Bancroft’s career-best earns Scorchers home final despite blazing Finch

Perth Scorchers 212 for 5 (Bancroft 95*, Eskinazi 54) beat Melbourne Renegades 202 for 5 (Finch 76*, Marsh 54) by 10 runs

Cameron Bancroft smashed a career best 95 not out before Perth Scorchers survived a late Aaron Finch onslaught to lock up top spot on the BBL ladder after a dramatic 10-run victory over Melbourne Renegades at Optus Stadium.

Finch, playing his 100th BBL game, was left to rue inserting Scorchers into bat as Bancroft capitalised after quick David Moody was removed from the attack in the second over for bowling two dangerous waist height deliveries.

Chasing 213, late fireworks from Finch almost hauled in the huge total but it wasn’t quite enough as fourth-placed Renegades (6-7) remain in a fight for a playoff spot.

Scorchers will host arch-rival Sydney Sixers in a qualifying final on Saturday with the winner to progress into a home final on February 4.

Bancroft, Eskinazi smash shorthanded Renegades attack

It’s been tough going for teams batting first at Optus Stadium this season with the surface playing occasionally sluggish. With temperatures in Perth soaring in recent days, the hardened surface oozed runs in sunny conditions and Stephen Eskinazi‘s boundary off the first ball of the innings foreshadowed what was ahead.

Eskinazi dominated early and took full advantage of a lacklustre Renegades attack with inventive batting, including several scoops to the boundary, to smash 37 off his first 13 balls. Bancroft had been mostly an onlooker until he greeted WA team-mate Corey Rocchiccioli with two sixes off the spinner’s first three deliveries.

The openers smashed 62 runs off the powerplay with Eskinazi shortly after hitting another boundary to reach his half-century off just 26 deliveries. He couldn’t go on with it but Bancroft continued to plunder a wayward Renegades attack.

Bancroft was mostly sidelined earlier in the season with Scorchers perhaps unwisely preferring English recruit Adam Lyth, who could never get going. Perhaps more renowned as a sedate longer format batter, a bolder Bancroft has been aggressive this season marked by cavalier batting as underlined in his belligerent 50-ball knock.

Moody’s horror homecoming

It was a horror homecoming for Moody, who is the nephew of Western Australian great Tom Moody. In a short-lived performance he would rather forget, Moody shared the new ball in the second over but lasted just one legal delivery amid a nightmare.

Moody started well enough with a dot delivery until disaster struck when he bowled a wild full toss at 144kph that hit Bancroft’s rib cage and the batter required medical attention.

His next delivery was a wide before a rattled Moody delivered another full toss which Eskinazi scooped for a boundary. It was deemed above waist height and Moody was summoned out of the attack after conceding eight runs off one legal delivery to finish with an eyesore economy rate of 48.

Without spearhead Kane Richardson, a further depleted Renegades attack were under major pressure and their best laid plans derailed without Moody. They never recovered with their only bright spot being a screamer of a catch by Will Sutherland, who showcased his athleticism by plucking a one-handed grab to dismiss Nick Hobson after running back from mid-off.

Finch almost conjures incredible heist

Renegades were dead and buried needing 68 off the last three overs until Finch wound back the clock with three consecutive sixes as seamer Andrew Tye leaked 31 runs in the 18th over.

It left Renegades needing 37 runs off the last two overs but they ultimately fell short. Finch, however, showed he still had something left in the tank with 76 off 35 balls and so too Shaun Marsh who also hit a half-century.

WA veteran Marsh returned home in his first match since suffering a hamstring injury against Melbourne Stars on January 3. He showed no rust at the top of the order with four trademark glorious boundaries off his first seven deliveries and Marsh played fluently before falling for 54 in the 11th over.

Kelly’s nasty injury

Scorchers have injury concerns ahead of the playoffs with an injury scare to quick Matt Kelly, who in the 15th over had to be substituted out of the match under concussion rules.

In a scary incident, Kelly suffered a blow to his face after a throw from Hobson to the non-striker’s end deflected off Finch’s bat. For several seconds, Kelly lay motionless on the ground amid hushed silence from the 32,000 crowd.

A bloodied Kelly eventually got to his feet and gingerly walked off the ground and was replaced by legspinner Peter Haztoglou, who had been omitted for the clash alongside frontline spinner Ashton Agar. Scorchers do have enviable pace depth if Kelly is ruled out against Sixers with star quick Jhye Richardson set to return from a hamstring injury.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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