Karthik Krishnaswamy (ESPNcricinfo)
On February 7, in the final of the Big Bash League, Mitchell Marsh smashed a 12-ball 37 to take Perth Scorchers from 144 for 3 in the end of the 17th over to a 20-over total of 191 for 4. Scorchers won the match by 39 runs. Two days later in the final of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, Robbie Frylinck defended 14 runs off the last over to win the match for Dolphins.
When Scorchers met Dolphins in the Champions League, the two match-winners in their respective domestic finals faced off. With Marsh on strike in the final over Scorchers needed 16 to win. Frylinck, attacking the blockhole remorselessly, had conceded only 16 in his first three overs.
For the first four balls, Frylinck’s length was un-hittable. Scorchers scored only four runs, and lost Ashton Agar, who simply couldn’t get any elevation on his attempted lap over short fine leg. Fifth ball, the pressure told on the bowler. Marsh came down the track, and out came a waist-high full-toss that disappeared over the leg-side boundary. It could have been called a no-ball, but the umpires – S Ravi and Rod Tucker – let it go.
Six from one, then. Frylinck searched for the yorker, and bowled a low full-toss. Marsh got under it and struck it so cleanly that he was running back to his team’s dugout, bat aloft, even before the ball had cleared the boundary. With a combination of tight bowling from Frylinck and Kyle Abbott and a lack of fluency with the bat, Scorchers had come close to losing the match despite losing only four wickets in a chase of 165. Thanks to Marsh, they had squeaked over the line in an exciting finish that made up for some fairly tedious cricket till that point.
Craig Simmons, opening for Scorchers, had struggled to time his leg-side heaves, but had managed to keep the chase going at a decent run-rate with a 36-ball 48. Sam Whiteman had been a little more fluent on his way to a 32-ball 45, lap-sweeping and driving inside-out through cover. They put on 55 for the second wicket at close to nine-and-a-half an over, but the partnership had begun with Scorchers on the back foot, having scored only 14 in their first four overs for the loss of Adam Voges.
Scorchers were still behind the required rate when Whiteman holed out in the 16th over, and Marsh – on 12 off 14 at that point – and new man Ashton Agar were left needing to score 47 from 25 balls. With a mixture of decent placement down the ground and luck – Agar was dropped in the covers in the 18th over, and he found the third-man boundary via the outside edge off Abbott – they kept Scorchers in the hunt, but it still required a couple of nervy full-tosses and nerveless hits to take them over the line.
Batting first, Dolphins were three down inside two overs, with Morne van Wyk, Cody Chetty and Cameron Delport discovering the pitfalls of slogging across the line against the left-arm swing of Joel Paris and Jason Behrendorff. But they continued to go after the bowling. Khaya Zondo played himself in at one end, while Keshav Maharaj and Daryn Smit played their shots.
The run-rate, as a result, kept them in the hunt for a biggish total, but they kept losing wickets. Dolphins were 46 for 4 at the end of the Powerplay overs, and 77 for 5 after 10. They lost two more wickets by the 15th over, but by then Zondo had clicked into gear, taking guard outside leg stump or outside off to throw the bowlers off their lines, and pulling with authority whenever they dropped short. With Andile Phehlukwayo and Frylinck demonstrating Dolphins’ much-talked-about batting depth, 46 came off the last four overs, and Dolphins looked to have put their poor start behind them.