The defending BBL champions have been forced to add their assistant coach to their squad for tonight's 'Challenger' final
Philippe ruled out of BBL finals in huge Sixers blow
Sydney Sixers star Josh Philippe has been ruled out of tonight's Challenger final at the SCG after testing positive to COVID-19.
The Sixers confirmed Philippe, who is the tournament's seventh-highest run scorer with 429 runs for the season, had returned a positive COVID test result this morning and will miss the clash against the Strikers (7:25pm AEDT) and also Friday's final - should they advance.
It's a huge blow for the Sixers' chances of a historic three-peat as he's the third member of their squad to be diagnosed with the virus in the past week after fellow opener Jack Edwards and his brother Mickey were ruled out of the game against the Perth Scorchers last Saturday.
Wicketkeeper-batter Jay Lenton, who has been travelling and working as an assistant coach with the Sixers since the start of the month, has been added to their squad to replace Philippe.
Daniel Hughes also remains "highly unlikely" to play tonight after injuring his left ankle during the warm-up before that match.
The Sixers said the left-hander will need to pass a fitness test about an hour before tonight's match to be any chance of playing, with members of the Central Local Replacement Player pool on standby if he is ruled out.
It's understood the Sixers made a last-ditch effort to get Steve Smith into their team, but it was again knocked back as the Australia No. 4 would need to also be added to the centralised pool, which would potentially leave him open to playing for the other teams in the running for the title (Strikers and Scorchers).
The winner of tonight's match will move through to the KFC BBL|11 final against the Scorchers on Friday night.
The Sixers said Philippe and the Edwards brothers were all in isolation as they recover from the virus.
Nick Bertus, who replaced Hughes in the selected XI to face the Scorchers last Saturday just 15 minutes before the first ball, has been left out of the squad to face the Strikers.
Hughes was diagnosed with a grade 2-3 high left ankle sprain after tripping on the boundary rope while practicing fielding during the warm-up.
The Strikers, who have won their last six games in a row, have named an unchanged 16-player squad from their win against the Sydney Thunder for tonight's must-win clash.
Opening batter Matt Short said the loss of Philippe was massive news for both sides ahead of the match.
"He's obviously one of their main strikers at the top of the order and one that we always put a lot of time into with our bowling plans," Short said this afternoon.
"A huge out for them. Our attention shifts to some of the guys that might come in and our plans towards them.
"We've been pretty lucky this season with only one positive case in the squad … we've gotten onto a bit of a roll now so hopefully that can keep going."
Both playing XIs will be announced at the bat flip.
Sixers squad for tonight's match: Moises Henriques (c), Sean Abbott, Justin Avendano, Jackson Bird, Daniel Christian, Ben Dwarshuis, Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Stephen O'Keefe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, Jay Lenton.
Strikers squad for tonight's match: Peter Siddle (c), Fawad Ahmed, Alex Carey, Ian Cockbain, Harry Conway, Travis Head, Thomas Kelly, Harry Nielsen, Liam O’Connor, Matt Renshaw, Liam Scott, Matt Short, Henry Thornton, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Daniel Worrall.