Perth Scorchers went into the 2018/19 Big Bash campaign as clear favourites to be crowned champions after emerging as the most successful team in the tournament’s history. Their squad is teeming with superstar talent, their trophy cabinet is bulging with silverware and they were widely tipped for further glory this season. Yet nothing has gone to plan thus far for Ashton Turner and co, and defeat against fellow strugglers Brisbane recently saw them slump to the bottom of the ladder. The question on everyone’s lips is: what has gone wrong for Perth Scorchers?
Few could have predicted quite how swift this team’s fall from grace has been. Five defeats in their opening six games left their finals hopes in tatters and an inquisition must begin. After all, they have never previously finished outside of the top three in the ladder. They have reached five out of seven BBL finals and been crowned champions a record three times. Perth were widely expected to be among the frontrunners this season and it is easy to see why when you look at the depth of quality in their squad.
Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Michael Klinger and Andrew Tye have all proved themselves as BBL superstars thanks to their exploits over the past few years. Turner is a solid captain, the Marsh brothers add plenty of quality when available and the return of Cameron Bancroft from suspension was supposed to boost an already strong side even further. Yet Justin Langer was the man holding the dynasty together and the Scorchers lost their legendary coach after last season. His absence has been keenly felt.
Langer took over as head coach in 2012 and guided the team to three titles in six years, so filling his shoes was always going to be a daunting task. Former captain Adam Voges took up the mantle after beating Kade Harvey and Simon Katich to the coveted job, and he was tasked with ushering in a glorious new era. However, he could hardly have made a worse start. It began with a four-wicket defeat at the hands of the Melbourne Renegades as Perth were bowled out for 103 from 19 overs, their lowest ever BBL away total. Dan Christian finished them off with a six, and that set the tone for a sluggish start to the season.
Next up was a 17-run defeat to the Sixers, where they could only manage 8-147, before poor bowling saw Daniel Hughes and Jordan Silk kill them off with a 124-run partnership, the record for any wicket for Sydney. They bounced back with a seven-wicket win over Adelaide to get off the mark for the season, but any optimism was crushed as they slumped to a six-wicket defeat to the Hurricanes next time out. The returning Cam Bancroft was out for two and they lost four wickets in as many overs en route to 8-107. Hobart then had little trouble reeling in the Scorchers’ modest total. A one run loss to the Thunder at the start of January was heartbreaking for Perth fans, but things were about to get much worse.
They went into a cellar dweller clash with winless Brisbane Heat at Perth Stadium at the weekend and everyone expected them to pick up a morale-boosting victory. But they made another dismal start and found themselves in trouble 2-61 after 10 overs. Mitch Marsh’s woes with the bat continued as he could only make 11 from 16 without hitting a boundary, showing why he was dropped from the Australian Test team. Turner battled valiantly, but it was in vain as Joe Burns and Ben Cutting brought home Brisbane’s first win of the season. It saw them leapfrog Perth, leaving the Scorchers marooned at the bottom of the ladder.
The bookmakers have written off their chances of success this season, and they are heading into every game as underdogs. The stats are also pretty damning. You will currently find three Perth players in the top 10 for bowling economy, which suggests it’s the batsmen who have badly let the team down. Big name players have simply not delivered for the perennial contenders this year. International David Willey has misfired and Klinger has disappointed with scores of 3, 2 and 5. Bancroft’s return has failed to have the desired effect, as he has appeared nervous and timid. He flopped on his first game back and he was brutally sledged by James Pattinson in the defeat to Brisbane, suggesting he will struggle to put the ball tampering scandal behind him.
The Scorchers’ bowling attack is formidable, if inconsistent, but their batting has been disgraceful this season. Only the Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat have scored fewer runs than the Scorchers, and Perth have managed just nine sixes, whereas every other team has hit more than 20. The wheels have come off in spectacular style and Voges needs to have a long conversation with Langer in a bid to discover how to inject a winning mentality back into this team. He may well need to overhaul his squad when all is said and done this season, as the imports need changing and star names have become unreliable. BBL is exceptionally competitive and the Scorchers are in danger of fading into oblivion if they do not change things up.