January 25, 2020
Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat
Venue: MCG | Start: 7:10pm (AEDT)
Melbourne Stars – After winning 10 of their first 11 games, the Stars suddenly lost two in a row earlier this week as now they stave off any question of complacency. But as we know in T20 cricket, momentum is everything and while top spot (and a home ‘Qualifier’ final) is assured, the last thing coach David Hussey wants is to enter the playoffs with three straight losses under their belt. As such, this clash is a crucial one – and not only for the Heat who must win to keep their hopes alive.
Peter Handscomb filled in as skipper against the Strikers after Glenn Maxwell stepped aside (albeit still played) following the death of a close friend. Handscomb would go on to belt an impressive 65 not out off 39 and would later say, despite the loss, their plans to go one better and win this year’s Big Bash were on-track. “I don’t think we want to change too much,” he said. “Obviously you’ve seen a bit of a different team over the last couple of games, just with the guys having little twinges and what-not and a couple of guys being rested with workloads and all the sports science stuff. But our focus is on winning and taking that momentum into the finals. There’s absolutely no complacency setting in.”
After bowling 15 of 20 overs of spin in Adelaide, it’s likely the Stars will go spin-heavy again. Unfortunately for them, Hilton Cartwright remains out with an injured hand. He joins Lane Morris (omitted) on the sidelines, while Nathan Coulter-Nile and Dilbar Hussain (international replacement player for Haris Rauf) join the 13-man squad.
Brisbane Heat – After the Hurricanes accounted for the Thunder on Friday night, it’s suddenly a tense battle for the final spots in the playoffs. The Heat (10 points) are now into seventh, behind the Canes and Thunder (both 11 points) in sixth and fifth respectively. As such, it goes without saying that this clash is must-win for Darren Lehmann’s side, who have been nothing short of poor in the last fortnight, reflecting the inconsistency that has characterised their year. The Heat have had an inexplicably up-and-down season: they started BBL09 with three losses in their first four games, prompting skipper Chris Lynn to take the unusual step of apologising to fans for their effort. Then, something clicked, and they went on a brilliant run of four wins in their next five. With it, they saw their price shorten in the overall Big Bash title market. But they’ve again dropped off, losing three in a row at a time of the season they can ill afford it.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the Heat certainly don’t lack the cattle. In Lynn and AB de Villiers they possess two of the biggest hitters in the world, in Ben Cutting a consistent IPL performer, in Ben Laughlin the highest wicket-taker in BBL history, and in Mujeeb Ur Rahman the number two ranked bowler in the world. So will they finally deliver on their potential? They make just one change, with Jack Prestwidge coming in for Joe Burns.
Betting Analysis – The Stars are four wins from four at the MCG this season and, given they’ll be back at the famous venue for Friday’s ‘Qualifier’, will want to carry some good form over from this clash. Marcus Stoinis averages an astonishing 135.5 at the ‘G this season (271 runs in four innings), and remains the best option in the individual batting markets for the men in green. With the ball, the Stars will again go spin-heavy, so look for Adam Zampa to rise above the rest in the wicket taker markets. For the Heat, AB de Villiers (just 29 runs in last three games) surely has to finally go big in this one. And with the ball, Laughlin not only has the most wickets in BBL history, but for the Heat in BBL09 too. As such, look for him to extend his lead on a wicket that suits his off-pace deliveries.
Head to Head: Melbourne Stars
Top Runs Scorer – Melbourne Stars: Marcus Stoinis
Most Wickets – Melbourne Stars: Adam Zampa
Top Runs Scorer – Brisbane Heat: AB de Villiers
Most Wickets – Brisbane Heat: Ben Laughlin