Time: 7.15 PM
Weather: Cloudy, 20% chance of rain with winds south to southeasterly 25-35 km/h
The MCG will host its first game of the season on Monday with cool and blustery conditions predicted (typical Melbourne weather). This is one of the easier games of the season to predict and the recent form suggests that Sydney will win by a good margin. The Stars had an infamous loss on Sunday, losing by a BBL record of 152 runs. Sydney won easily on Monday and their unknown bowlers did a great job and the partnership between Sam Billings and Alex Ross won the game and that is a good sign for the future. The slow and low MCG wicket should favour the spinners and medium pacers who can bowl straight.
Sydney Thunder to win by 5 wickets or 50 runs.
They look set to collect the wooden spoon this season and the question in this match is how far can they drag themselves back from Sunday night. The best thing to do is just to forget about it completely and focus on the absolute basics of the game. Glenn Maxwell might be advised to bowl himself more in this game, but then again that would send the wrong signal to his specialist bowlers. Batting out the 20 overs should be the goal in this match and certainly Peter Nevill and Hilton Cartwright showed their intention to do that on Sunday. I’m certain more of the batters will do exactly that.
Glenn Maxwell needs to lead by example and he has done that time and time again in the past. His massive strike rate of 150 per 100 balls can easily bring down any team in the BBL and the home ground advantage will boost his confidence. You can tell how valuable his wicket is by the way the opposition celebrates when he is dismissed. I’m certain that the sweet memories of winning the recent T20 World Cup have been filed away. His focus will be on getting a good start, building partnerships and then exploding at the death.
— Melbourne Stars (@StarsBBL) December 9, 2021
Hilton Cartwright hit the solitary six for the Stars on Sunday but there is far more to his batting than that. He’s been around for a few years now and he obviously knows what he’s doing as his average of 27 and strike rate of 118 shows. The middle order needs him to stick around and his partnerships with the tailenders should help build a respectable score. He would do well to take advantage of the huge gaps on offer at the MCG and push for ones and twos on a consistent basis.
Peter Nevill showed some tenacity on Sunday with 18 off 14 balls, so that’s a sign he might do well in this match. Wicket keepers in T20 cricket are expected to be more than useful with the bat and their generally feisty attitude means they’re not afraid of taking on the best. He might do well to start scoring immediately because his position as opener sets the tone for the rest of the innings and the tendency to give a more noted batter the strike is actually counter-productive in T20.
Adam Zampa was disappointing on Sunday but obviously he is a world class T20 leg spinner who is one of the big names for the Stars. A good economy rate of 7.30 per over should be reproduced in this game, because the pitch at the MCG suits his style of keeping the ball low with plenty of top spin. This might produce a few top edges off the cut and sweep shots. He should remember that just because you’re wearing a different shirt doesn’t mean you’re a different bowler.
Brody Crouch took 2 wickets for 36 on Sunday and the fact that this was his debut might lead to him being underestimated. A medium pacer who uses variety as a weapon, he loves to bowl at the stumps and contain the batters using the fielders at long-on and mid wicket as defensive options. Sydney Thunder might have to work out a plan for him because he also picked up a couple of wickets in a domestic one day game against NSW recently.
Sam Elliott also made his T20 debut on Sunday and his performance wasn’t the worst on the night. Melbourne club cricket tends to produce a lot of medium pacers who bowl straight at the stumps and are good at the death and Sam Elliott is one of them. The MCG wicket should suit his style and the home ground atmosphere will also be a big boost for him. He might pick up a couple of wickets because the Thunder’s batters might be looking for big shots which is not the wisest policy at the MCG.
Sydney Thunder’s challenge for this game is to remember that while winning by 7 wickets in the game is nice, it doesn’t produce premierships by itself. However, they’re now genuine contenders for the title and their confidence must be very high. Gurinder Sandhu was a pleasant surprise with 2 wickets on Monday but the star was Daniel Sams with 3 for 22. They have a big name in Alex Hales and he’ll be keen to score his first runs of the season after scoring a duck in Canberra. The big MCG outfield might take some getting used to and the pitch needs to be treated with respect, but it would be a massive shock if they lose.
Alex Hales has bulging muscles and bulging statistics to match. His ability to hit is exemplified by his strike rate of 145 per 100 balls and he has now played 315 T20 games, so is a seasoned pro. The weak bowling line up for the Melbourne Stars will be shown zero mercy if he can get to 20 and adjust to the big outfield and slow wicket at the MCG. Scoring ducks is a part of cricket so he will forget what happened on Monday night and he is set to have a big night if things go his way.
Sam Billings got his season off to a good start on Monday night with 44 not out and he might view this game as an opportunity to score his maiden T20 hundred. Another wicket keeper who is able to hold his spot in the team with his batting alone, he has shown that he has a level head in bad situations. Bin this game he’ll have the opportunity to bash some average bowling around the MCG if the Stars bowlers lose their nerve.
Alex Ross is a middle order batter who doesn’t get a lot of attention but he showed his value on Monday by scoring 61 not out and winning the game in the process. For someone who is 29 he hasn’t played many T20 games (74) but it looks like he is set for a fine season and Melbourne Stars at the MCG should be well within his capabilities. He’s from Melbourne so he knows how to score on the low MCG pitch and he won’t forget to run hard between wickets which is what the large outfield encourages.
Alex Hales will carry a lot of Sydney Thunder’s hopes, especially if Usman Khawaja is absent
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 5, 2021
Tanveer Sangha’s return of 1 for 22 on Monday was reasonable and his leg spinners should be suited to the MCG wicket if he can pitch it up and make the batters swing against the spin. His bowling average of 18 is excellent and he bowls with a lot of over spin which forces the batter to come through too early with their shots. The large outfield at the MCG favours bowlers who rely on their outfielders so I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up at least two wickets.
Gurinder Sandhu repaid the faith shown in him with 2 for 17 and there isn’t any reason besides luck that this form should continue. With his fast-medium bowling style offering few bad balls, he builds pressure up by making sure that he hits the bat hard with a tight line that is slanted in at the batter. He‘s another unheralded player who is good enough to make this team a genuine title chance this season.
Daniel Sams was brilliant on Monday night with 3 for 22 and his left arm fast-medium style could be highly effective if has a backward point and a third man to guard against glide and cut shots that run off the bat. He would do well to pitch right up into the block hole because the Melbourne Stars are vulnerable to the yorker. He is another Sydney Thunder player who has posted more than 50 games and this is usually the time when players cash in after having adjusted to this level.
Stars vs Thunder: Market Odds
Melbourne Stars $1.71, Sydney Thunder $2.19 at TopSport
Stars vs Thunder: Best Bet
Tanveer Sangha to take the most wickets for Sydney Thunder – $3.75 at TopSport
Stars vs Thunder: Best Same Game Multi
Tanveer Sangha to take the most wickets for Sydney Thunder
Alex Hales to hit the most sixes for the match
Sam Billings to be the player of the match.
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