The Perth Scorchers managed to blunt an in-form Steve Smith and choke the Sydney Sixers on Saturday, advancing directly to the Big Bash League (BBL) final by way of a seven-wicket victory at home.
The four-time champions restricted the Sixers to 151-8 before replying with 154-3 in 18.3 overs. Skipper Ashton Turner led from the front with a powerful 84 not out from 47 balls.
Sydney Sixers must now win a knockout final on Thursday against one of Brisbane Heat or Melbourne Renegades to keep their chances of playing in the Feb. 4 decider alive.
The Scorchers opened their run chase in disastrous fashion, reduced to 22-3 after Sixers’ seamer Sean Abbott (3-25) repeatedly induced catching opportunities.
Turner and opener Cameron Bancroft then partnered sensibly in the middle overs, regularly working singles and judiciously looking for boundaries.
But they did take some risks, and Bancroft (53 not out) survived one bizarre scare when he skied a ball which neither the keeper nor point fielder chased after, both expecting the other to move into position.
Turner accelerated towards the end of the chase, bludgeoning nine fours and a six as he scripted a victory which delighted the strong crowd of 41,116.
The reigning champions have continued their domination this season with 12 wins from 15 matches despite the unavailability of many first-choice players.
All-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green sustained injuries prior to the tournament, fast bowlers Jhye Richardson and Matthew Kelly were recently sidelined, and spinner Ashton Agar is preparing for Australia’s test tour of India.
Earlier, the Sixers had a shaky start themselves when pacer Jason Behrendorff (2-17) delivered two wickets in the first three overs.
Kurtis Patterson departed for six courtesy of a spectacular one-handed catch at mid-on by Aaron Hardie, who spilt a simple chance soon afterwards to give 33-year-old opener Smith a life on 12.
Smith has been on a scintillating run of form, including back-to-back centuries, since joining the BBL after his international obligations.
English import David Payne (3-33) held a sharp caught-and-bowled, however, to send Australia’s premier batsman packing on 18 leaving skipper Moises Henriques (58) and Jordan Silk (47 not out) the ultimately unsuccessful task of rebuilding the innings.