The Sydney Sixers are on Josh Brown alert and have identified retiring veteran Steve O’Keefe as the man who can stop Brisbane’s master blaster in the Big Bash League final.
Brown rocketed into Twenty20 stardom on Monday night, booking Brisbane’s spot in the final with 140 from 57 balls in a spectacular innings that included 12 sixes.
The 30-year-old’s 41-ball century marked the second-fastest in BBL history, while his 140 was the third-highest score in the 13 editions of the competition.
Brown’s innings breathed life into the BBL finals, and will likely gain attention from overseas suitors who can turn the man without a state contract into an instant millionaire.
But the Sixers do not view the right-hander as an overnight success, even if the man who makes his own bats only began taking cricket seriously in his mid-20s.
“He got 70 off 30 against us at the Gabba last year, and then in a one-day game between Queensland and NSW he got a very quickfire 40 as well,” Sixers captain Moises Henriques said.
“We’ve seen what he can do. I wasn’t surprised by the quality of ball-striking. He’s got a very good cricket swing and there’s no doubt with his power.
“But we’ve got a very different bowling attack to the Strikers, and I’m hoping our experience and nous can still keep him as retained as we did at the Gold Coast.”
Henriques was particularly referencing fingerspinners Todd Murphy and O’Keefe.
The pair are the most economical bowlers in the BBL this year, and have thrived on a slow SCG wicket.
Experience is also important, as the Sixers hunt a fourth title from seven finals appearances.
O’Keefe has claimed Brown’s wicket once already this season, bowling the opener in Coffs Harbour earlier this month.
“It seems over the last few games that (Brown) has kind of struggled facing him,” Henriques said.
“Steve to anyone is so difficult to hit, and he’s shown that to so many different batters over the years.
“He’s got a great record over Glenn Maxwell as well over the last five or 10 years, and he’s probably one of the best players of spin in the world.
“His ability to control batters … he’s a very hard spinner to hit.”
Brown was this week quick to point out he has had good outings against 39-year-old O’Keefe in the past.
“SOK in his old age, he’s still crafty,” Brown said
“He’ll be up and about for it, but I’ve got the wood over him a couple of times too.”
The Heat have not won the BBL since its first edition in 2012-13, and lost last year’s decider to Perth at Optus Stadium.