PERTH: Teenager Cooper Connolly’s big hitting at the death and skipper Ashton Turner’s heroic 53 saw Perth Scorchers beat Brisbane Heat to win an unprecedented fifth Twenty20 Big Bash League title on Saturday.
Their fireworks propelled them to 178-5 and a nail-biting five-wicket win with four balls left in front of a record 53,886 parochial fans at Perth Stadium after Brisbane put on 175-7.
It was a successful title defence by a side who beat the Sydney Sixers in last season’s decider, with Saturday’s win securing a fifth trophy in only the competition’s 12th year.
“It’s a surreal feeling. I’ve played a lot of games of cricket but you never know how it will pan out,” said man-of-the-match Turner after his 32-ball knock.
“We are in rarified air at the moment, we have a lot of guys in form and that’s not always the case. A lot of guys have contributed to wins throughout the season.”
A victory looked highly unlikely when Turner was run out after a horror mix-up with Nick Hobson, leaving them needing 39 needed off 19 balls.
But young gun Connolly smashed 25 off 11 balls to turn the game on its head.
He crunched 18 of those from a James Bazley over to leave them needing 20 off the final 12 balls.
Hobson then smashed a huge six followed by a no-ball five in the last over to secure the victory.
“At 19 (years old) to have this crowd cheer for me, couldn’t have asked for anything better. It’s a dream come true,” said left-hander Connolly. “I had full confidence in myself.”
The clash culminated a season marked by thrilling finishes, controversial moments, outstanding individual performances, and more than one million fans through the turnstiles.
Perth earned home-ground advantage after finishing on top of the regular season table, then knocking off the Sixers in a qualifying match last weekend.
The Heat only finished fifth and had to come through three knockout games, all away from home, to reach the final.
Both teams were depleted with the Heat’s Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Matt Renshaw and Mitchell Swepson all departing earlier this week for Australia’s tour of India.
The Scorchers were without fast bowler Lance Morris and teammate Ashton Agar who are also preparing for the four-Test Border-Gavaskar series starting on Thursday in Nagpur.
Heat skipper Jimmy Peirson won the toss and batted first with Josh Brown coming out with all guns blazing, smacking 25 off the opening 11 balls.
But his luck soon ran out and after the opening barrage, the Scorchers restricted Brisbane to 86-1 by the halfway mark.
Jason Behrendorff removed Sam Heazlett for 34, snapping a dangerous 79-run stand with Nathan McSweeney, then Peirson for three in the same over.
McSweeney fell for 41 before Max Bryant smashed an aggressive 31 from 14 balls to ensure a handy total.
In reply, Scorchers opener Stephen Eskinazi made a brisk 21 before a schoolboy run out, then Michael Neser clung on to a high catch to remove Cameron Bancroft for 15.
When Aaron Hardie went for 17 in the following over, they were wobbling at 54-3.
But Turner and Josh Inglis put on a high-quality 80 in 52 balls before Connolly and Hobson sealed the win.
READ: Teams’ captains participate in Women’s T20 WC trophy unveiling