Brisbane has won its first Big Bash League title in 11 years after its group of late bloomers led the Heat to a 54-run victory over the Sydney Sixers in the final.
The Heat defended their total of 8-166 and bowled out the Sixers for 112 in the 18th over to secure the title in front of a record crowd of 43,153 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was a fitting result after Brisbane went through the first nine rounds of the season unbeaten before their overseas stars were eliminated before the final.
But then it was the club’s late bloomers who stood up.
After opener Josh Brown and speedy Spencer Johnson scored against Adelaide to send them into the decider, the pair were at it again on Wednesday.
Brown hit 53 from 38 balls to set the tone for the Heat, before Johnson took 4-26, their best ever tally in a BBL final, ending any hope the Sixers had of reaching the target.
After a slow start when he scored three runs from his first ten balls, Brown exploded after the powerplay, putting up 50 in 32 balls.
The right-hander hit three sixes off Hayden Kerr, two of them over long-on and another over back-square.
His innings allowed Max Bryant (29 off 19) and Matt Renshaw (40 off 22) to finish strongly.
Brown was eventually lbw at review when replays showed a ball from Steve O’Keefe hit his pad before taking him to point, making it the retiring spinner’s 99th and final BBL wicket.
Brown, 30, only made his debut last season but has now received offers from foreign clubs in the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh since he hit 12 sixes in his 140th game against the Strikers on Monday.
The only rise faster than Brown’s is that of Johnson, who made his BBL debut last summer at the age of 27 and has been playing for Australia ever since.
Wednesday night was a reminder of why.
The left-armer, who was named man of the match, broke the Sixers’ back early when he bowled Jack Edwards for 16 after the Sixers had scored 13 runs from the first five balls of the over.
He also grabbed the crucial wicket of Josh Philippe for 22 when the right-hander was caught at mid-wicket before coming back with his pace and bounce to remove Ben Dwarshuis and Hayden Kerr.
Johnson’s wickets ended any hope the Sixers had of reaching the target, with Covid-battling captain Moises Henriques the only batsman to reach 25.
Mitchell Swepson (2-19) also threw the best ball of the game, hitting Jordan Silk with flying and spinning moves that left him overwhelmed for a fourth-ball duck.
The Heat’s win comes after they were beaten in the Finals last year, while the Sixers remain stuck on three titles from seven playoff appearances.
Sean Abbott kept the hosts with 4:32 but they always faced an uphill battle chasing 167 on a ground that has scored few points this season.