On Wednesday night the Sydney Showground Stadium will play host to the BBL05 final re-match as defending champions Sydney Thunder take on perennial bridesmaids Melbourne Stars.
Fortunes could not be much different for the Sydney Thunder this season in comparison to last, having dropped all four of their matches so far despite coming into the tournament as the reigning champions. On New Year’s Day they were comprehensively outplayed by the Perth Scorchers, going down by 50 runs at the WACA. Winning the toss and electing to field first, the Thunder ensured that the Scorchers did not get completely away from them, restricting the home side to 4/177 in highly favourable batting conditions.
Off-spinner Chris Green continued his frugal tournament, picking up 1/21 from his four overs, while Pat Cummins bowled impressively at the death to finish with 1/28 from his four. Unfortunately Cummins’ fellow paceman Clint McKay could not shake off his abject form and was taken for 33 off his three overs which has resulted in him being dropped for this fixture.
However the main issue for the Thunder in BBL06 has been their batting and this again proved the case as they slumped to 6/50, before finishing with 8/127. Coming in at number seven, Cummins top-scored with 39 off 26 balls and incredibly is the leading run-scorer for the Thunder this season. That highlights just how poor their top order has been with no recognised batsman averaging over 15 and none striking at more than 115.
The Stars themselves are coming off a relatively insipid display, going down to an injury-plagued Melbourne Renegades at home in a rain-reduced affair by seven runs. After conceding 188 against the Hobart Hurricanes, the Stars’ bowling attack again failed to find their range with the Renegades compiling an impressive 4/171. Former Australian representatives Ben Hilfenhaus and Scott Boland both conceded 11 runs an over, while current international leggie Adam Zampa continued his patchy form, registering figures of 1/26 off three overs.
The only bright spot in the field for the Stars was the performance of all-rounder James Faulkner who looked back to his best while claiming 1/19 off his four overs. After losing Glenn Maxwell in the opening over, the Stars were always behind the eight-ball in the chase and despite the best efforts of English opener Luke Wright (45 off 40 balls), they lost wickets all too regularly to finish marginally short of a seventh consecutive Derby win.
Although their bowling looks like the chief concern for the Stars, they may consider bringing in an additional batsman with Faulkner batting as high as number five. However that extra batsman will not be veteran Rob Quiney who, after starring in the opening match, is still missing with a hamstring complaint.
Sydney Showground Stadium
There have been two matches played at the Sydney Showground Stadium in BBL06 and while conditions looked ideal for batting in the Sydney Derby, the pitch looked a touch slower in the match involving the Brisbane Heat, with the spin bowlers more effective. Nevertheless, batsmen still found it relatively easy to find the boundary with 21 fours and 15 sixes in that match, accounting for 55% of all runs scored.
- The Thunder have lost their last four matches.
- The Thunder have also lost their last four matches at the Sydney Showground Stadium.
- The Stars have won their last four away games.
- However the Stars have conceded over 170 in four of their last six matches, including their last three straight.
The Stars are expected to exact some revenge for last season’s defeat in the decider, installed as hot favourites to hand the defending champions their fifth straight loss.
It’s hard to get a handle on exactly how the Stars are travelling, given they’ve only played the two matches and have battled with availability issues and a shortened match in the Derby. They did go into the tournament as favourites for the title and on their day an explosive top-order featuring the likes of Wright, Maxwell and Kevin Pietersen looks capable of blowing any side out of the water. However despite looking strong on paper and boasting a wide range of options, their bowling attack has struggled, with the issues stretching as far back as the second-half of last season when they continually leaked considerable totals.
Whether this Thunder side have the tools to exploit the Stars’ weakness in the field is seriously doubtful, however if they can recapture anywhere near their top form then the likes of Shane Watson, Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell threaten to continue Melbourne’s bowling woes. The Thunder’s own attack has been reasonably out of sorts, however there is some encouragement via the form of offie Chris Green and, to a lesser extent, his partner in crime Fawad Ahmed. Green and Ahmed are the only Thunder bowlers with a tournament economy rate less than eight and given the way that the Renegades spinners troubled the Stars, they may fancy their chances again here.
So while I could not advocate taking the big price about the Thunder, there are enough question marks over the Stars to leave their skinny odds well alone too.
Where it is difficult to see the Thunder troubling the Stars is in the six-hitting department. The reigning title-holders have been outgunned in regards to clearing the boundary in every match so far this season, with 7 of their 17 maximums coming from tail-ender Cummins. The Stars could only clear the ropes once against the Renegades, however they showed what they were capable of when smashing six sixes in 17.4 overs against the Hurricanes.
Stretching back a bit further, the Stars have only conceded more sixes than their opponents once in their last five games, whilst even though the Thunder were crowned champions in BBL05 they only managed to clout more sixes than the opposition in four out of ten games last season. Both bowling attacks have shown a propensity to relinquish boundaries but only one batting line-up features recognised six-hitters such as Wright, Pietersen, Maxwell and Faulkner so that’s why I’ll be backing the Stars to hit the most sixes on Wednesday night.
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