By virtue of finishing in the top-two, Melbourne Stars and Sydney Sixers have earned a double chance to reach the grand final and that begins with the BBL09 Qualifier between the sides at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday night.
The Stars finished top of the regular season (W10, L4), but lost their last three matches after securing top spot. The Sixers, on the other hand, finished just behind (W9, L4, NR1), but are on a three-match winning run.
The sides shared the two regular season matches, with each team winning at home. The Stars rode on a Marcus Stoinis special (147* off 79 balls, 13×4 8×6) to win by 44 runs at the MCG. In the reverse fixture, Moises Henriques (72 off 31 balls, 2×4 8×6) blasted the Sixers to a 21-run win in a 14-over match.
The Stars have based their season on Stoinis (607 runs, SR 134.29) and his consistent run-making. There have been good returns for Glenn Maxwell too (373 runs, SR 156.06), but beyond them the Stars have been deprived of a consistent runscorer.
Haris Rauf (16 wickets, ER 6.89) has returned from international duties and adds cutting edge for the Stars. However, Sandeep Lamichhane (15 wickets) leaves for national duty and his absence will be felt. Probably, the right time for Adam Zampa (13 wickets, ER 6.94) to lead the attack once again.
The Sixers have one of the best bowling units of the season, but the departure of Tom Curran (22 wickets) for national duty leaves a hole. The onus will be on Nathan Lyon to lead the attack on a pitch that might take turn more than expected.
Josh Philippe (401 runs, SR 126.10) and James Vince (309 runs, SR 129.28) have been their season architects, while Henriques and the ever-hungry Steve Smith are going to be crucial for the finals.
The Stars are in their eighth finals appearance of nine BBL seasons, but their run-in has been anything but comfortable. Concerns remain over their ability to ‘choke at critical moments’, as the Stars look desperately to Stoinis. The Sixers have to make up for the absence of Curran, but the arrival of Smith lends balance to their batting unit. It will be interesting to see how well the teams cover for their absent performers, as that could be the deciding factor in this game.
History & Statistics
- The Stars have had the highest opening partnership in five of their last seven matches at this venue.
- The Stars have scored the highest first 6 overs score in five of their last eight matches at this venue.
- The home side on the day has won four of the last five H2Hs.
- The Sixers have lost four of the six H2Hs at this venue.
- The Sixers have conceded the lowest number of 6s per game in the regular season (3.83).
Stoinis enjoys playing at this venue, considering nearly half of his season runs have come at the MCG. Three of his six 50+ scores in BBL09 have come here.
Smith kickstarted his season with a match-winning 66* against the Melbourne Renegades. With the stakes higher, expect him to rise up to the task.