The Perth Scorchers could have a finals trump card up their sleeve in the form of Andrew Tye, who is making great progress with his elbow rehabilitation.
The experienced seamer reached a significant milestone on Thursday, bowling with a cricket ball for the first time since rupturing the medial ligament in his right elbow in October, albeit off a few steps.
The 33-year-old, a two-time Big Bash League championship-winning player with 194 wickets in 142 Twenty20s at an economy rate of eight, has set his sights on a return late in the tournament.
The Scorchers (5-5) are in the mix to return to finals action after bouncing back from their maiden wooden spoon last summer.
The top five teams qualify for finals, rather than four in previous editions in a new-look setup.
Best case scenario would see the Australian white-ball star feature against his old team Sydney Thunder at Sydney Showground on January 26, Perth’s last regular-season match.
“I’ve been working hard, the aim is to get the Big Bash in at some point,” Tye said during Channel 7’s BBL coverage.
“Whether it’s the finals or the last game, it’s still on the radar because we might lose a player or two.
“The nature of the injury was that it was on the medial ligament, it doesn’t actually have much impact when you bowl or bat, it’s mainly just throwing because I couldn’t throw a ball.
“I knew I couldn’t play cricket very well without throwing it.”
Tye’s inclusion would be a much-needed boost for the depleted Scorchers bowling unit, which lost Nathan Coulter-Nile to the Melbourne Stars and fellow Australian limited-overs representative Jason Behrendorff to a season-ending back injury.
Jhye Richardson has led the attack admirably, getting better as the tournament has gone on as he builds pace and confidence after shoulder surgery.
The whippy right-armer has 13 wickets for BBL09, including nine in a three-game period during the team’s winning streak.
He grabbed career-best figures of 4-19 in Monday’s win over Hobart and was the shining light on an otherwise dark performance against the Stars two nights later, with an economical 0-15 from his four overs in the eight-wicket loss at Optus Stadium.
Joel Paris and Matt Kelly have been jostling for the final seamer spot, with Kelly preferred at the start of the tournament before making way for his Claremont-Nedlands teammate.
Once Tye is declared fit, it would leave just Behrendorff and fringe batsman Nick Hobson (ankle) on the injury list, with Kurtis Patterson back after a quad complaint.