Adelaide Strikers 5 for 175 (Wells 69, Nielsen 44*, Coulter-Nile 2-28) beat Perth Scorchers 6 for 174 (Inglis 55, Marsh 50*, Rashid 2-22) by five wickets
Adelaide Strikers avoided following their first Big Bash League title in 2018 with a bottom finish for 2019 by easing past Perth Scorchers, who were handed the ignominy of ending at last place following a five-wicket defeat at Adelaide Oval.
In a match marked by less than elite fielding standards, the Scorchers were able to push to 174 via the contributions of Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh and Nathan Coulter-Nile, but they were outdone by the middle order composure of Jon Wells and Harry Nielsen, who shrugged off three early Strikers wickets to put together the key stand of the match.
Rashid Khan delivered yet another exemplary spell for the hosts, while both Jason Behrendorff and AJ Tye were highly expensive for the Scorchers, as the Perth team's previously outstanding command of the defensive elements of the game continued to go awry.
Rashid, Laughlin find the pads
In a contest between the two most diminished teams since last year's competition, the Adelaide Oval crowd (paltry) and the reward on the line (avoiding last place on the table) rather summed this up. Scorchers captain Marsh won the toss and under sunny skies watched his men appear to be setting a strong platform by pushing to 1 for 48 in the Powerplay. Within this sequence, Cameron Bancroft struck the ball cleanly and intelligently on his way to 22, and seemed capable of more until the always-excellent Rashid hit him on the front pad with a googly.
Rashid's appeal was jubilant and at least partially presumptuous - it was not until he had actually turned around that debutant umpire David Shepard raised his finger. That single break became still more significant two balls later, when Ben Laughlin fizzed his quicker ball through Ashton Turner, who has performed well enough for the Scorchers to earn a call-up to the Australian white-ball squad to tour India later this month. Given lbw for a golden duck, his exit limited the Scorchers' horizons.
Inglis sets up Coulter-Nile, Marsh
At the other end, however, Inglis was putting together a more than useful innings, finding the boundary regularly while turning the strike over. His quartet of sixes enabled the visitors to be in reasonable position despite the earlier wickets, allowing coach Adam Voges to send in Coulter-Nile ahead of his listed position - a move the Scorchers had been surprisingly hesitant to make during a tournament in which they have struggled to accelerate.
As if to underline his gratitude for the opportunity, Coulter-Nile sent his first ball sailing well over the fence at deep midwicket, and by the time his eighth ball was skied for an outfield catch, he had piled up 25 runs to power the Scorchers' projected total from 150 to 170. Marsh, meanwhile, played more sedately, but was able to stay the course long enough to register his first half-century of the competition with the final ball he faced.
Strikers wobble after rapid start
Alex Carey, retained in the Australian ODI team earlier this week, is inching closer to a pivotal role in the World Cup in England later this year. For now, though, he was entrusted with giving the Strikers a rapid start to the chase, something he delivered as a rare batsman to find the range of Behrendorff this season. Leading into the final game, Behrendorff was the only bowler to go for fewer than six runs per over in the BBL (minimum three overs), but a cost of 12 runs set him on the path to comfortably his most expensive analysis.
Jake Weatherald was less fluent, and his attempt to join Carey on the attack led to a skier and the Scorchers' first wicket via Matt Kelly. Carey departed five balls later, shelling a Tye slower ball to long-on, and Travis Head's return to the Strikers ranks following his prolific Test series against Sri Lanka could only reap 10 before he too popped up a high catch. At this point, the Scorchers appeared more than capable of defending their target, given the Strikers' three most obvious threats were back on the sidelines.
Nielsen, Wells deliver consolation
Far from the BBL's biggest name, Wells has nonetheless performed very strongly across the tournament, making it to seventh on the leading run-makers' list and third on the averages while striking at better than 125. Here his value was demonstrated not only by his own scoring but also by getting the youthful Nielsen to focus and put together the stand that took the Strikers to the cusp of victory.
Without resorting to any sort of overly ambitious batting, the pair was able to add 88 from 55 balls, including a telling 15 from Tye's final over - completing a difficult day and indeed tournament for a bowler who had previously been a central part of the Scorchers' defensive mastery with the ball. When Wells was finally defeated, edging Coulter-Nile onto the stumps, Nielsen stepped up to take another 15 from the remainder of the over, though Coulter-Nile ended it in obvious distress from dizziness and/or fatigue. Either way, the remainder of the task was straightforward for Nieslen and the Strikers, leaving the Scorchers in last place.