The Brisbane Heat found a cool head in Jimmy Peirson to end Adelaide’s Big Bash League season in a tense elimination final at the Gabba.
Chasing 131 on a tricky surface on Friday, the Heat were teetering at 3-23 and looked set for another batting meltdown after losing trump cards Chris Lynn and Marnus Labuschagne in the first two overs.
But Joe Denly (41 off 40) was joined by the rock-solid Peirson, and the pair all but burst the Strikers’ bubble in a 69-run stand that steadied the ship.
Peirson (47 off 44) and Joe Burns (17 off 17), who was dropped twice including from the first ball he faced, then saw them home with six wickets and seven balls remaining.
It was the Heat’s first finals appearance in four years and first finals victory since they won their sole title in 2013.
“In previous times, those sort of low scores can be quite challenging, especially with three early wickets but we have a bit more depth and some experienced heads to keep the boys nice and calm to get over the line,” Labuschagne said.
“Finals really suit us as a team … we have so much firepower now, well balanced, playing good cricket and we’ve got to a quarter-final and haven’t played our best cricket yet.”
Their victory was the second of four-straight needed in the finals series if they are to clinch a second crown, with the Heat’s next assignment a knockout against the Sydney Thunder in Canberra on Sunday.
Earlier, the Strikers were stuck in their tracks after electing to bat, reaching just 1-53 after 10 overs.
Fresh off blasting 101 off just 62 balls a week ago, Adelaide star Alex Carey (13 off 22) was in slow motion at the top of the order.
Their slow start forced a risky X-factor substitute from coach Jason Gillespie, who brought in batsman Jonathan Wells at the expense of unused strike bowler Daniel Worrall.
Things didn’t improve though. Jake Weatherald (32 off 28) was run out two balls after the break and captain Travis Head (12 off 21) also struggled.
Legspinners Mitchell Swepson (2-23 from four overs) and Labuschagne (3-13 off three) were again effective.
Labuschagne has taken nine wickets in four BBL games since returning from Test duty and has Ben Laughlin to thank for his most recent.
The 38-year-old bowler sprinted 25 metres around the boundary before launching himself to pluck the ball one-handed while horizontal in the air to claim a sensational catch to get rid of Michael Nesar.
“I didn’t think he was going to get there and he pulled out the big swan dive,” Labuschagne said.
“Fielding is an attitude and he’s one of our best at 38 so it’s great to see him leading the charge like that.”