Big Bash Semi Final 2
Melbourne Stars v Perth Scorchers
Friday January 22, 7:40pm
Less than a week after they clashed at the WACA the Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers meet again, this time in a semi-final encounter at the MCG.
The Stars managed to overtake the Scorchers on the ladder and claim a coveted home final by handing Perth a 52-run drubbing which is their biggest ever defeat at “The Furnace”. Melbourne recovered from another top-order collapse to post a respectable 9/146 before swing bowlers Daniel Worrall and Ben Hilfenhaus ran through the Scorchers’ batting line-up, claiming three wickets each as the home side crashed to 94 all out. It was an impressive recovery from the same Stars attack that conceded 7/188 to the Brisbane Heat only two days prior. However coach Stephen Fleming will be concerned at the form of the Stars top-order, in particular opener Marcus Stoinis who has failed to pass 13 in his last six innings. For the Stars this is their fifth consecutive semi-final, however they are yet to progress to the big dance, losing to Perth at this stage on three previous occasions.
The Scorchers’ resounding defeat last Saturday denied them the chance to host a fourth home semi-final, however they will fancy their chances at the MCG with pacemen Jason Behrendorff and Joel Paris available again, following injury and international duty respectively. Returning skipper Adam Voges (46 not out) was the solitary shining light with the bat against the Stars and he will be hoping that their collapse at the WACA was just an aberration after they posted scores in excess of 170 in their two prior fixtures. Young fast-bowlers Matt Dixon and Jhye Richardson look set to make way for Behrendorff and Paris, while there could also be a rearrangement of Perth’s batting order with David Willey likely to drop back down to the middle-order. In contrast to their opponents the Scorchers have an enviable record of never having lost a semi-final so will be looking to advance to a remarkable fifth straight final.
The MCG has held mixed fortunes for the Stars this year with losses to the Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat bookending comprehensive wins over the Melbourne Renegades and Hobart Hurricanes. Despite its size it has generally been one of the higher scoring grounds with three of four first innings totals surpassing 160. As leader of the Stars’ attack Ben Hilfenhaus will be looking to improve his home record, having conceded runs at 10.78 an over at the MCG this season.
Although the Stars gave the Scorchers a thrashing only six days ago, the result glossed over the fact that Melbourne recorded a below-par total for the second consecutive match. The conditions at the WACA also suited their bowling attack which was taken to the cleaners on the flatter surface of the MCG against the Heat and is missing key contributors John Hastings, James Faulkner and Scott Boland. Conversely the Scorchers will be boosted by the returns of Paris and in particular Behrendorff who is arguably the form fast-bowler in the competition. Perth also have an impeccable record in semi-finals while the Stars are yet to win one with current squad members such as Luke Wright, David Hussey and Rob Quiney experiencing multiple failures. I believe that the Scorchers’ clearly superior bowling attack and impressive record in the knock-out stages (especially against their opponents) gives them the edge here so I’m willing to back Perth at 1.94 to keep their hopes of a third consecutive title alive.