Brad Hodge is part of the Stars' gun batting line-up. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Klein
After starting the season with derby wins, the competition’s two most high profile teams, the Sydney Sixers and Melbourne Stars , clash in what should be a good indicator of how these sides will fare in BBL03.
The Stars were arguably the most impressive side in the first round dismantling cross-town rival the Renegades in a superb all-round display. It was kickstarted by the opening pair of Luke Wright and Cameron White who smashed the bowling to all parts of the MCG. Wright produced one of the more memorable innings in the short history of the Big Bash cracking 70 off just 32 balls in a dig which included five 6s. After finishing the Ryobi Cup with five consecutive fifties, White continued his stunning run in the shorter versions of the game, scoring 53 off 38 deliveries. The 95-run partnership for the first wicket set the Stars up to set an imposing target, and allowed the likes of Glenn Maxwell , Brad Hodge and David Hussey to chip in. No team managed to crack the 200-mark last tournament but the Melbourne side did it in the first game of this edition.
Just as outstanding was former Test paceman Jackson Bird, who picked up four top order scalps in his return to top level cricket. He left the Ashes tour to England in August due to stress fractures in his back and has only been bowling in the nets and at club level in Tasmania for eight weeks. Prior to that match, Bird had taken just seven wickets in eight T20 starts, but more performances like that and he’ll be in the frame to go to South Africa for Australia’s blockbuster series in the Rainbow Nation early next year. Another exiled Test medium pacer, John Hastings, was also mightily effective going for just 10 runs off three overs. They should also have the services of all-rounder James Faulkner who returns from a broken thumb and the left-armer has been released from Australia's Test squad for Melbourne's upcoming T20 games.
While the Stars hold favouritism for the tournament, the one big concern is the lack of a topline spinner. Shane Warne provided little other than media coverage in BBL02, while these days White and Hussey are little other than part-time options. Maxwell’s off-spin hasn’t come on to anywhere near international level, but the intriguing prospect is Clive Rose. The left-armer orthodox spinner opened the bowling against the Renegades and the Melbourne native has returned some solid figures for Tasmania at Shield level and in the Ryobi Cup this summer.
After making his T20 international debut against India earlier this year, Nic Maddinson continued his solid domestic form this season with 61 off 40 balls in the win over Thunder. The all left-handed opening combination of Maddinson and Michael Lumb needs to fire given the Sixers’ middle order is chock-full of all-rounders.
Sydney’s attack looks fine on paper with ex-internationals Brett Lee and Josh Hazlewood taking the new pill, but it really struggled to pick up wickets at regular intervals last campaign. Between Lee, Steve O’Keefe and Moises Henriques, the triumvirate took just 12 wickets between in BBL02, despite all three playing each of the Sixers’ eight matches. Against Thunder, David Warner and Usman Khawaja were right on top after posting brisk half-centuries, and it was only some tardy batting from the middle order that prevented Sydney’s green team from setting a huge target.
The Stars really needed that win over the Renegades last week after dropping both derby clashes last season. They also finished the previous tournament on a downer after losing three of their last four games.
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