With nine games remaining in the regular KFC Big Bash League season, all eight teams remain in the running for a top-four finish in what looms as a thrilling race for the semi-finals.
Perth Scorchers, Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Sixers all look in the box seat to lock in finals berths on eight points apiece, but there's no discounting anyone, with the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades both carrying extra games up their sleeves and even defending champions Sydney Thunder still a chance to sneak into the four despite sitting on the bottom of the table.
State of play
The Scorchers look the form team of the competition after their demolition of Brisbane Heat at the Gabba on Wednesday night. A win against either of the Melbourne Stars on Saturday or in their final game against Hobart will wrap up a finals spot, but they'll be pushing to win both in a bid to secure a home final at #TheFurnace.
Near-certainties to make the finals a week ago, the Heat looked a different team without Chris Lynn in their loss to the Scorchers. They will still need another win against either of the two Melbourne sides they still have to play, but could also be without captain Brendon McCullum against the Stars due to slow over-rates.
A win in either of their last two matches against the Thunder or Stars will be enough to ensure a finals appearance, but they will be feeling the pressure of their net run-rate, which isn't good enough to get them through should they lose their last two games. Should they lose the Sydney Smash and Melbourne Stars stumble against the Scorchers and Heat, their last-round clash at the MCG could turn into a virtual elimination final.
David Hussey's players have the toughest run home of all teams, and will be the franchise those below them are eyeing off as their chance to leapfrog. One win against one of their fellow top-four sides in Perth, Brisbane and the Sydney Sixers should be enough to get them through, given they have the best net run-rate in the competition, however they would want to take victory in two to certify their sixth-straight finals series.
The Renegades need to win all of their last three matches to be certain of a spot in the finals, but two will be enough if results fall in their favour. Can virtually knock those below them out of contention when they take on Hobart and Adelaide in their next two games. They also have a game in hand on three of the top four above them, which could prove crucial.
The Strikers started the season with so much promise, but now they need virtually everything to fall in their favour after Tuesday's tight loss to the Stars. They do have two winnable games against the Renegades and Thunder remaining, but they will have to rely on the Stars dropping at least two of their remaining matches to have any chance.
Things haven't gone to plan for the Hurricanes in BBL|06, but they still remain a scant chance of reaching the finals with a number of teams taking victories off each other. They would consider themselves a shot at upsetting the Renegades at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night, but then they would still have to beat the Scorchers in the final round to have any chance of making the finals. They'll also be relying on the Stars to drop at least two matches.
The reigning champions somehow still remain a remote chance of defending their title despite dropping their first four games. Making the finals would require them to not only defeat the Sixers and Strikers, but do so comprehensively to overturn the worst net run-rate in the competition. They'd also need the teams immediately above them to take games off each other and have the Stars struggle against the top three sides. But there is hope!