Jayawardene, Head take Strikers to the top

Adelaide Strikers 179 for 2 (Ludeman 57*, Jayawardene 53, Head 50) beat Brisbane Heat 175 for 6 (Peirson 51, Reardon 40, Rashid 2-17) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Mahela Jayawardene’s second fifty as an opener converted a potential tricky chase of 176 into a cruise for the Adelaide Strikers © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Beware the wounded cricketer. At the end of the fourth over of Adelaide Strikers’ chase, Mahela Jayawardene – looking in simply sumptuous form – pushed Josh Lalor to short fine leg, and sprinted through for a single, as fast as his little legs would carry him. In doing so, perhaps with all 38 of his years showing, he overstretched, and felt one of quadriceps sting.

This would be a situation relished by Brisbane Heat, on their last legs in BBL 2015-16. But, after five minutes of work treatment by the physio, Jayawardene picked himself up, pulled up his trousers (literally) and drilled James Hopes on the up through the covers for four to move to 31 off 13. By the over’s end, the Sri Lankan had driven Hopes down the ground for a stunning six. Jayawardene was not going to die wondering, and it was the foundation he set up courtesy a 30-ball 53 that helped the Adelaide Strikers move up to the top of the points table as they chased down 176 with eight balls to spare and eight wickets in hand.

By the time Jayawardene’s innings had died, in the tenth over, wrongly adjudged leg before attempting to reverse sweep off a Samuel Badree googly, the Heat were on their knees, and the damage had been done. Before his injury, Jayawardene had consecutively top-edged Andrew Fekete for six, cover driven for four, then middled a pull for six; afterwards (despite some near-suicidal running from Tim Ludeman) he was ramping Ben Cutting over the keeper’s head, and skipping towards Badree and firing the ball back past him for four to bring up a second consecutive half-century since moving to the top of the order against Scorchers on Tuesday.

A loss here meant Brisbane Heat’s last two games – both away from home – are irrelevant. Heat have been much improved, but they ran into a more efficient unit on Friday. Earlier, for once, Chris Lynn did not top score; Jimmy Peirson notched a fine half-century, standing and delivering, carting the ball down the ground, and targeting the leg-breaks of John Holland, before falling to Travis Head‘s part-timers when ready to push on.

Lendl Simmons was given leg before to Michael Neser’s second ball, but Chris Lynn appeared to shine briefly to help overcome the early damage. Billy Stanlake’s rangy seamers were dispatched for three fours in an over. Ben Laughlin was consecutively driven for four, past the umpire, then through the covers, but the introduction of Adil Rashid – now the competition’s highest wicket-taker, with 12 scalps – did for Lynn, as he tried to slog sweep against the spin and was caught at deep midwicket.

Rashid’s four overs went for just a single boundary, and 17 runs, and his last delivery snared the Heat’s last dangerous hitter, Ben Cutting, bowled by a beautifully disguised googly. When Rashid was done, lusty hitting from Nathan Reardon, and a wonderful finish from Hopes, who took Neser’s final over for 17 with some impressive swiping across the line, carried Heat to 175 for 6.

In response, Jayawardene’s early assault had done the damage, but Ludeman and Head picked up where he left off, accepting regular gifts from the Heat. If it was careless to allow a limping Jayawardene to amble between the wickets for ones and twos, it was downright irresponsible to drop Head on 4 (Sam Heazlett at backward point) and 7 (Josh Lalor, running in from backward square); plenty more sloppy fielding followed.

As Ludeman anchored, playing conventional strokes, including a glorious cover driven four to move to 49, Head played himself in then freed the arms. They would become the first top three in BBL history to all reach 50 in a single innings, a stat in stark contrast to Peirson’s being the first 50 for the Heat this season not coming from Lynn’s bat.

Lalor found a fine 14th over to briefly put Strikers’ brakes on, before Head began batting like it was the last night of 2015 all over again. Andrew Fekete played the role of Sean Abbott, driven over long-off, then twice pulled over square-leg, all for six. When he was caught swinging across the line (a ball after hitting Cutting down the ground for another six to bring up his half-century), Brad Hodge came out to drive down the ground and see them home. As their march toward a home semi-final continues, Strikers will hope the quad injury of their other elder statesman (and new lynchpin) Jayawardene is not too serious.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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