Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat
Thursday January 14, 7:40pm
The potential for a home final will be at stake for the Melbourne Stars when they host bottom-placed Brisbane Heat at the MCG on Thursday night.
The prospect of hosting a semi-final at the MCG looked a long way away for the Stars when they dropped their first two Big Bash games, but they have since won four on the bounce, most recently accounting for city-rivals the Renegades at Docklands Stadium last Friday. The Stars’ bowling attack has tightened up noticeably in the past few weeks, conceding an average score of 7/145 across their four victories. Interestingly the Stars have batted second in every single fixture this season and in their last three wins they haven’t lost more than three wickets on the way to victory. Illustrious signing Kevin Pietersen looked in ominous touch against the Renegades, guiding the Stars home with an unbeaten 67 off only 43 balls. However the Stars will be without bowling all-rounder John Hastings who has been called into the Australian ODI squad to join club-mates Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner and Scott Boland.
Brisbane couldn’t quite manage to climb off the bottom of the ladder despite a last-start win against the Sydney Sixers at the SCG. It was only the Heat’s second win of the season and their first defending a total with the Sixers falling six runs short of Brisbane’s 8/162. Joe Burns made a strong return from international duty, top-scoring with 60, while West Indian opener Lendl Simmons continued his mini-revival with a breezy 54. Rookie leg-spinner Mitch Swepson added some strike-power to the Heat’s bowling attack, claiming two wickets on debut in a side that had previously averaged only three wickets a game across the whole team. An unlikely victory for Brisbane may see them avoid the ignominy of a second consecutive wooden-spoon.
This season the MCG has seen the side batting second (which has always been the Stars of course) register two wins and a one run loss so it does appear to favour the chasing side. However the hosts will keenly feel the absence of Hastings who has taken seven wickets at an average of 12 and economy rate of 7 at the MCG this year.
As you’d expect the Stars are strong favourites for this clash at 1.53 with the Heat priced at 2.68 to make it two wins from their last two. On form you’d really only want to be with the home side, however the loss of Hastings is a significant one and as the Stars are yet to be truly tested without their other international absentees I’m going to bypass match odds for the moment.
One interesting aspect of the MCG is that while there have been plenty of sixes hit there, the size of the ground seems to have a significant impact on the number of fours hit. Since the start of last season 25 or less fours have been hit in five out of seven matches at the MCG, including two out of three this year. Furthermore while the Heat have been involved in a number of high-scoring encounters this season they have experienced 25 or less fours in three games out of seven, while for the Stars it is three out of six. Last of all arguably the most dangerous batsman in the match – Chris Lynn – has hit almost as many sixes (20) as he has hit fours (21) which shapes as another reason to take on the batsmen reaching the rope, rather than clearing it. Therefore all things considered I’ll be looking to back 25 and under fours at around 2.75 or better.