The Perth Scorchers will be looking to retain their place on top of the table when they welcome the Melbourne Stars to the WACA on Saturday night.
Last Wednesday the Scorchers gained revenge on the Brisbane Heat by overturning them at the Gabba and in the process leap-frogged the Queenslanders to the summit of the ladder. However the night did not begin that brightly for the Scorchers as after they were sent into bat they largely laboured through their 20 overs, never getting up over eight runs an over, and eventually finishing on a sub-par 5/156.
For getting that far they have veteran opener Michael Klinger to thank, with the captain smashing 81 off 54 balls when no other Perth batsman scored more than 14. Klinger’s opening partner Shaun Marsh (8 off 6 balls) continued his poor season with his fourth single-figure score in five innings.
Faced with a second consecutive defeat to the Heat, the Scorchers bowlers summoned all of their class and executed one of their classic defensive displays that has been their hallmark in previous editions of the BBL. It all began with firebrand Mitchell Johnson (2/25 off four overs) who reduced Brisbane to 2/18 with a searing spell, before young quick Jhye Richardson (2/34 off four overs) chipped in with the key wickets of Brendon McCullum and Alex Ross.
It was then left to T20 specialist Andrew Tye to finish the Heat off and he did so with aplomb, picking up 4/22 from 3.2 overs including a hat-trick. A victory here will all but secure the Scorchers a fourth home semi-final in six years.
The Stars gave their top four hopes a boost when they crept home against the Adelaide Strikers on Tuesday night at the MCG. Winning the toss and electing to field, the Stars were on the end of a brief but dazzling opening stand as Adelaide raced to 33 without loss after three overs. However from there, Melbourne managed to peg the Strikers back, taking 4/66 off the next 11 overs, with Adelaide eventually stumbling to a mediocre 8/152.
The entire Stars attack put in a disciplined effort with no bowler conceding more than 7.5 runs an over, however canny quick Scott Boland was the standout, claiming 4/30 off his four overs, while 19-year-old left-arm orthodox Liam Bowe made a promising debut with figures of 1/21 from three overs. Much like the Strikers, the Stars got off to a frenzied start, motoring to 1/51 after five overs, before suffering their own mid-innings malaise, losing 5/73 off the next 12 overs to leave them requiring 29 off the final three overs.
Tailender Ben Hilfenhaus was the unlikely hero, thumping an unbeaten 32 off 24 balls, including a savage 18 off the 18th over, to get the Stars home with three balls to spare. Earlier Rob Quiney continued his hot form in the powerplay, blasting 31 off just 17 deliveries, while Kevin Pietersen did his best to hold the chase together with 32 off 29 balls. With Quiney and Pietersen both in good touch, the Stars will be hoping that Luke Wright can shake off some recent struggles, having failed to hit a half-century so far this season.
All three first innings totals have exceeded 170 at the WACA this season with the hosts batting first on each occasion. The Scorchers comfortably defended totals against the Strikers and Thunder, however were blitzed by the Heat by nine wickets. Young all-rounder Ashton Turner has excelled with the bat at home this season, averaging 37.50 at a strike-rate of 197.37.
- The Scorchers have won nine of their past 14 games.
- The Scorchers have also won four of their past six games at the WACA
- The Stars have won four of their past five games against the Scorchers.
- The Stars have also won five of their past six away games.
- 10 of the past 15 games involving the Scorchers have produced nine or less sixes.
Punters are predicting the Scorchers to maintain their impressive record at the WACA, with the Stars considered outsiders to claim a third consecutive victory.
The ladder-leading Scorchers have defied a raft of injuries to their bowling unit and some indifferent displays by their batting line-up to put themselves firmly in the frame for another home final. On paper it should be their long batting order leading the way, however this has not been the case with only Michael Klinger and the departed Mitchell Marsh exhibiting any sort of consistency, although youngster Ashton Turner has provided some valuable cameos at home.
Equally one keeps waiting for Perth’s undermanned bowling attack to crack, however they keep delivering and are the only side to concede runs at less than eight an over in a competition that has largely been dominated by the bat. Opposing Perth at home is generally not a profitable strategy and not one we’re about to employ here, however given their inability to click with bat in hand I can’t be backing the hosts in a match-up like this.
Much like the Scorchers, the Stars appear to be hitting form at the right time, although granted they were far from convincing against the Strikers. The major improvement that is evident with the Stars is in the field, where they have managed to find the discipline and variety that was sorely missing in their earlier fixtures.
They also generally match-up well against the Scorchers – as evidenced by their strong record against the competition heavyweights – while their record away from home is equal to that of Perth’s at the WACA. However much like their opponents, their batting has become heavily reliant on a couple of players and until their entire order starts to fire consistently I cannot be investing in the Stars against quality opposition at these prices.
So with both sides overachieving with the ball and underachieving with the bat of late, we will look to take advantage of that trend via the total sixes market. This season in the six matches involving the Scorchers, four have featured nine or less sixes. If we extend back to include the beginning of last season, 10 of the past 15 Scorchers matches have produced no more than nine sixes, with five of the past seven at the WACA also delivering nine or less maximums.
The Stars have also not seen a great deal of balls fly over the boundary with three of their five games this season generating nine or less sixes. Delving back into BBL05, seven of the past 13 games involving the Stars have also been relatively light on big hits, again landing in that range of no more than nine sixes.
Furthermore national duty has robbed both sides of some of their most explosive hitters such as Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner and David Willey, so I’ll be putting my faith in the bowlers and backing 9 and Under sixes to be clouted in this one.
BACK – Total Sixes 9 and Under at 2.20 or bigger for 2 units.