Perth Scorchers paceman Matt Kelly was struck flush on the face in a freak fielding mishap as his team secured top spot on the BBL ladder with a topsy-turvy 10-run victory over the Melbourne Renegades.
The Scorchers posted 5-212 at Optus Stadium on Sunday on the back of strong contributions from Cameron Bancroft (95no off 50 balls) and Stephen Eskinazi (54 off 29 balls).
In reply, the Renegades were in all sorts of trouble, needing 68 off the last 18 balls to secure victory in front of 32,259 fans.
But a remarkable blitzkrieg from Aaron Finch (76no off 35 balls) and some horror dropped catches from the Scorchers reduced the equation to 37 needed off 12 balls.
AJ Tye (1-63 off four overs) suffered the most pain, with Finch helping take 31 runs off the star paceman’s final over.
However, Finch struggled to regain the strike for the crucial final 12 balls of the match, enabling the Scorchers to sneak home.
The Renegades finished at 5-202, with opener Shaun Marsh scoring 54 off 34 balls in a successful return from a hamstring injury.
The result means Perth can’t be displaced from the top of the ladder, and they will host the second-placed Sydney Sixers in “The Qualifier” next Saturday.
The winner of that match will earn direct entry to the grand final.
The Renegades remain in fourth spot, with the top five teams making the finals.
Kelly is in doubt for the start of the finals after being struck in the face by the ball while attempting to collect a return throw.
The 28-year-old was at the non-striker’s end when the throw from Nick Hobson deflected off Finch’s bat and straight into Kelly’s face.
A standing ovation for the injured Matt Kelly as he leaves the field.
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 22, 2023
A bloodied Kelly was subbed out of the game with concussion.
“It was a freak accident, one of those things,” Finch said.
“I feel shocking for it … you don’t want to see anyone hurt.”
Scorchers coach Adam Voges said Kelly was feeling better after the match.
“He’s ok, he’s up and about,” Voges said.
“He got a little cut on his jaw.”
Perth’s four-over Power Play of 0-62 was the best of any team this season, with the Renegades made to pay dearly for their wayward start with the ball.
Renegades paceman David Moody was the biggest culprit, with his spell lasting just one legal delivery.
The 27-year-old struck Bancroft in the upper ribs with a wild 143.8km/h full toss early in the second over of the match.
Bancroft was hurt in the incident but was able to scamper through for a single before taking time to recover from the hit.
A wide came next ball, before Moody unleashed yet another full toss above waist height when Eskinazi was attempting a scoop shot.
The second beamer meant Moody was not allowed to continue bowling under the laws of the game, forcing captain Finch into a bowling reshuffle.
“He was really flat, devastated,” Finch said of Moody.
“The rule is there to protect from dangerous deliveries. I don’t think that second one was dangerous.
“If he’d stayed in his batting stance, I think it wouldn’t have been anywhere near him.”