The Perth Scorchers are chasing a 176-run target at Optus Stadium to win a fifth Big Bash League title.
The Heat registered 7-175 after winning the toss and electing to bat first on Saturday evening, with Nathan McSweeney top-scoring for the men in teal with 41 (37). Coincidentally, the highest target successfully chased in a BBL final is 176.
In response, the Scorchers are 3-85 after 12 overs.
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The Heat’s innings got off to a rocky start, with opener Josh Brown edging three boundaries through the gully region during Jason Behrendorff’s first over.
But just as Brown looked set for an explosive knock, he holed out to mid-on for 25 (12), falling victim to England seamer David Payne.
After an agonising 22-ball passage of play without a boundary, McSweeney executed a lap shot against Matthew Kelly that flew over the wicketkeeper’s head for six.
Heat opener Sam Heazlett was also struggling to find the boundary rope, but broke the shackles in the ninth over with consecutive sixes against Aaron Hardie.
McSweeney and Heazlett combined for a 79-run partnership for the second wicket before taking the Power Surge, which proved disastrous for the visitors.
Behrendorff struck twice in the 13th over, removing Heazlett (34 off 30 balls) and Heat captain Jimmy Peirson in almost identical fashion, caught at short fine leg after miscuing a pull shot. The Heat could only muster 2-8 from their Power Surge.
Hardie returned to the attack in the 15th over and immediately broke through, with McSweeney slashing a cut stroke towards the deep point fielder. The Heat had suddenly lost 3-13 in 16 deliveries.
Max Bryant provided some fireworks at the death, smacking three sixes in an entertaining late cameo of 31 (14) to steer the Heat towards a defendable total on a two-paced wicket.
Kelly found himself on a hat-trick in the penultimate over after dismissing Bryant and Michael Neser in consecutive deliveries, with Xavier Bartlett slapping the final delivery of the innings over the long-on boundary.
In response, the Scorchers were 0-31 at the end of the Powerplay before a monumental brain fade from England international Stephen Eskinazi saw him sheepishly return to the sheds for 21 (19).
Bryant threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end after the batters scampered through for a quick single and Eskinazi, who didn’t bother sliding his bat, was inches short of making his ground.
“That’s unforgivable really,” former Australian batter Mark Waugh said on Fox Cricket.
Hardie was gifted an extra life when Neser, the hero from Thursday’s Challenger, put down a low chance at deep mid-wicket in the sixth over, robbing Bartlett of a wicket.
The introduction of spin saw the end of Scorchers opener Cameron Bancroft, who scooped a Matt Kuhnemann delivery towards long-off for 15 (13).
And the Scorchers’ woes continued the following over when Hardie (17 off 13 balls) absolutely nailed a pull shot off Spencer Johnson, only for Heazlett to take a classy catch at square leg.
The tournament finale is a sellout, with a record 53,886 fans coming through the gates, but temperatures were registered at 42 degrees in the middle before the first delivery.
The Scorchers have once again been the competition’s dominant club, losing just three matches in seven weeks, while the Heat scraped into the post-season after a rocky start to their chaotic campaign.
The reigning champions are heavy favourites to secure a fifth BBL title this evening, having won eight of their previous nine games against the Heat.
Both sides are without several of first-choice players — Scorchers superstars Mitchell Marsh and Jhye Richardson are nursing injuries, while international recruits Laurie Evans, Tymal Mills and Phil Salt never made an appearance this summer.
Test stars Cameron Green, Lance Morris and Ashton Agar are also unavailable, having flown to India ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the Heat are without captain Usman Khawaja and fellow Test players Matthew Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne, while international recruits Sam Billings and Colin Munro have flown to the United Arab Emirates for the high-paying ILT20.
The West Australian newspaper caused a stir by branding the Heat squad “a bunch of nobodies” on the back page of Saturday morning’s edition.
Heat captain Jimmy Peirson confirmed that coach Wade Seccombe sent an image of the newspaper to the team’s WhatsApp group earlier that day.
The Heat and Scorchers faced off 10 years ago in the 2013 final, also in Perth, and the visitors emerged victorious in a huge upset.
“I feel as if we have the freedom of the underdog,’’ Peirson said.
“It allows you to take a breath and do your job. Particularly for a side which is quite young and inexperienced in some places.
“The feeling around the groups is relaxed. It is not so much we have nothing to lose but we don’t have the home town pressure of having to win and smash the opposition. The pressure is on them. We are the underdogs.
“We are a Queensland team. You look at some of our best Shield wins in the 1990s and early 2000s. They were backs against the wall stuff. And of course our Origin team is how we played our sport in Queensland.
“That is what Queensland teams do and we are starting to build that culture. That grit and determination to find a way to win. It might not always be sexy and pretty but if we win, it doesn’t matter. We are starting to build a culture.’’
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Cameron Bancroft, Stephen Eskinazi, Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis (wk), Ashton Turner (c), Nick Hobson, Cooper Connolly, Andrew Tye, Matt Kelly, David Payne, Jason Behrendorff #BBL12
Sam Heazlett, Josh Brown, Nathan McSweeney, Sam Hain, Jimmy Peirson (c, wk), Max Bryant, James Bazley, Michael Neser, Xavier Bartlett, Spencer Johnson, Matthew Kuhnemann