There’s no doubt the Strikers look more like, well, the Strikers, when skipper Travis Head and pace bowler Ben Laughlin are strutting their stuff on Adelaide Oval.
And they play better, too.
So it was great to have them back out there in the Strikers’ striking colours against Melbourne Stars on Friday night - even if it meant Head had been unluckily overlooked for the Aussies’ one-day campaign against India.
Head made 43 from 31 balls and Laughlin snared 3/19 from 3.2 overs to play key roles in the Strikers’ impressive win that lifted them back to second on the Big Bash League ladder.
Ben Laughlin has plenty of fans - and now he is up to 90 BBL wickets it’s hardly surprising.
But one of his supporters knows what she is talking about when she describes him as: “Still the king T20 bowler.” Handing out the praise after Laughlin snared three scalps to put the clamp on the Stars’ run chase was none other than Adelaide Strikers’ WBBL pace ace Megan Schutt. She just happens to be the No. 1-ranked Twenty20 women’s bowler in the world, so her tweet must have been music to Laughlin’s ears.
Laughlin, back from a hamstring niggle, had Ben Dunk brilliantly caught by a diving Michael Neser at mid-wicket, dangerous Dwayne Bravo cleaned up by a yorker and finished the match with the Strikers 41 runs to the good by bowling Jackson Bird. It was the first time he had dismissed these rivals and now he has dismissed 75 different players in the BBL - a sensational performance considering no-one else has taken 75 in total (Sydney Sixer Sean Abbott has 73).
666, they say, is the number of the beast. And when skipper Travis Head blasted English paceman Liam Plunkett for three sixes from three balls to transform the Strikers’ innings against Melbourne Stars at Adelaide Oval, he thundered the ball over the boundary like a beast. These shots were absolute beauties - two thumped high, wide and handsome over the mid-wicket boundary and into the crowd, the next over the rope at mid-off.
But Head had taken his time getting into the swing of it as the Strikers, rocked by the early dismissals of openers Matt Short (one) and Jake Weatherald (15) battled to 2/40 after eight overs. The 30,000-plus crowd at this stage was pretty quiet, even when in the eighth over Head played a cover drive for a single from part-time spinner Dunk to become the first player to score 1000 runs for the Strikers. Michael Klinger, the leading BBL runscorer of all time, is a former Striker but most of his 1915 runs have come with Perth Scorchers. There are 20 players who have now reached the 1000-run milestone. The only side that hasn’t had a player score 1000 runs for them is Sydney Thunder - Usman Khawaja leads the way on 956.
Head took 731 balls to reach his 1000 runs, pretty good going but Glenn Maxwell, missing from the Stars line-up to play for Australia in the one-dayers against India, has made it to the milestone quickest - from just 652 balls.
While the Adelaide crowd took some time to warm up in the hot Adelaide sun, by the time Head had belted his hat-trick of sixes, the fans were well and truly on their feet, making their usual noise. Unfortunately, targetting his fourth six in a row, Head was caught at deep mid-off by Bird for 43, becoming one of Plunkett’s four wickets for the innings.
Head had already reached a milestone before he notched his 1000th BBL run, becoming the leading Big Bash runscorer on Adelaide Oval. When he reached nine he moved ahead of former Strikers fan favourite, now Renegades wicketkeeper-batsman, Tim Ludeman, with 567 BBL runs at the ground.
While Head and Laughlin were back making their presence felt against the Stars, big fast bowler Wes Agar was given his first chance this campaign after pacemen Billy Stanlake and Peter Siddle were selected in Australia’s squad for the one-dayers against India.
Well, we think it was Wes Agar. There was the suggestion from the Strikers’ graphics team it was actually Mr T, as they tweeted: “Top bowling from Mr T tonight - whoops, we mean Wes Agar.” The younger brother of Australian spinner Ashton Agar came out sporting a hairstyle that was something like a mohawk and, as if that wasn’t noticeable enough, when Head brought him on in the fifth over he was greeted with four, six, four in successive balls from hard-hitting Evan Gulbis.
But Mr A recovered sensationally after having 18 taken from his first over. The 21-year-old Melbourne right-armer backed himself to bounce back after the power play and he hit back sensationally in his second over - the eighth of the innings - by clean bowling top-scorer Gulbis for 37 from 25 balls. Despite making his BBL debut back in January 2017 and being part of the Strikers’ championship-winning squad last campaign, Agar had broken through for his first BBL scalp. Agar’s own scalp and jubilant fist-pumping celebration made it all the more memorable for the Oval crowd.
Top bowling from @MrT tonight!— Adelaide Strikers (@StrikersBBL) January 11, 2019
Whoops, we mean Wes Agar 🤦♂️
He finishes his four overs with figures of 2/33 in his first match of #BBL08 😁 #BlueEnergy #TerriblePhotoshopsOfTheBBL pic.twitter.com/flHCqfGsYl
Agar added the wicket of Jonathan Merlo - trapped lbw - to finish with an impressive 2/33 from four overs, showing why he had made the cut.
There are players who just quietly go about their work, not always getting the praise they deserve from the public but are hugely respected among their team-mates and opponents.
Adelaide Strikers batsman Jon Wells is one of those players.
The Tasmanian right-hander has quietly shot to the head of the Big Bash League averages this campaign, his average a remarkable 83 per innings. Obviously helped by the fact he has been not out five times in his seven innings (for 166 runs), he always has to throw caution to the wind in the late overs and has been scoring an impressive strike rate of 133.9.
Against the Stars at Adelaide Oval on Friday night he continued to make it look easy with an unbeaten 32 from just 14 balls with four fours and a six and while Colin Ingram (57 from 41 balls) and Head probably received more plaudits, there was no doubt just how crucial a cameo Wells had again played.