Defending champions Scorchers took top spot on the BBL ladder with a dramatic 10-run win over Melbourne Renegades at Optus Stadium.
The result secures the Scorchers a home qualifying final against the Sixers on Saturday where a bumper crowd of around 45,000 is expected. The winner will host the grand final on February 4.
Scorchers coach Adam Voges said, “Once we confirmed that Ash would not be available for our final here on Saturday, we felt there was an opportunity for him to start preparing for the Test tour.”
“We’ve spoken to Ash a lot over the back half of this campaign about how we can help prepare him for what’s ahead of him at the moment.
We could not have done it without His blessings. I fully understand how important this upcoming India tour is for him and he wants to prepare as best as possible. It wasn’t really a problem.”
Richardson is slated to return from a hamstring injury in time for the finals series, but will have to prove his fitness.
Prior to his latest knock against the Sydney Thunder on 4 January, Richardson had been in red-hot form with 15 wickets in seven matches marked by fast bowling at 150kph.
A nagging heel injury sidelined him for an extended period before the BBL season.
“He hasn’t got the final tick yet,” Voges said. “We are all really hopeful that he will be available for Saturday. Once he is declared fit I have no problem bringing him back. But he still has work to do.”
A spot in the Scorchers’ attack may have opened up after Kelly suffered a nasty blow to his face in a freak fielding accident and had to be substituted from the match under concussion rules.
“I’m sure he’ll get through them [concussion] protocol,” Voges said. “Hopefully he’ll be available for Saturday, but we’ll just wait and see.”
It’s been a season of resilience for a battered Scorchers, who have climbed to the top of the ladder with 11 wins despite the volatility.
English recruits Tymal Mills, Phil Salt and Laurie Evans missed a match for various reasons and so did star all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green due to injuries.
Having memorably won last season’s title by playing just one home match due to strict Covid-19 border controls in Western Australia, the Scorchers are eyeing another win against the odds.
“Proud is a really good word,” said Voges, who described how he felt about his 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 quite sure how we were going to go.”
“Our guys have stepped up, we’ve had guys contribute in different sports,” Voges said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on the depth we have in our squad and we’ve certainly had to capitalize on that going into this tournament. It’s great to get over the line and win a home final.”
Tristan Lovelett is a journalist based in Perth