Cricket-Perth Scorchers edge Brisbane Heat in BBL final to retain title

PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Perth Scorchers' 19-year-old Cooper Connolly smashed an unbeaten 25 to see his side over the line in a nail-biting five-wicket win against Brisbane Heat to retain their crown in the Big Bash League (BBL) season decider at Perth Stadium on Saturday.

The fifth-ranked Heat, who performed valiantly throughout the finals series, posted 175-7 from 20 overs after opting to bat, but the reigning champions proved too strong and worked their way to 178-5 with four balls remaining.

Perth Scorchers extended their BBL dominance to five titles from 12 editions.

"To win a BBL flag, nothing comes better than that at 19. I'm enjoying the moment and soaking it all in," Connolly told reporters.

"I'm confident in myself now that I can perform under pressure."

With his team requiring 39 from 19 deliveries, Connolly, in only his fourth Twenty20, walked to the crease and assumed responsibility for the chase, living dangerously as he hammered two enormous sixes and a four in his 11-ball blitz.

Defending 10 from the final over, Heat seamer Michael Neser conceded consecutive boundaries to Nick Hobson (18 not out) who iced the match.


The Scorchers response began strongly until a lazy piece of running saw Stephen Eskinazi (21) short of his crease.

With his side at 67-3 from 10 overs and the required run rate over 10, captain Ashton Turner produced a familiar rescue-act and clubbed five fours and two sixes to keep the match on a knife-edge.

When he was run-out for 53, Connolly and Hobson's breathtaking partnership swung the match.

"The great teams win big games and that was our responsibility tonight, we've been overwhelming favourites probably for the last few games we've entered and it's our responsibility to back that up," Turner told reporters.

Earlier, Heat opener Josh Brown got off to a rollicking start, belting 25 runs in the first two overs of the match before being caught. Sam Heazlett (34) and Nathan McSweeney (41) then consolidated to create a solid foundation for the innings.

Aggressive use of the batting powerplay in the 13th over backfired when both Heazlett and skipper Jimmy Peirson (3) swiped Jason Behrendorff (2-26) to short fine leg.

After crunching 31 from 14 balls, Max Bryant skied Matt Kelly (2-37) to keeper Josh Inglis. The same fate awaited Neser one ball later as he went for a golden duck.

Both sides entered the match short of star-power as injuries and international call-ups took their toll.

"I'm immensely proud. The group we've got is not full of household names," said Heat's Peirson. "We're building towards something."

The Heat and Scorchers, aptly playing in temperatures nudging 40C (104F), were supported by a lively crowd of 53,886 -- a BBL final record.

(This story has been corrected to fix grammar in paragraph 1)

(Reporting by Joel Dubber in Perth; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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