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Big Bash League: Perth Scorchers blaze a red-hot trail into playoffs

Six weeks of high-octane, big-hitting, T20 fireworks have come to an end, capped by the most jaw-dropping innings of all from the irrepressible Glenn Maxwell, and that leaves five teams still standing heading into the Big Bash 2021/22 playoffs.

Perth Scorchers topped the standings and are rated 5/4 shots ahead of the defending champions Sydney Sixers at 7/4. They meet in the Qualifier on Saturday with the winner going straight through to the final on 28th January.

The playoffs begin with the Eliminator between Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes, the fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the standings. The winner of that tie will play Sydney Thunder in the Knockout with the winner of that taking on the loser of the Scorchers and the Sixers for the right to make the final.

History suggests top two will take some opposing

This is the third year that the Big Bash League has concluded with a five-team playoff – and the previous two runnings point to an inevitable final.

In 2019/20, it was Melbourne Stars who topped the league with Sydney Sixers behind them. They met in their "semi-final" and again in the final which the Stars won.

Last year the Sydney Sixers became champs. They finished top, pipping Perth Scorchers into second. The two of them met in the Qualifier and met again in the final.

So Perth Scorchers, in particular, should feel confident having not only won the league, but done so by the widest margin in the competition's history. Ashton Turner's men won their first six games and haven't looked back. It may also be significant that they have won both their meetings this season with Sydney Sixers, who they play at the weekend for that ticket straight to the final.

Interestingly, the team who go into the playoffs in the best form of the lot are Adelaide Strikers, who signed off the league section with an eight-wicket demolition of Sydney Sixers to make it five wins in six.

Adelaide Strikers, because they finished fourth and therefore start off in the Eliminator and will have to play four more games if they are to be crowned champs, are 14/1 shots. But they are clearly in supremely confident nick, have beaten all their rivals and could have Ashes' stars Alex Carey and Travis Head parachuted back in for the climax of the competition.

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Big Mac has eaten up rivals in top scorer stakes

Maxwell broke the record for the highest individual score in the Big Bash League when he made an astonishing unbeaten 154 in Melbourne Stars' win against Hobart Hurricanes.

He smashed four sixes and 22 fours in his whirlwind 64-ball knock to help Melbourne Stars reach 273-2, the highest total by a T20 franchise team.

In terms of the competition, however, it was too little too late for Melbourne Stars or Maxwell's own bid to finish as the tournament top run-getter. That honour looks almost certain to go to Hobart Hurricanes' Ben McDermott, whose 55 in the same match was barely worthy of note but it did stretch his advantage in the top scorer list.

It's been a record-breaking season for McDermott after piling up 571 runs in 12 innings, 147 more runs than anyone else left in the competition.

The son of ex-Test ace Craig McDermott, Big Ben has hit two hundreds, three half-centuries and a phenomenal 29 sixes, and still has at least one more shot at adding to his haul.

Age is just a number as super-steady Siddle turns back the clock

If the battle to be top Big Bash 2021/22 runscorer looks like a done deal, then the same definitely cannot be said of the scrap for top wicket-taker honours.

Peter Siddle, who turned 37 just days before the tournament started, leads the way with 23 wickets and the Adelaide Strikers' ace is 7/4 to land the odds.

Siddle has one more wicket than Hayden Kerr, the Sydney Sixers' left-arm seamer, a real late developer who has never bowled better and is a 12/5 shot. Both men are guaranteed at least one more match though Siddle could yet play four more games.

Two players are on the 20-wicket mark though one of those, Afghanistan ace Rashid Khan, has left Adelaide Strikers to play for his country in a one-day series against Netherlands.

The other bowler with 20 wickets to his name is Andrew Tye, the Aussie quick at Perth Scorchers who made headlines for all the wrong reasons a couple of weeks ago when he was banned mid-match for sending down too many beamers.

Tye is a 5/2 chance but Siddle seems to have a clear edge over the field simply by coming in at the Eliminator stage of the playoffs with the potential to play four games.

If you're behind Hobart Hurricanes to take care of Adelaide Strikers in the Eliminator and go on a run themselves then Tom Rogers, with 18 wickets, might make some interest at 16/1.

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