener D’Arcy Short.

The burden fell on in-form No. 3 Jake Weatherald, who came in averaging 183 with a strike rate of 192.62 in his last three games since becoming a late-season inclusion.

But he could not get going and fell before drinks to a pumped-up Johnson and it was just a matter of time before Heat marched into their second straight final despite battling efforts from Thomas Kelly (41 in 24 balls) and Harry Nielsen (50 in 33).

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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