Big Bash League 2016/17: Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat

Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat

Tuesday 17th January 7:40pm AEDT

The MCG will host the top-of-the-table clash between the Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat on Tuesday night.


Melbourne Stars

The Stars are riding high after their third consecutive victory took the competition heavyweights to the top of the ladder. Following wins over the Renegades and Strikers, the Stars brushed aside the Perth Scorchers at the WACA on Saturday night, running out winners by a comfortable seven-wicket margin. After losing the toss and being invited to field, the Stars got off to the perfect start, reducing the home side to 5/34 in the eighth over with the top five all dismissed in single-figures.

The Scorchers recovered to post a respectable 7/134 as the Stars’ highly-rated death bowlers conceded a concerning 43 off the last four overs. Nevertheless, the experienced pair of Michael Beer (2/12 off four overs) and Ben Hilfenhaus (2/15 off four overs) were both outstanding, although in his first appearance of BBL06 lanky seamer Cameron Gannon was on the end of some serious punishment, with his two overs costing 26. In reply, the Stars jumped out to 1/39 off four overs and from there were never really headed, running down the modest target for the loss of only three wickets and with 16 balls remaining.

Opener Rob Quiney (35 off 23 balls) was again responsible for the fast start, before Kevin Pietersen (44 not out off 42 balls) anchored the chase expertly, allowing Marcus Stoinis (40 not out off 23 balls) to provide the finishing touches. The Stars have lost middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb to the Australian ODI set-up, although they have regained leg-spinner Adam Zampawho has been released from the same squad.


Brisbane Heat

The Heat came crashing back down to earth last Wednesday when they were swept aside by the Scorchers at the Gabba. The night actually started well for Brisbane when they restricted Perth to a middling 5/156 on a surface that didn’t appear as friendly for batting as anticipated. Young leggie Mitch Swepson produced a fine spell to finish with 2/22 off four overs and has subsequently been rewarded with inclusion in Australia’s test squad to India.

Meanwhile promising paceman Mark Steketee picked up the key wickets of openers Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger, while his new ball partner Tymal Mills (0/30 off four overs) caused plenty of problems in a spell laced with fire and aggression.

However the Heat’s reply did not begin well, slumping to 3/26 inside four overs following the crucial dismissal of skipper Brendon McCullum for 15 off 10 balls. The middle-order duo of Alex Ross (39 off 40 balls) and Joe Burns (23 off 23 balls) attempted a gallant repair job, however the Perth bowlers had too much skill for a Brisbane batting line-up missing Chris Lynn, with the Heat falling away to be bowled out for just 129.

The absence of Lynn has been compounded by a suspension to skipper McCullum for a slow over rate which will see him sit out against the Stars, while thrifty leg-spinner Samuel Badree is still absent with a hamstring injury. English quick Mills will continue to deputise for Badree, while either Marnus Labuschagne or Alex Doolan will come in for McCullum.


MCG

The MCG has thrown up two tight affairs this season with the Stars going down to the Renegades by seven runs, then defeating the Strikers by just two wickets. The side batting second has won five of the past seven matches at the MCG, while Kevin Pietersen has top-scored for the Stars at home in four of his past eight.


Key Stats

  • The Stars have won 10 of their past 14 matches.
  • The Stars have won eight of their past 10 matches when batting second.
  • The Heat have won four of their past five matches when batting second.
  • Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum have scored over 50% of the Heat’s runs this season.

The Verdict

Missing their two best batsmen, the Heat are friendless in the market with the Stars considered heavy favourites to solidify their place at the top of the ladder.

A win here would just about guarantee the Stars a home final and would certainly confirm a remarkable sixth-straight semi-final appearance. With three wins on the trot they are the form side of the competition, with the likes of Hilfenhaus, Beer and now Stoinis finding some touch at the right time to complement the more consistent performances of Pietersen, Quiney and Scott Boland. Certainly they have been red-hot in the field, conceding runs at just 7.33 an over in their past three games, and they will be further boosted by the return of Zampa against an emaciated Heat batting line-up.

However there are still some concerns surrounding their own batting, which has been fairly reliant on Quiney and Pietersen, and has been weakened further by the loss of Handscomb. Furthermore the Stars tend to favour batting second and don’t have a great record as short-priced favourites, so while I fancy they take the two points here I won’t be backing them at such slender odds.

The Heat looked like a totally different side without Lynn against Perth and things will only get worse with their skipper now missing too. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of these two players to Brisbane’s chances as not only have they supplied over 50% of their runs in BBL06, but removing their contributions brings the Heat’s run rate down from 9.30 to 8.27.

Whether the likes of Jimmy Pierson, Alex Ross and Joe Burns can step up against an in-form Stars attack remains to be seen, however the absence of Brisbane’s two star batsmen has been well noted by the market and is reflected in the prices. However one of the more underrated aspects of the Heat’s campaign has been their improved efforts in the field. Despite an attack which is low on quality, Brisbane has conceded 175 or more only twice this season after doing so on five occasions in BBL05, which just reiterates why I don’t wish to be oppose them here, although nor could I side with a Heat XI shorn of their two key batsmen.

So with the match odds left to one side, it’s time to focus on the sterling form of Stars overseas batman Kevin Pietersen.This season Pietersen is among the competition’s leading run-scorers with 224 runs at an average of 56.00 and strike-rate of 138.27. After missing the Stars opening fixture of BBL06, the controversial Englishman has remarkably top-scored in four of the five matches he’s played this season. However this is nothing new for Pietersen who also enjoyed a stellar season for the Stars in BBL05, amassing 323 runs at an average of 40.37 and strike-rate of 157.11, top-scoring on four occasions.

That means that the classy right-hander has top-scored for the Stars in eight of his last 13 appearances, including four of his past eight at the MCG. Without fellow middle-order accumulator Handscomb, I see no reason why “KP” can’t come to the party again and top-score once more against the Heat in this one.


Betting Strategy

BACK – Kevin Pietersen Top Melbourne Stars Batsman at 3.00 or bigger for 1 unit.


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