Title in Tassie sights

HOBART Hurricanes coach Damien Wright and Big Bash League commentator Adam Gilchrist believe the team is benefiting from following the same do-or-die path that delivered Brisbane Heat the title last year.

``We are peaking just at the right time,'' Wright said ahead of tonight's sold-out final against Perth Scorchers. 

``We've had two fantastic performances against last year's champions, the Brisbane Heat, and the previously undefeated Melbourne Stars in our last two matches. I know we've got what it takes to knock off Perth.''

Gilchrist agreed that the Hurricanes are a serious contender for their first BBL title.

``They're in the final and will be chock-full of confidence on the back of two elimination games,'' he said. 

``They've had to walk the game plank twice now and survived.''

However, the Hurricanes will be without all-rounder Shoaib Malik, who was required to return home for Pakistan's upcoming domestic T20 competition  and will be replaced in the squad by Aiden Blizzard.

``Shoaib is a big loss for us,'' Wright said. ``His bowling has been fantastic throughout the tournament, and while he hasn't made the big score he would have probably liked, he's done a job for us.''

With Owais Shah also out of the squad, Hobart heads to the Furnace with no overseas players.

 ``Our squad is strong enough to cover the loss of these guys. We can bat really deep and we have plenty of bowling options.''

After all the hype about the BBL's big names, tonight's climax looms as a showdown between a discarded Queensland wicket-keeper and an apprentice power-line worker from Perth.

The title is likely to rest on the bats of tournament leading run-scorer Ben Dunk, whose career has been resurrected since moving to Tasmania, and Scorchers' Craig Simmons, who has emerged as an Indian Premier League hopeful after hitting the competition's only two centuries, including a match-winning 112 in Wednesday's dramatic five-run semi-final win over the Sydney Sixers. 

The six-hitting specialist strained his groin during the 58-ball innings but insisted: ``It'll take a bit more than a strain to keep me off the park on Friday.'' 

Despite the impact of the big-hitting left-handed openers, Channel 10 commentator Gilchrist believes Hurricanes captain George Bailey could be the key player, having moulded his game to suit limited-overs formats and having produced unbeaten match-winning contributions for Australia and Hobart in his last three appearances.

`His closing out ability at the back-end of an innings is just as good as anyone around the world,'' Gilchrist said on the BBL website yesterday.

``All that coupled with a fantastic head on his shoulders. When you are appointed captain of your country's T20 side, despite never previously playing a T20 in green and gold colours, you know your leadership skills are highly rated.

``There's lots of talk about culture and the right guys for the team's scenario. George Bailey is as good a team man as anyone you will ever come across.''

Scorchers paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile said the hosts were fully prepared after losing both the last two finals. ``George Bailey is obviously a very good batter, but we'll come up with something for him, don't worry,'' he said. 

The only other change to the Hurricanes squad is Joe Mennie coming in for Ben Laughlin.

Damien Wright

Damien Wright