A dramatic surge in form has given the Sydney Thunder a shot at a place in the Big Bash League final with their fairytale campaign needing to get one over the ‘playoff-weary’ Melbourne Stars in the Challenger at the MCG on Thursday.
After confirming top-spot in the regular season, the Stars have started stuttering. They are on a four-match losing streak, including a 43-run hiding at the hands of the Sydney Sixers in the Qualifier.
The Thunder, meanwhile, are on a three-match winning run. After sneaking through as the last qualifier, they defeated the Hurricanes (57 runs) in the Eliminator and the Strikers (eight runs) in the Knockout.
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The Stars have been having their usual post-season blues. The over-dependence on Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell is telling. When the duo score fewer than 20 runs, the Stars have lost six of eight occasions. With other batsmen struggling to rise up to the task, the Stars look disjointed.
With the ball, though, there is a marked improvement thanks to the MCG helping the spinners. Adam Zampa has been shaping up well and has back-to-back three-wicket hauls at the MCG. Haris Rauf (17 wickets, ER 6.94) seems to have lost a bit of zip after his national burst, but still remains a potent threat.
Alex Hales (568 runs, SR 147.91) has been single-handedly responsible for lifting the Thunder’s fortunes. Usman Khawaja (365 runs, SR 122.89) loves the knockouts and should once again be a good ally. Captain Callum Ferguson also seems to have found a way past his late season rut and the Thunder look a settled batting unit with that.
Daniel Sams (30 wickets, ER 7.65) has been exceptional with his variations and efficiency. Having taken at least two wickets in six of his last ten matches, the left-armer will be crucial to the Stars’ chances. Then, of course, there is Chris Morris (20 wickets) who is also picking wickets regularly.
The Stars did the regular season double over the Thunder, defeating them by 3 wickets in Sydney and by 6 wickets here at the MCG. However, their recent form is a big worry, especially considering their recent batting collapses. The Thunder will fancy their chances on that count, but the ground should suit the home spinners. It will be a fascinating contest, but the Stars’ poor playoff record might come back to bite them once again.
History & Statistics
- The team batting first has won the last four matches at this venue.
- The Stars have lost four of their last five BBL playoffs.
- The Thunder have won four of the five H2Hs where they batted first.
- The Thunder have a 4-0 record in BBL playoff matches.
- The Thunder have had the best opening partnership in nine of 16 matches this season, including the last four.
Haris Rauf took three wickets each against the Thunder in the two regular season matches. Can he repeat those performances?
Alex Hales has six 50+ scores in the season and three in a row. With another 50, he can join Khawaja in the exclusive list of four consecutive 50+ scores in BBL history.