Marshalled expertly by Brendon McCullum, Brisbane Heat held their nerve to storm Adelaide Oval and deny the Strikers in a high-scoring Big Bash League shootout in front of a hefty pre-Christmas crowd.
McCullum and Jimmy Peirson set the Heat on the road to a tally of more than 200 on a pristine batting surface, before the visitors persevered through a blistering opening stand by Ben Dunk and Jake Weatherald to constrict the Strikers middle order and walk off the victors.
The Heat showcased a useful recruit of their own when the former Striker Alex Ross tailed off the Heat’s innings with a series of telling blows, but it was Dunk’s pyrotechnics at the start of the Strikers innings that stuck in the memory. Though he was dropped twice, Dunk also produced a series of exceptionally clean blows, the best of which was an inside out cover-driven six off Samuel Badree that comfortably cleared a teal wall of fielders on the off side.
Dunk was able to pull along the promising left-hander Weatherald in his slipstream, and the pair now look likely to be one of the more dangerous opening combinations in the tournament. Dunk’s own hitting was to be placed in perspective by the struggles of the batsmen that followed him, quickly turning a gettable equation into a favourable one for the Heat.
Badree is of course one of the world’s leading T20 exponents, and he did not let 15 runs from his first seven balls fluster him. Only two more singles could be taken from the remainder of that second over, and when returning in the 10th over, Weatherald and Dunk still flying, Badree was able to tie up the younger batsman with a trio of dot balls that were the first sign of any momentum being lost.
Recalled to the attack to twirl the ball down at the new batsman Travis Head after Weatherald was finally dismissed, Badree produced the rarest of T20 gems – a maiden. In his recent ODI appearances for Australia, Head was a batsman of almost perpetual motion, but he was unable either to muscle or finesse Badree. The Strikers’ required run-rate leapt up by more than a run in the space of that over, and from there McCullum was able to use his other bowlers to keep that rate climbing.
Another area in which Badree’s influence could be seen was in how the other legspinner Mitchell Swepson responded to his own difficult start. At a time when the Strikers needed boundaries, he conceded only four singles and a two, while also dismissing Head with a hard-spun delivery that the batsman could only top edge to, you guessed it, Badree running around from short third man.
Six and not out
The Adelaide Oval’s crowds have been the most consistently bounteous of the BBL since the ground was redeveloped, and those on the short square boundaries have gotten quite used to trying to catch the many sixes hit in their direction. The first six of the night, a typically rasping cut over point by McCullum, was expertly caught by one man in the members, who promptly threw it back up in celebration.
Later, Jake Weatherald hammered a pull shot to straight midwicket where another catch was neatly held. But the most notable effort was the most nonchalant of takes behind square leg by a security guard posted on the fence. Joe Burns’ hook shot arrowed towards him, and he held it without even getting up from his seat. Three sixes caught from among a crowd of 38,011 was an impressive effort.
The McCullum effect
Brisbane’s signing of McCullum as far back as BBL01 had to be done with one eye on the time they would be able to utilise him full-time, and his international retirement last season means he will now be available for the entirety of this competition. Not only did the Heat benefit from his lead-off hitting before the Adelaide sun went down, but his composure and confidence in the field radiated in a way that helped the Heat’s players keep their heads while the Strikers gave up a handsome position in the chase.