Adelaide Strikers 147 for 7 (Neser 40, Lalor 3-40) beat Brisbane Heat 91 (Neser 2-7, Rashid 2-19) by 56 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Adelaide Strikers will begin 2018 on top of the BBL table after a dominant win over Brisbane Heat. Their formula this season has been predictable yet impregnable so far: manufacture a par score and defend it at all costs. Their third straight win featured Michael Neser as the unlikely hero with the bat. He scored 40 not out from 26 balls to help lift the total from 5 for 76 in the 13th over to 7 for 147.
The Strikers, then, decimated the Heat's top order with a combination of spin and pace. Rashid Khan claimed the key wicket of Chris Lynn, albeit slightly fortuitously, in the biggest moment of the match. The legspinner finished with 2 for 19, which took his tournament figures to 6 for 63 in 12 overs.
Strikers' top-order crumbles under Heat
In the first two games, Strikers were able to put up at least 160 on the board, underpinned by excellent innings from Alex Carey. But Carey fell early, the left-arm quick Josh Lalor nipping one through an open gate. Jake Weatherald was dismissed in a similar manner two overs later, but it was a slower ball that crashed into leg stump.
Then Brendon McCullum turned to spin and Yasir Shah, included to replace Shadab Khan, showed his class. He bowled Travis Head with a trademark wrong' un and then bagged Colin Ingram with the last ball of his spell to finish 2017 with figures of 2 for 18 in four overs.
The Heat let their opponents off the hook with some poor fielding. Jake Lehmann was given a life first ball when he was dropped by Mark Steketee at fine leg. It was a sitter too.
An over later, Lalor grassed another relatively straight-forward chance at mid-on but his biggest mistake of the night was shelling Neser on 11. The three let-offs allowed the Strikers to add 45 runs in 29 balls for the sixth wicket before Lehmann's third offering was held by Joe Burns.
Neser's life proved far costlier, and it was Lalor who paid the heaviest price. Neser deposited him into the stands twice while Rashid hit the first ball he saw over point for six to help the Strikers amass 71 runs in the last seven overs.
Striking in a different way
The Strikers only used one over of spin in the Powerplay in the first two games. Ingram bowled the first one against Sydney Thunder at a cost of nine runs and thereafter all the damage was done by the pacemen. But against the Heat, with Jimmy Peirson, McCullum and Lynn threatening to explode, the Strikers trusted themselves to take the pace off.
Head picked up Peirson with his part-time offspin, the opener strangely holed out to long-on having already taken seven from the first five balls of the innings. Rashid then removed Lynn, who was unfortunate to be given out caught behind after appearing to hit the ground and not the ball.
With Heat 2 for 10 after two overs, Head turned to the express pace of Billy Stanlake and Burns promptly spooned an attempted pull to square leg, Neser bowled Alex Ross through the gate, Ben Cutting was caught at point and with only seven ovres of the chase done, Heat were 5 for 38.
The Heat's captain was left watching the carnage at the non-strikers' end but presence meant the game was not done. The Strikers, of course, had a plan. In the four overs post Cutting's dismissal no wickets fell, but McCullum faced just seven balls for four runs. The required run-rate climbed from 7.92 to 9.20 in that time. McCullum's hand was forced in the 11th over. He charged at Neser but could not clear the long-on fence. Lehmann's catch was the final nail. Ben Laughlin claimed another three wickets to take his season tally to nine.