For most of this summer, let alone the Big Bash League, Matthew Wade has been watching things happen. He watched his Test spot go to Tim Paine, who was standing next to him at first slip in a Sheffield Shield match at the time. He watched Paine and Alex Carey also go past him in the white-ball international pecking order, with call-ups in the ODIs and T20Is.
Most frequently of all, and from the non-striker's end, he watched D'Arcy Short lay waste to most of the BBL, the tournament's leading scorer, biggest six-hitter and latest IPL acquisition. Short's destructive power earned him an Australia call-up and so deprived Hobart Hurricanes of his services for the finals. This was widely thought to be a terminal blow to George Bailey's team, given how Short had to that point doubled the runs tallies of his team-mates. By their coach Gary Kirsten's reckoning, "everything was against us". It was to be Wade who turned the tide.
Certainly the Scorchers' captain Adam Voges must have thought so when he sent the Hurricanes in to bat at the new Perth Stadium, even though the two previous winners of games here - England on Sunday and the Scorchers' women earlier on Thursday - had both batted first. Scorchers have habitually been a bowl first, knock 'em over and run 'em down team, only ever losing six games batting second in seven tournaments. Mitchell Johnson, too, has got used to delivering the first over.
But when Wade took guard with the returning Paine alongside him, he saw an unexpected face at the top of his mark: Mitchell Marsh. Why the Scorchers chose to depart from their usual bowling pattern will doubtless be a question mulled over for some time out west, because Marsh bowled a loosener, and Wade was able to get away to a rapid start that then gave him confidence to take on Johnson himself. Johnson, for his part, started fast and accurately, striking Paine a blow on the helmet that forced its replacement. However Wade hammered his first ball from Johnson - the very next ball - to the cover-point boundary off the back foot, and thereafter had the upper hand over his former Test team-mate.
In the fourth over, Johnson tried pitching up to Wade and was despatched down the ground. He then erred straighter and fuller, allowing a pair of flicks that eluded short fine leg and drew another two boundaries. Johnson took his cap from the umpire after the over cost 13, and was involved in a verbal exchange with Wade that only served to further emphasise how much the sometime Australian gloveman was in his element. The venue suited him too. The new Perth Stadium, with its long square boundaries and bowl design, was designed primarily for Australian football, and Wade goes about his business with the combativeness of an AFL tagger. "It's unavoidable I think," Wade said later. "It's going to happen, just depends how much it happens."
The difference here, of course, was that Wade had needed to take up the role more akin to that of a centre-man, winning possession of the contest from the start in Short's fashion. That he did so reflected a combination of confidence that had grown slowly through the tournament, and a realisation that this was a match the Hurricanes had to go out and win - the Scorchers' formidable record this season and over the past seven years guaranteed they would not simply hand it over. Kirsten had recognised this; Wade acted on it.
"Gary spoke about being really aggressive and if we sit back against Perth they tend to take the momentum and it's hard to get back into the game," Wade said afterwards. "So we had a really conscious effort to take the momentum to them, take our energy out there straight away and we managed to do that from ball one with the bat and with the ball. It was a clinical performance from the boys.
"I certainly didn't expect Mitch [Marsh] to bowl the first over so they took a risk. He could have swung one back down the line and knocked my pegs out first ball, you never know. We managed to get away a little bit in that over, which was nice, but it was a calculated risk from them and it did surprise us.
"I felt like I've been hitting the ball well through the whole tournament, it was nice to get away and then consolidate and push deeper into the innings. I'm just really confident with the depth of our batting, it's nice to bat at the top of the order and know we've got so much depth in our batting, guys are hitting the ball really well throughout the whole lineup, so it gives you confidence to watch the ball and play the way you play."
Once the Powerplay was up, the Scorchers would typically have called upon Ashton Agar's left-arm spin to bottle things up through the middle of the innings, a role he has grown impressively into after the departure of Michael Beer several seasons ago. But here was a contrast between the "contingencies" planned for by Hurricanes and Scorchers - the hosts not choosing a spin bowler at all while the visitors dropped Cameron Boyce but retained Clive Rose. The Scorchers' other prime spin option was James Muirhead, a legspinner capable of great deliveries but also poor ones. The way Wade explained it, even a medium night for Muirhead might have changed up the rhythm of the game a bit more than Marsh - who ultimately went for an unsightly 53 runs - Tim Bresnan or Matthew Kelly.
"Once you got the rhythm of the wicket it certainly helped that they couldn't go to a spinner and really have pace off the ball," Wade said. "From a batter's point of view it probably helped not to have a spinner, because once you got the rhythm of the wicket it was kind of the same type of speeds coming out of the hand. It was probably handy for us."
The significance of Wade's innings could be measured in the noise of the 52,960 spectators, most clad in Scorchers' orange, who roared for Paine's early dismissal but were then mostly cowed into silence by the succession of percussive shots emanating from the sometime Victorian's bat. As Kirsten rightly pointed out, the Hurricanes' middle order had capitalised on Short's strong early work on numerous occasions this tournament, but they needed someone to point the way.
"Today we wanted to come out and play a really aggressive, courageous game of cricket. Everything was against us, we were the underdogs, we weren't expected to win, and it requires individuals to do it," Kirsten said. "That's why I think Wade's knock really set he tone for us. Ben McDermott played brilliantly at the end, but we kind of know when we get into those positions, we've done it all in the BBL, we know we can fire in there. But to get us on the road, get us going and get into the contest was important and he did that very well.
"We arrived here and got a sense we were making up the numbers and that it was going to be the Perth Scorchers' show. We've had some really good games this Big Bash where we've played a style of cricket that's made people stand up, and today I think we went to another level. The guys got up really early for the battle, I think Wade's innings was very important for us to set the tone, and we've been a great batting unit throughout the BBL, so we knew when we had a good start like that we'd be on our way.
"Everyone down the order has done something... it's a great loss to lose the leading run scorer [Short] in the BBL, but what I have learned about this is you have to have contingency around that. We've gone with seven front-line batsmen because we've felt it gives us some depth to our batting, and it worked tonight."
The Scorchers had of course departed their longtime home at the WACA Ground for this knockout match, and, in this too, Wade felt a welcome familiarity. Where the cricket ground across the river is open and breezy, the new stadium recalled nothing so much as the MCG with its sharply tiered seats and greater capacity. Though some have decried the uniformity of it all, for Wade this brought comfort. For the Scorchers it was less pleasant a change - formerly owner occupiers of The Furnace, they are now wary of The Esky.
"It's really similar to the MCG," Wade said. "Playing that game at the MCG before gave us a good lead-in to this game, I think the dimensions would be quite similar. We didn't get it right with the ball there so we learned the lesson and came back today and bowled really well. It's on the bucket list to come here and watch an AFL game and I'd like to go to Adelaide and watch an AFL game there. The atmosphere in the stadiums that are getting built, they just basically go straight up so you feel like everyone's on top of you, it's an amazing atmosphere out here."
In springing off the bench to fill the D'Arcy Short role for the Hurricanes, Wade took best-on-ground honours. For the final in either Adelaide or Melbourne, he will have another football stadium to perform in.