Defending champions Scorchers reclaimed the top spot on the BBL ladder with a dramatic 10-run win over Melbourne Renegades at the Optus Stadium.
The result secured the Scorchers a home qualifying final against the Sixers on Saturday with an expected crowd of around 45,000. The winner will host the Grand Final on 4 February.
Scorchers coach Adam Voges said: “Once we had confirmation that Ash would not be available for our final here on Saturday, we felt now was his chance to begin his preparation for the Test tour. “
“We’ve talked a lot with Ash over the back half of this campaign about how we can help prepare him for what’s coming at the moment as well as what lies ahead.
We would not have been able to do this without his blessings. I fully understand how important this upcoming tour of India is to him and he wants to prepare in the best possible way. It wasn’t really an issue.”
Richardson was set to return in time for the finals series after suffering a hamstring injury, but would need to prove his fitness.
Prior to his latest setback against the Sydney Thunder on 4 January, Richardson had been in excellent form with 15 wickets in seven matches with an average of 150 kmph.
A lingering heel injury before the BBL season sidelined him for an extended period.
Voges said, “They haven’t got the final match yet.” “We are all really hopeful that he will be available for Saturday. Once he is declared fit I have no problem in bringing him back. But he still has something to do.”
A spot in the Scorchers’ attack may have opened up when Kelly suffered a nasty blow to his face in a bizarre fielding accident and was ruled out of the match under concussion rules.
“I’m sure he’ll go through those [concussion] protocol,” Voges said. “Hopefully he’ll be available for Saturday, but we’ll just wait and see.”
It has been a season of resilience for the poor Scorchers, who despite the wobble remained on top of the ladder with 11 wins.
English rookies Tymal Mills, Phil Salt and Laurie Evans missed a single match for various reasons, as did star all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green due to injuries.
After memorably winning last season’s title after playing just one home match due to strict COVID-19 border controls in Western Australia, the Scorchers will be eyeing another win against adversity.
“Pride is a really good word,” said Voges, who described how she felt about her team. “You lose three of your international players that you pick in the draft, you lose Mitch Marsh on the eve of the tournament. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how we were going to go.”
“We’ve brought players forward, we’ve had contributing players in different sports,” Voges said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on the depth we have within our team and we’ve certainly had to use that in this tournament. To get over the line and win a home final is great.”
Tristan Lovelett is a journalist based in Perth