Michael Neser was the unlikely hero as the Brisbane Heat notched an impressive win over the Sydney Sixers to reach the Big Bash League final.
Finishing the regular season in fifth position, the Heat headed into Thursday night’s ‘Challenger Final’ as underdogs, but emerged as four-wicket victors.
Their chances of progressing to the decider appeared slim at the tail-end of their run chase, but a confident Neser guided them to a win with 10 balls to spare.
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The Sixers appeared to struggle without the explosive Steve Smith, who is currently in India with the Australian Test side.
They scored 9/116 on a tricky SCG wicket, with Daniel Hughes top-scoring with 23 runs.
No other batter surpassed 20 runs, leaving their opponents with a good chance to complete a run-chase.
However, the Heat were also without some of their Test stars – notably Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Matt Renshaw.
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Openers Josh Brown and Sam Heazlett got the visitors off to a fast start before the top order began to crumble.
At the mid-way point, Brisbane sat at 5/56 and faced an uphill battle.
It was at this stage that all-rounder Neser showcased his experience and confidence.
Initially, the 32-year-old batted cautiously, but with 31 runs required off 30 balls and just four wickets remaining, he kicked into gear.
With one over left in the power surge, Neser smashed bowler Hayden Kerr for four consecutive fours, propelling the Heat into a strong winning position.
His 17-run over saw him finish on 47 not out, guiding his side to a win with 10 balls to spare.
The winning moment!
From the man who stole the show. What a performance by Michael Neser and the @HeatBBL #BBL12 #BBLFinals pic.twitter.com/zWuwlsv8QE
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) February 2, 2023
“Obviously it was quite tough to get started, but once you got the pace of the wicket it wasn’t too bad,” Neser told Fox Cricket after the match.
“Also, a bit of luck there I had early on. But I guess it came off.”
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The result means the Sixers have missed out on the final for the first time in four years.
The Heat, on the other hand, will now come up against reigning champions the Perth Scorchers in the decider on Saturday night.
Unsurprisingly, the Scorchers will be the favourites to get the job done in front of their home fans.