Jayawardene, Head lift Strikers into BBL lead

Adelaide Strikers 174 for 2 (Jayawardene 57, Head 51*) beat Perth Scorchers 138 (Rashid 3-23) by 36 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Travis Head struck one four and three sixes in his unbeaten 31-ball 51 © Getty Images

After a 24-hour period where the BBL was muddied by scandal, the Adelaide Strikers’ dominant performance over the previously white-hot Perth Scorchers ensured the focus reverted on-field.

The Scorchers would have been confident chasing 175 on a typically flat Adelaide Oval pitch, armed with imposing openers Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh, who were chiefly responsible for the team’s astonishing run total of 2 for 403 from their three previous matches.

But the Scorchers could not recover from an uncharacteristically poor start with Marsh, recently named in Australia’s ODI squad to face India, dismissed in the first over, caught behind slashing at a wide ball from paceman Billy Stanlake.

Stanlake then removed the dangerous Marcus Harris, a diminutive firebrand likened to David Warner, to leave the Scorchers 2 for 10 in the third over. Klinger, the fulcrum of the batting, seemed set to steer his team out of danger but, in a rare failure, was bowled by spinner Jon Holland in a clever bowling change by Strikers captain Brad Hodge. It left the Scorchers lurching at 3 for 30 and the game was essentially over.

For the first time since their opening match loss to the Strikers, the Scorchers’ middle-order was required but the arduous task proved beyond them and they were bowled out for 138 in the 18th over.

The Strikers’ 36-run win leapfrogged them above the Scorchers and on top of the BBL ladder. They have comprehensively defeated the otherwise imperious Scorchers twice in an important physiological edge with finals looming.

It was the type of performance Hodge envisioned when he elected to bat earlier in the day. The Strikers compiled 2 for 174, built on solid contributions from their top order, which was revamped with Mahela Jayawardene replacing the out-of-form opener Craig Simmons.

The explosive Tim Ludeman-Simmons partnership was at the core of the Strikers’ success last season but both openers have struggled in this tournament, resulting in continually poor starts for the team.

Despite some iffy running between the wickets, the new partnership added 84 with Jayawardene dominating with a serene 37-ball 57. Jayawardene was a somewhat surprise replacement having struggled himself with a top score of 42 in his four previous matches but the Sri Lankan import enjoyed the elevation, showcasing the elegance that dotted his superlative international career. After starting sedately in a determined bid to avoid another early calamity, Jayawardene made his move in the fourth and fifth overs hitting four fours and a six in a nine-ball purple patch.

Jayawardene used his feet nimbly against left-arm spinners Brad Hogg and Ashton Agar, and audaciously swatted the pacemen through the off-side. He eventually fell attempting a slog off Agar, who finally bowled for the first time in the tournament but was only used for two overs.

It was a welcome return to form for Jayawardene, who had looked rusty in the previous matches. Conversely, Ludeman could not rekindle his destructive best, struggling with his timing and seemingly bereft of confidence. Eventually, the excellent Jason Behrendorff ended his sluggish 30 off 37 balls.

The wicket brought to the crease Travis Head, who was still revelling from his New Year’s Eve heroics against the Sixers. Wisely, Head didn’t bash from the start, preferring to play watchfully initially before launching with a trademark assault at the end.

Head was once again brutal and highly effective muscling the ball over the fielders to finish unbeaten on 51 off 31. He combined brilliantly with Hodge (30 off 15) to propel the Strikers to a highly competitive total. The pair’s unbeaten 65-run partnership included 40 off the last two overs.

It proved well and truly enough for the Strikers, who are now a game clear on top of the BBL ladder.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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