The Sydney Sixers have received a boost ahead of their Qualifier final trip to Perth with confirmation Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon will be available for the match ahead of the India Test tour.
The Perth Scorchers secured top spot on the KFC BBL|12 ladder last night with a tense 10-run win over the Melbourne Renegades, earning them hosting rights for the Qualifier final on Saturday.
On the same day, Australia’s Test squad members not involved in the BBL finals and coaching staff will assemble in Sydney for the highly-anticipated Qantas Tour of India, and experienced red-ball campaigners Smith and Lyon are part of a group of 11 players that have been cleared to play the first week of BBL finals, pending selection.
Thirteen of Australia’s 18-player squad for the India tour have featured in the BBL this season, with Smith smashing back-to-back centuries for the Sixers who are assured of finishing second regardless of the result of tonight’s fixture against the Hurricanes in Hobart.
Perth spinner Ashton Agar and Sixers counterpart Todd Murphy will not feature in Saturday’s Qualifier final, with the Aussie coaching staff keen to get that pair into camp early where they will be joined by Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and Josh Hazlewood, who are not involved in the BBL this summer. Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc, who are recovering from their respective injuries, will also be there.
Agar was left out of Perth’s match against the Renegades on Sunday night after the Scorchers learned he would not be available for the Qualifier final.
“Once we got confirmation that Ash wasn’t going to be available for our final here on Saturday, we felt now was the opportunity for him to start his prep for the Test tour,” Perth coach Adam Voges said.
“We wouldn’t have done that without his blessing.
“I fully understand how important this upcoming tour of India is for him and he wants to get the best possible preparation.”
Smith shrugged off back spasms ahead of his incredible century against the Sydney Thunder, while Lyon has not played since January 15 as he manages a minor knee complaint. CA have made him available for the Qualifier final, with the final call to be made between the player and club.
Scorchers quick Lance Morris, who spent part of the summer with the Test squad for the series against South Africa, was missing with illness on Sunday night, but will be available for Saturday’s home final.
The final three spots in the BBL playoffs are yet to be decided in a tightly contested race, which could have some bearing on player availability.
The Brisbane Heat, who have surged to third place after four wins on the trot, have four Test squad members in their side: Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Renshaw and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson.
All four will be available if the Heat play in Friday night’s Eliminator final.
But if the Heat finish third, which would see the Knockout final played at the Gabba on Sunday, Khawaja, Labuschagne and Renshaw will play, but Swepson is required at the pre-India tour camp in Sydney instead.
If the Heat finish fourth or fifth and advance to the Knockout final that way, Swepson will be cleared to play only if the match is hosted by the Sydney Thunder.
Should David Warner’s Sydney Thunder qualify for the finals, the star batter will be available for either or both of Friday night’s Eliminator and Sunday’s Knockout final.
The Thunder currently sit in fifth spot and can guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs with a win on Wednesday night against the Stars in the final game of the BBL|12 regular season. Finishing third and hosting the Knockout remains a possibility, but they will need other results to go their way.
With three points separating the five teams hunting for three spots, the final five and playoff matchups will not be locked in until after that game.
If the Adelaide Strikers make it through, they will have Alex Carey and captain Travis Head available for the Eliminator and Knockout finals.
Test call-up Peter Handscomb will be available for the Renegades if they feature in the Eliminator final on Friday night, but will only be available for selection in Sunday’s Knockout final if the match is played in Sydney.
Handscomb, who has been in hot form during the Marsh Sheffield Shield this summer, has played just three games for the Renegades this season, with a top score of nine.
The winner of the Qualifier final between Perth and the Sixers will advance directly to – and host – the BBL Final while the loser will host the Challenger final.
With the Test squad to depart for India on January 31, these Test players will feature in the second week of the finals that include the Challenger (February 2) and the BBL Final (February 4).
Aussie Test star BBL finals availability
Adelaide: Alex Carey, Travis Head: available for Eliminator/Knockout
Brisbane: Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Renshaw: available for Eliminator/Knockout. Mitchell Swepson: available for Eliminator, Knockout only if hosted by Sydney Thunder
Perth: Lance Morris: available for Qualifier. Ashton Agar: not available
Renegades: Peter Handscomb: available for Eliminator, Knockout only if hosted by Sydney Thunder
Sixers: Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith: available for Qualifier. Todd Murphy: not available
Thunder: David Warner: available for Eliminator/Knockout
Test squad departs on January 31 so these players are available for Challenger or Final
Border-Gavaskar Tour of India 2023
February 9-13: First Test, Nagpur, 3pm AEDT
February 17-21: Second Test, Delhi, 3pm AEDT
March 1-5: Third Test, Dharamsala, 3pm AEDT
March 9-13: Fourth Test, Ahmedabad, 3pm AEDT
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc) , Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
India squad for the first two Tests: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav , Jaydev Unadkat, Suryakumar Yadav.