AAP image/Richard Wainwright
A commanding Aaron Hardie knock has helped Perth Scorchers reclaim top spot on the Big Bash ladder with a seven-wicket win over Hobart Hurricanes.
Hardie plundered an unbeaten 90 off 62 balls at Optus Stadium on Wednesday, ensuring the hosts reached their target of 147 with 15 balls to spare.
The young gun put on a 127-run stand with Josh Inglis (53 off 35), who anchored the innings to perfection.
Electric quick Lance Morris earlier snared two key wickets to help Perth restrict the Hurricanes to 9-146 after the visitors won the toss and elected to bat.
With two games remaining, the Scorchers are well-placed to secure the right to host a qualifier final at their Optus Stadium fortress where they have lost just once this season.
Hardie hit his first ball faced for a boundary and showcased an array of shots on the way to his fourth half-century for the season.
The 24-year-old has made the No.3 spot his own in the absence of the injured Mitch Marsh.
“I’m enjoying batting up the order,” Hardie said.
“We certainly have a lot of trust through our batting order, which allows us to take risks a little bit earlier.”
Perth overcame a nervous start in which they lost openers Stephen Eskinazi and Cameron Bancroft within the first two overs.
Eskinazi holed out at mid-on off Riley Meredith’s bowling for a second-ball duck before Bancroft was trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Paddy Dooley, with the Hurricanes correctly reviewing the initial not out decision.
Hardie won a captivating battle with Dooley, who hurt his groin and did not field after completing his overs.
Test prospect Morris (2-21) led the way with the ball for Perth, dismissing danger men Caleb Jewell – who had scored three 50s from his past five innings – and skipper Matthew Wade cheaply in his opening spell.
Wade departed for a third-ball duck, caught brilliantly by a diving Inglis after miscuing an attempted ramp shot.
Perth is the best-performed fielding side this season, according to broadcaster Fox Cricket, and the hosts again held onto nearly all of their chances.
Nick Hobson almost pulled off a one-handed screamer at square leg to dismiss Zak Crawley but could only get his fingertips to the ball.
Crawley built a promising 31-run stand with Tim David before they fell to successive deliveries by Ashton Agar and Jason Behrendorff.
Reduced to 5-66 halfway through their innings, the Hurricanes saved their power surge for late in the innings and tailenders Tom Andrews (27) and Nathan Ellis (24) delivered some lusty blows to improve their total.
Perth reaped the benefits of a four-man pace attack after recalling Morris and Kelly to join Behrendorff, Andrew Tye (2-30) and offspinner Agar.
Fifth-placed Hobart have three games left to secure a finals berth.
“It’s still very much a tight ladder,” coach Jeff Vaughan said.
“If we play some good cricket and get into the finals, we strongly believe we can get on a roll.”