Young Sydney Sixers batsman Josh Philippe is set to become one of the hottest properties in the Big Bash League as a bidding war for his long-term services looks likely to take place between the Sixers and Perth Scorchers.
Philippe, 21, produced another stunning innings in the BBL semi-final clubbing 52 from just 31 balls to get the Sixers away to a flyer against the Melbourne Renegades.
The Sixers were beaten in the end thanks to some Dan Christian heroics, but Philippe's second half-century of the season only furthered the Sixers desire to sign him long-term.
"That's in the works and that's obviously up to Josh," Sixers captain Moises Henriques."But definitely after the season he's had, we'd be stupid not to entertain that."
Philippe's case is complicated in that he plays his 50-over and four-day domestic cricket for Western Australia and lives in Perth most of the year. He made his T20 debut for Perth Scorchers last season and was set to start BBL08 as a replacement player for the Scorchers while Shaun Marsh was away on Test match duty and Cameron Bancroft out suspended.
The Scorchers could not contract him as they had exhausted their 18-man roster but were confident right up until early December that Philippe would play for them. But the Sixers, with help from suspended former Australian captain Steven Smith who contacted Philippe personally, convinced the keeper-batsman to join them on a one-year contract just prior to the BBL starting.
It left the Scorchers seething while the Sixers knew they had a special talent on their hands. He delivered with 304 runs at a strike-rate of 158.33, the best of all players with 100 runs or more in the tournament. He was also the stand-out batsmen according to ESPNcricinfo's smart strike-rate measurement*.
"From the day that he came on board I was really excited about the potential he had," Henriques said. "We started him batting at No.6. Although he didn't score a mountain of runs at No.6 he was coming and making really significant impacts on the game, [20 off 13, 14 not off 7], which sometimes in that role can be more important than a 30 off 20 from someone in the top four. He was always putting the bowlers under pressure.
"And he'd always batted at the top. For him to adapt to that middle order like he did I thought that this kid is a pretty special talent. I think personally, No.5, 6, 7 are the hardest to bat in T20 cricket. The later you have to come in, all the bowlers know exactly what the wicket is doing, they know the fields they're using and any mishits are usually caught by the guys out on the boundary so you've got to be able to manipulate the ball. Right from the first or second game that he played of professional domestic T20 cricket, he took to it like a duck to water."
It took the Sixers nine games to move him to the top of the order where he had done so much damage for WA in the JLT Cup, and against South Africa in the Prime Minister's XI game in Canberra. But it paid dividends with 86 not out from 49 balls against the Hobart Hurricanes and then 52 off 31 against the Renegades.
"If we take him away from that middle order position then we take away some of our power there but at the same time we felt like he was batting so well that we wanted to give him as many balls as possible to face during a game," Henriques said. "Once he moved to the top he played two outstanding innings and you could just tell the opposition bowlers don't enjoy bowling to him. I think he's going to be a pretty special player. Enough has been said about him. But he was a huge positive."
Philippe will now head back to WA for the remainder of the season. He found himself out of their Sheffield Shield side prior to the BBL having made a century against Victoria batting at No.6 in the first game of the season. But he was rushed to the top of the order for the next three matches and returned scores of 4, 2, 12, 2 and 6 before being dropped.
However, it is understood WA and the Scorchers are desperate to sign him long-term across all formats leaving Philippe with a choice to make.