For the second time in less than a year, Canberra will play host to a tournament final between a team from Western Australia and a side from New South Wales. In March 2014, it was the Sheffield Shield decider, moved from the SCG due to a Major League Baseball fixture there; this time it is the Big Bash League final between the Perth Scorchers and the Sydney Sixers.
Cricket Australia announced Canberra as the BBL final host last July, although its reasoning seemed a little wishy-washy. The busy summer was cited, with venues preparing for World Cup fixtures, and the term "neutral territory" was mentioned, even though New South Wales had nominated the ground as its alternative "home" venue for the Shield final last year.
The Scorchers have hosted all three BBL finals until now and under normal circumstances they would have done so again, but the WACA will instead continue preparing for an ODI between England and India on Friday, and the tri-series final on Sunday. The Scorchers will instead aim for their second BBL title at Manuka Oval, where Sixers captain Moises Henriques said his side would be comfortable.
"It probably suits us, because otherwise we would have been away this game," Henriques said. "We're hoping this will be like a home game for us, it's only two and a half hours down the road from Sydney. Perth have had to travel a long way.
"It's unfortunate they've been slightly disadvantaged but it plays into our hands a little bit. We'll have a lot more home fans here than we would have had in Perth."
That said, the Sixers managed to win the inaugural BBL final at the WACA in 2011-12, before the Brisbane Heat took out the second title there in 2012-13. It took the Scorchers until last summer to final use their home advantage in the final, beating the Hobart Hurricanes, and captain Adam Voges said it was disappointing not to be at home again.
"It is what it is. We've known through the whole tournament that the final was going to be played here," Voges said. "I'd love to be playing in front of 19,000 fans in orange back at home, but it is what it is. We're just happy to be here in another final."
The Scorchers have developed a reputation for being able to defend almost any total, which continued in their semi-final victory over the Melbourne Stars on Sunday. The Stars would have fancied their chances of overhauling Perth's 7 for 144, but they fell short as the Scorchers attack showed why three of its members are equal second on the wicket tally this summer.
Andrew Tye, Jason Behrendorff and Yasir Arafat have each picked up 14 wickets, behind only John Hastings of the Stars, and the 43-year-old Brad Hogg continues to be hard to get away, going at only 5.15 an over. Voges was full of praise for his bowlers but said it would be nice if the batsmen could offer them a little more assistance in the final.
"That's been a huge part of how we've got here this year," Voges said. "Our bowling unit has been outstanding. We've got three guys who have taken 14 wickets, Brad Hogg has gone for less than six runs an over. Our fielding has backed them up really, really well. We've not always got the runs on the board we would have liked but we've managed to defend those totals."
They will have to be at their best against the Sixers, who boast three of the top five run scorers this BBL season. Jordan Silk, Nic Maddinson and Michael Lumb sit behind only Kevin Pietersen of the Stars and Michael Klinger of the Scorchers, and the Sixers will also have the added motivation of delivering a title in Brett Lee's final competitive match before retirement.
"I look at the way the Scorchers play their cricket and I think we're pretty similar," Henriques said. "We're both sort of scrappers, we don't rely on any particular person in our line-up. They just compete well, they don't always post a massive score but they've got a team that competes and they never say die. I'd like to think our team is pretty similar."
The BBL final begins at 7.40pm on Wednesday.
Perth Scorchers squad Adam Voges (capt), Ashton Agar, Yasir Arafat, Jason Behrendorff, Michael Carberry, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Brad Hogg, Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman.
Sydney Sixers squad Moises Henriques (capt), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Ed Cowan, Simon Keen, Brett Lee, Michael Lumb, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Steve O'Keefe, Jordan Silk, Riki Wessels.