Simmons a tradie who got flung into spotlight
Scorchers hero Craig Simmons is mobbed by his Western Power teammates in Perth yesterday. Pic: Michael O'Brien/WA News

It is an indication of Craig Simmons' new-found fame that he had his own honour guard when he arrived at Perth airport yesterday.

While many of the people milling in the arrivals hall may not have recognised the burly Simmons, WA's newest sporting hero was no stranger to the dozen or so Western Power linesmen in high-vis gear who welcomed their colleague home.

"This is work for us," one of them said. "I don't think Western Power mind us being here because they are pretty happy to have Craig doing so well and lighting up the Big Bash."

Fresh from the superb 112 in the tight win over the Sydney Sixers that ushered Perth into the Big Bash League final and ignited his own IPL prospects, Simmons hopes that he won't see a lot of his workmates over the next couple of months.

"I enjoy working there and they are a great bunch of guys at Waroona," he said.

"I'm off to the end of the week but have to get back into it on Monday. But I'm in the IPL auction and if I can keep making runs that's all I can do."

Simmons will bat tonight as the Scorchers attempt to topple Hobart to earn their first title from the third successive Twenty20 final at the WACA Ground.

He could open with Shaun Marsh, the player with whom he shared under-19 World Cup success in 2002, but one whose career has dramatically overshadowed his own.

Simmons has been a genuine journeyman since those successful junior days.

He has experienced several stints with Western Australia, moved from his original club Rockingham-Mandurah to Fre-mantle and back, spent three years in Sydney where he set a new competition season runs record but could not cement a Sheffield Shield place, and finally blossomed while starting to forge a career outside cricket.

His elevation to stardom came after three elements of ill-fortune beset the Scorchers. Firstly, opener Liam Davis was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of the severe finger injury that could still end his career.

With West Indian Dwayne Smith unable to take up his contract for personal reasons, and Davis out of action, it was clear Perth needed another top-order hitter.

Batting in the middle order and bowling his gentle left-arm wobblers and spinners for Rockingham, Simmons won the Olly Cooley Medal last summer as the WACA's best grade cricketer, but his hitting prowess made him an ideal replacement for Davis.

The third strike came when a shoulder injury forced batsman Adam Voges out of action, prompting a top-order reshuffle and a call-up for Simmons.

Simmons' twin highlights this tournament have been so bright the lucrative IPL now beckons after he proved his 39-ball ton against Adelaide last month was no flash in the pan.

"Last night was a lot more important team-wise," he said.

"Getting into that final is pretty important."

Although the 31-year-old has become the first batsman to score two centuries in domestic T20 ranks, the feat is no guarantee that he will be picked up by an IPL franchise.

The franchise quota for overseas players has reduced from 10 to nine this year while teams are expected to be less likely to give massive contracts to foreign players if they are not guaranteed a place in the first XI.

It is expected between 50 and 60 non-Indians will be selected in next week's IPL auction.

"There is no doubt that franchises will have noticed what Simmons has done but the question will be whether he can force his way past a number of highly experienced international play-ers," one experienced IPL observer said.

Perth captain Simon Katich had no fears that Simmons would get ahead of himself after the brutal innings, pointing to his cool-headed response to slow starts during both centuries.

"Hopefully he has got three in him for the tournament," Katich said.

"It was a magnificent knock and deserves all the fanfare."

Simmons tweaked a hip flexor during the semifinal but had few doubts he would be fit for tonight.

"I'm worried but it will take a bit more than a strain to keep me off the park," he said.

  • Teams - Perth: * Simon Katich (capt.), Shaun Marsh, Craig Simmons, Sam Whiteman, Adam Voges, Mitch Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Pat Cummins, Alfonso Thomas, Michael Beer, Brad Hogg, Ashton Turner (two to be omitted).

  • Hobart: *Ben Dunk, Tim Paine, Jon Wells, George Bailey (capt.), Travis Birt, Dimi Mascarenhas, Evan Gulbis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Xavier Doherty, Cameron Boyce, Doug Bollinger, Aiden Blizzard, Joe Mennie (two to be omitted).

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