February 5, 2020
Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder
Venue: MCG | Start: 7:40pm (AEDT)
Melbourne Stars – It’s hard to know where it’s all gone wrong for the Stars. After 10 wins in their first 11 games, David Hussey’s side had sealed top spot with three games to go and were primed to break their BBL duck after nine seasons. But since then, they’ve lost four on the trot, with seemingly few answers. And it’s led to many rehashing the ‘choker’ tag that has befallen them in previous seasons.
Whether the Stars have mental demons from years gone by (they’ve made the finals eight times and never won the Big Bash) is unknown, but given the precarious nature of T20 cricket they can return to form with a few big individual performances. What is clear is that star batsmen Marcus Stoinis and skipper Glenn Maxwell need to fire should they be a chance of making the final against the Sixers. The pair have been key this season but in the last three games have slumped, neither passing 20. Sides with batting depth can paper over those cracks, but given no other Stars batsman has scored over 230 runs in their 15 games this season, there’s little disputing they hold the keys to a spot in the SCG final. Pleasingly for the men in green, Maxwell and Stoinis both made 50s in their last outing against the Thunder.
On a bowling front, there’s little to worry about, as Maxwell has plenty of options to call on, in particular key weapons Adam Zampa and Haris Rauf. The Stars have named an unchanged 13-man squad for Thursday night’s game.
Sydney Thunder – The Thunder keep defying the odds this season, and will set up a BBL final with crosstown rivals the Sixers with a win at the MCG. Having already edged their way past two knockout encounters, it takes a brave punter to write them off in this one considering their recent form in pressure-laden situations. After setting just 151 at the usually batting friendly Adelaide Oval against the Strikers in Saturday’s Knockout encounter, the Thunder’s bowling unit brilliantly backed things up to defend the total despite a fast-finishing home side.
Coach Shane Bond said the fact they’ve got through in tight circumstances bodes well in the business end of the season. “Just as they have all season, they were very clear and calm about what we wanted to do,” he said. “However, we’re probably executing it better now than we did at the start of the competition.” Pleasingly for Bond, his side’s bowling output has improved of late, restricting their opposition to under 145 in each of their last three games. He is all too aware that should they dismiss Stoinis and Maxwell cheaply, they’ll have one foot in the final.
Gurinder Sandhu has been ruled out of the clash with a recurring calf injury, while the Thunder have included Matthew Gilkes in their 13-man squad as cover for keeper Jay Lenton, whose wife is expecting their first child.
Betting Analysis – The Stars beat the Thunder both times in BBL09 and despite their two recent losses at the MCG, it’s a venue they still hold a 4-2 record at this season. And while Stoinis may have struggled with the bat of late, he remains the best option for the home side in the individual batting markets given his extended time at the crease (and fielding restrictions in place) as opener. With the ball, Zampa (six wickets in last two games) is poised to strike given his experience in big games. For the visitors, opener Alex Hales has incredibly top-scored for the Thunder in their last five games. As such, he remains the standout option in the individual markets. With the ball, Daniel Sams (BBL09 leading wicket taker) is similarly the overwhelming option to strike for the Thunder.
Head to Head: Melbourne Stars
Top Runs Scorer – Melbourne Stars: Marcus Stoinis
Most Wickets – Melbourne Stars: Adam Zampa
Top Runs Scorer – Sydney Thunder: Alex Hales
Most Wickets – Sydney Thunder: Daniel Sams