In a wild day for the Big Bash League, Perth’s five-day lockdown has forced the Scorchers to play their home final in Canberra, while the Brisbane Heat won through to the semis.
Perth Scorchers, having lost Saturday night’s qualifying final at Manuka Oval, were set to host Thursday night’s semi-final at Optus Stadium.
The Scorchers’ squad were slated to fly out of the nation’s capital on Sunday but those plans changed when news broke of a hotel quarantine worker testing positive for COVID-19.
Cricket Australia (CA), which has largely managed to stay one step ahead of border closures while doing everything possible to ensure players avoid coronavirus hotspots, quickly decided to change its plans.
WA chief health officer Andy Robertson flagged on Sunday that Perth could potentially host the BBL final without a crowd.
But CA, one day after giving the green light for the Scorchers to return home, opted to shift Thursday’s high-stakes clash to Manuka Oval.
BBL boss Alistair Dobson thanked the Scorchers “for their understanding” regarding the shift.
“This has been an unprecedented … BBL season and the ongoing flexibility and cooperation has been vital in getting us to this point of the finals series,” Dobson said.
Perth will play the winner of Sunday night’s elimination final between Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat.
The latest development came after Perth captain Ashton Turner expressed hope that quarantine exemptions could be forthcoming for his team.
If the Scorchers are able to book a rematch against Sydney Sixers then the three-time champions will be required to visit Sydney for Saturday’s SCG final.
WA had eased restrictions on travellers from Victoria and Queensland but anybody coming from NSW is required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Heat wins through to semi-final
On Sunday night Sam Heazlett dragged Brisbane Heat into a semi-final, ending Sydney Thunder’s season with a sublime career-best knock of 74 not out.
The Heat, chasing a target of 159 in Sunday night’s elimination final at Manuka Oval, crashed to 2-14 after losing openers Joe Denly and Chris Lynn.
The required run-rate threatened to get out of control as Heazlett and Marnus Labuschagne (32) sought to stabilise rather than slap boundaries in their 56-run partnership.
Brisbane needed 89 runs from 48 balls when a diving Labuschagne was run out at the end of the 12th over.
But Heazlett and Jimmy Peirson (43 not out) seized momentum and a seven-wicket win, combining in an unbeaten 92-run stand that spanned just 43 deliveries.
Heazlett, who stroked six fours and slapped three sixes, was dropped on 69 by teenager Tanveer Sangha in the 19th over.
It was the only glaring mistake in a masterful innings which ensured Brisbane completed the chase with five balls remaining.
The Heat next face Perth Scorchers on Thursday night, when the winner will advance to an SCG final against Sydney Sixers on Saturday night.
Perth’s lockdown prompted BBL organisers to shift the Scorchers’ home final from Optus Stadium to Manuka Oval, boosting the Heat’s hopes of another upset.
Darren Lehmann’s men have now secured three of five consecutive wins they will need to be crowned champions – a streak that started with victory over Perth at the end of the regular season.
The third umpire studied footage of Labuschagne’s dismissal forensically, deciding the ball had broken the bails before keeper Sam Billings’ glove, leaving Heazlett with a mountain of work to do.
The composed 25-year-old, recalled for Heat’s preceding final after almost a month of being overlooked, stepped up superbly.
Heazlett, who made a shock ODI debut for Australia in 2017, hammered two sixes off Sangha during the following over and never looked back.
Earlier, Labuschagne added the scalp of Usman Khawaja to his bag of key BBL wickets.
The world’s No.3 Test batsman and handy legspinner has now claimed 10 wickets from 15 overs this season.
Mark Steketee also starred with the ball, missing out on a hat-trick despite conjuring three wickets in three consecutive deliveries.
Steketee dismissed the BBLs leading run-scorer Alex Hales for eight and Chris Green for two.
An ensuing appeal for lbw was turned down but the quick-thinking paceman pounced on the ball to run Adam Milne out for a diamond duck.
Ben Cutting’s unbeaten 34 lifted the Thunder from 6-110 to 8-158, but it wasn’t enough.