Cricket fans were left in shock after an embarrassing moment involving the third umpire, during the Brisbane Heat's shock BBL finals victory over the Sydney Sixers on Thursday night. A batting masterclass from fast bowler Michael Neser (48 not out) guided the Heat into Saturday's BBL decider against the Perth Scorchers after Brisbane chased down the hosts' modest target with 10 balls to spare in Sydney.
Without their top run-scorer and talisman Steve Smith - who has jetted off to India with the Australian Test squad - the Sixers sputtered to 9-116 on a tricky SCG wicket. The Heat were missing their own Test stars Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw, but Neser managed to bail them out of an early pickle and into Saturday's decider in Perth.
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However, fans were left in disbelief earlier in the night after watching an embarrassing moment with the third umpire play out when Sydney's Josh Philippe was at the crease. Facing the spin of Brisbane's Matt Kuknemann, Philippe was at the centre of an appeal after the ball brushed the outside of his pad and went through to Heat wicketkeeper, Jimmy Peirson.
The umpire's initial decision was not out, with the third umpire confirming the evidence on numerous replays that the ball had touched his glove before hitting his pad. Incredibly though, the TV official told the umpire to stick with his original decision of not out, despite Peirson catching the ball that had come off Philippe's glove.
Heat players vehemently appealed the decision, insisting that the Sixers batter should have been out caught behind, with the third umpire eventually having to overturn his original message to the man in the middle. Philippe was eventually and correctly given out but viewers were left shocked that such farcical scenes could play out in a match of this significance.
Not everyone, only the third umpire forgot
— Matt Grimston (@MatthewGrimston) February 2, 2023
Agree. Third umpire had one job and he blew it.
— Roger M (@Groucho_25) February 2, 2023
— Kirsty Trimper (@ktrimpie) February 2, 2023
It was the correct decision, eventually, but that wasn’t exactly the best example of third umpire work. #BBL12
— Alex Fair (@AJFair85) February 2, 2023
Third umpire clearly thought he was giving Phillippe the benefit of the doubt with the ball on glove call, then had to stand by it and give him out caught behind when he realised that’s what the appeal was for 🤦♂️ #amateurhour
— Taz (@TazSG94) February 2, 2023
The standard of umpiring this year is rubbish.
— Richard Monin 🌊 (@MoninRichard) February 2, 2023
— Damien E (@dexswans) February 2, 2023
Batters have struggled at the SCG all summer long and when the hosts elected to bat, Kuhnemann (3-17) and Spencer Johnson (3-28) posted the best figures of their BBL careers to give Brisbane a sniff. After catching Kurtis Patterson (19) to break a promising opening partnership, spinner Kuhnemann claimed out-of-sorts opener Philippe (16) and skipper Moises Henriques (four) in the space of two overs.
The quick dismissals forced the Sixers back into their shell and they never got going again, managing 2-8 in the power surge and failing to hit a six all night. Johnson denied Dan Christian (seven) a fairytale in his last game at the SCG with a length ball that careered into the wicket, before he had the Sixers' last recognised batter Hayden Kerr (16) out caught and bowled.
Daniel Hughes, the Sixers' odd man out for most of the summer, top-scored with 23.
Michael Neser rescues Heat after shocking start
A win looked to be a distant prospect for the Heat when the visitors lost 3-10, before falling to 5-56. However, Neser's late cameo got Brisbane home with more than an over to spare and into the grand final against the Scorchers on Saturday.
"I was just fortunate that that came off," Neser told reporters. "I normally am quite nervous but it was potentially the last game of the season, so I just thought, it's all or nothing really."
With the game on an even keel late, Neser hit Hayden Kerr for four consecutive boundaries in an over that defined the game and sealed one of the great BBL upsets with 10 balls to spare. "We just seemed to take wickets at the right time and their batters didn't seem to get a roll on," Neser added.
The Heat found the boundary more easily than the Sixers early on, announcing their intention when Josh Brown hit Steve O'Keefe for six on consecutive deliveries. One of three replacements for the Heat's Test players, Sam Heazlett tried to sneak a single on a misfield but found himself run out to trigger a collapse. In the space of 21 balls, the Heat also lost Brown (20) and Nathan McSweeney (five), both caught behind by Philippe.
Losing more scalps was the only thing that could thwart the Heat when a run a ball was all that was required and Max Bryant, another of the reinforcements, forged a game-high 30-run partnership with Neser. Just as they were beginning to pull ahead with the largest partnership of the night, Bryant (11) sent the ball skyward in the power surge and was caught.
But Neser was undeterred and his 16 runs from four balls brought the equation squarely into the Heat's favour. When he slogged the ball past long on, he had the biggest score of his BBL career.
"(Neser) played a pretty smart innings, which you have to give him credit for," Henriques said. The Sixers' play-offs campaign came to an end in straight sets after they lost their qualifying final against the Scorchers last week.
"We had two cracks at making the final and unfortunately weren't good enough to take either of them," Henriques said. "I'm still very, very proud of what we were able to achieve as a team throughout the season."
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