Lloyd Pope is still coming to terms with his late-season Big Bash League cameo – and he hopes, for the Adelaide Strikers’ sake, it isn’t over yet.
The leg-spinner played party pooper in Perth on Saturday night, ripping through the Scorchers’ middle order as the Strikers upset the hosts by 50 runs.
Pope (4-24) and fellow leggie Cameron Boyce (3-20) were the difference at Optus Stadium, propelling the Strikers into a Monday clash with Brisbane on the Gold Coast that will decide who plays the Sixers in Wednesday’s SCG final.
His wrong-un was particularly effective, Pope spinning two back through the gates of AJ Tye and Jason Behrendorff to complete a devastating spell.
Now 24, Pope first hit the headlines with a record-breaking 8-35 against England in the under-19 World Cup six years ago.
He’s played just 13 first-class matches for South Australia since and, having featured sporadically in previous seasons, wasn’t in the Strikers’ plans until earlier this month.
But his late-season arrival has sparked the team to within two wins of a second BBL title.
Wicketless just once in his five games, Pope’s taken 11 in total and eight in the last two games.
Asked if he could believe his last month, Pope responded: “In a word, no.
“It’s really amazing; it’s been awesome, a whirlwind, and hopefully we don’t lose for the rest of the season.
Coach Jason Gillespie said Pope’s addition had helped swing their season.
“With backs against the wall, we had to be brave enough to make a change in our strategy,” he said.
“Bringing in Popey and changing the dynamic of the team; we felt we had to do that to compete and so far it’s paid off.
“What people don’t see is the hard work and effort Popey’s put into his game over the last couple of years.
“He wants to play Shield cricket and be involved in the one-day side, but he’s getting a lot of experience in the second XI and club cricket
“He’s plying his trade … an improving bowler and ever-evolving.”
The Strikers carried at least five spin options including captain Matt Short, D’Arcy Short and Ben Manenti in their Optus Stadium heist.
But they’ll be faced with a starkly different task at Heritage Bank Stadium on Monday, if Friday’s qualifying final there between the Heat and Sixers is anything to go by.
The Cararra venue’s drop-in wicket will be used for just the second time, both teams’ fast men enjoying the seam movement while the spinners took a back seat in the Sixers’ impressive victory.
Adelaide will fly to Gold Coast on Sunday, the game forced south to the Suns’ AFL home ground due to the Gabba Test between Australia and West Indies beginning on Thursday.
“We’ve got nothing to lose, everyone’s written us off all year,” Gillespie said.
“Go out there, have some fun and see where it takes us.”