Bringing Marnus Labuschagne into the attack is a decision the Brisbane Heat would likely take back if they could, after surrendering a commanding first innings total to the Perth Scorchers on Wednesday night. The Heat's miserable BBL campaign continued after they fell to a sixth loss for the season.
The loss came despite the high profile inclusions of Usman Khawaja, Matthew Renshaw and the aforementioned Labuschagne, after the conclusion of the Australian Test summer. Khawaja took over as captain for the clash against the Scorchers, and it was his decision to insert Labuschagne into the attack.
Brisbane's bowling has been a weak point for much of the BBL season thus far, but the Heat looked to have found an answer to their woes in debutant Spencer Johnson. Completing his first to overs giving away just six runs, it was an opening spell that left former Test bowler Brett Lee excited by his prospects.
Perth was up against it at 2/25 in the middle of the powerplay when Labuschagne was thrown the ball for the fifth over. It proved to be a disastrous move for the Heat, with the Test batsman giving up 20 runs from his first over, completely washing away the pressure previously built up by Brisbane.
Worse yet, it came against two batters who had just come to the crease, meaning they were able to get their eyes in by belting Labuschagne around the Gabba. Fox Sports commentator Mark Waugh said Labuschagne's bowling cameo was a 'gift' to the Scorchers and a 'gamble' from Khawaja, while Brett Lee was also baffled after declaring the Heat had the Scorchers 'on toast'.
“All of a sudden, it’s just taken a bit of heat out of the situation for the Heat,” Waugh said. “I just don’t see the logic in this one. There was no need to gamble when you had the Scorchers 2-25.
“It’s just changed the whole momentum that over. They got handed a gift.”
Brisbane Heat's big Labuschagne gamble blows up spectacularly
Josh Inglis top-scored for the Heat with 67 from 13 deliveries, and admitted the sight of Labuschagne getting ready to bowl had been an enticing prospect. Perth ultimately won by eight wickets, with 22 balls to spare.
"Yeah they did," Inglis said when asked if his eyes lit up at the sight of Labuschagne's first loose ball. "But after the first one I made sure I switched on. I know how much Marn loves his bowling; I'd never hear the end of it if he got me out."
Jason Behrendorff (3-21) did the first-innings damage for the visitors, named man of the match after running through the Heat's Test-bolstered batting order to pick up his 100th BBL scalp in the process. The Heat were in the contest early, left-arm quick Spencer Johnson (0-22 off 3.2 overs) impressive on debut with his pace and bounce almost unplayable.
"He swings the ball up front and that's gold in T20; he's always on the money and takes wickets in the power play," Inglis said of Behrendorff. "And he (Johnson) was actually quite tough to pick up his length, with a bit of a delay in his action, was getting on quicker than we expected."
Earlier Behrendorff had the Heat's measure, Inglis dropping a tough chance off Khawaja before the Scorchers veteran dismissed Brown (18), Labuschagne (10) and Matt Renshaw (28) just as they were threatening to break free. He bowled during the power surge that backfired on the hosts, who lost 2-11 in those two overs, before Max Bryant (36 off 27) finished well.
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