- Melbourne Stars upset Sydney Thunder on Friday at the MCG
- Zampa and Cartwright have returned to form
- Andre Russell is back for the Melbourne Stars
Venue Sydney Showground Stadium
Time 7.15 PM
Weather Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain in the evening and winds south to southeasterly 15-25 km/h. 16-23 C.
I’m not going to lie, I had to rewrite this article on Friday night. The Melbourne Stars suffered a record defeat on Sunday and yet they outplayed Sydney Thunder at the MCG on Friday and proved once again what an uncertain game cricket is. This is a hard match to predict but I would make the call that the home ground advantage is worth 10% and that makes me lean towards the Sydney Thunder. Friday’s game has certainly made this one far more interesting.
It’s a different story for the Thunder as they only required 5 different batters to chase down 141 on Monday and yet on Friday they lost their nerve in the final overs. Billings once again proved his worth with 43 from 31 balls and Matthew Gilkes surprised with 56 off 49 balls. They field very well and their catching is reliable which means the bowlers can run into the delivery stride knowing their effort will be backed up. Staying in the top 4 of the league will be a huge motivation for them in this game.
The Sydney Showgrounds ground is a large oval with low grandstands that allows the wind to swirl around. This favours the swing bowlers and Sam Billings in particular should enjoy the conditions. The drop-in pitch favours batters who can hit the ball hard because the bounce is regular, but without the steep bounce that other venues have. Outfield catching is important because of the large playing area and the lights are high and out of the fielder’s eyes most of the time. Sydney Thunder know the conditions and will enjoy the moderate bowling of the Stars.
Sydney Thunder to win by 2 wickets or 20 runs.
All was going to plan until Friday, but they shouldn’t read too much into losing only one game. They have plenty of good bowling options who have yet to gain the attention of the Australian selectors. They might even try Nathan McAndrew and Saqib Mahmood as fast-medium bowling options in order to give their other bowlers a rest. The batters will enjoy the chance to hit the ball over the boundary rope which means Alex Ross and Jason Sangha should be able to swing the bat through the full arc.
Alex Ross showed his form on Monday with 61 off 46 balls and he now faces a bowling attack that is up and down at best. His two sixes showed that he can hit on a large ground and conditions at Manuka Oval where they played on Monday are roughly similar to the Sydney Showgrounds. His goal as he walks out to the crease should be to run hard between the wickets because only a third of his runs on Monday came from this scoring option. He’s a good prospect for scoring another fifty and he is quickly earning respect from everyone in the BBL.
Brilliant innings from Alex Ross gives Sydney Thunder a winning start against Brisbane Heat in the #BBL11 .
— Talk About Cricket (@T_AboutCrick) December 6, 2021
Alex Hales proved his worth last season and he’ll be keen to show his muscular style of batting in front of his home crowd. The England selectors don’t like him that much, but his 6 ft 5 in frame allows him to hit the ball a very long way. This doesn’t mean he has forgotten about his defensive… the careful forward prod with the bat adjacent to the pads straight from the MCC textbook is just as much as part of his game. He is now the leading foreign run scorer in the BBL and he should score at least 30 runs in this game after being outsmarted by Zampa on Friday.
Jason Sangha might be given an opportunity to show his batting credentials because this is a good game to give the less experienced players a go. Having played just 13 T20 games with an average of 19 shows that better things lie ahead if he doesn’t give up hope of making it. His highest score is 63 not out which shows that he can perform at this level and he’ll be at very good odds as well. The home ground environment should help as well if the coach Trevor Bayliss decides to go down the experimental route.
Gurinder Sanhu must be reconciled with the fact that international cricket has passed him by, but his 2 for 17 on Monday with an economy rate of 4.25 showed that his right arm fast-medium is still highly effective. When he pitches the ball up he shows that he can swing the ball (even with the white ball) and the batter has to be careful not to be bowled. His run up is not the most imposing which leads batters to become overly optimistic about their chances of hitting him out of the attack.
Nathan McAndrew enjoys the support that the Thunder’s fielders provide him because he loves to bang the ball just short of a length which produces a lot of silly aerial shots. A tall and strong man who can bowl into the wind, he is known for producing quality deliveries at crucial times. With only 29 T20 games in his career he should improve this season, and he should be able to pick up at least a couple of wickets against the Melbourne Stars who are known to have weak shot selection skills. It might be a good idea to bring the field up when he is bowling because he isn’t very mobile when fielding off his own bowling. His return of 1 for 27 on Friday showed he is a good selection.
Daniel Sams picked up 3 for 22 in his first game of the season. He has now played 58 T20 games and is now an essential part of the team. However, he was dreadful on Friday, conceding 50 runs for no wicket. When the batter looks to hit through square leg he’ll bowl a perfect yorker that will lead to the stumps being knocked over and he has the temperament to make a good death bowler. The Stars batting line up has a long tail and this could mean Sams might be in the market for at least 3 wickets again, if not more. Another talented player that the Australian selectors have largely ignored.
Setting reasonable and achievable goals might be the plan for the Stars, because if they worry about winning or losing then they’ll lose focus from the basics of the game. Players like Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa are very classy and will hit their stride sooner or later. Sam Elliott and Brody Crouch are promising and Peter Nevill can perform at the top order against this bowling attack.
Marcus Stoinis made a welcome return on Friday, replacing Peter Nevill and scoring 13 runs at a run a ball. However, his run out was frustrating and the question mark over the Melbourne Stars top order remains, despite the fact they won. With a bit more luck a fifty should be easily within his reach as his average of 32 suggests. Batting as an opener might not be the perfect spot for him but he is a competitive player and he’ll enjoy the chance to hit a new ball around the ground against a fresh fast bowler. Suddenly the Melbourne Stars look like a decent team with his comeback. Many runs should come from his bat this season.
Glenn Maxwell will need to draw on all his experience from his 330 T20 games and make himself into a reliable middle order batter. His 16 off 16 balls on Friday was a nice start but he really needed to do more. Opposition bowlers must know that at some stage he will have his night and that when he does, the game is over. The big boundaries at the Sydney Showgrounds won’t intimidate him at all and if he can farm the strike with the tailenders he should help them build a respectable score. He would know from his recent T20 campaign that scores in T20 cricket are starting to come down now and that scoring fifty off 35 balls should be his goal for the night.
Hilton Cartwright can hit sweetly-timed pull shots against anyone and he loves to see the ball travel quickly to the rope. He’ll learn that this shot isn’t alwasy a good option if there is a fielder out in the deep, so placing the ball behind the wicket might open up scoring opportunities for him. A dangerous batter who has plenty of power, he can be expected to cause the Thunder’s bowlers some concern. His effort of 42 off 30 balls on Friday night was very important and he can repeat it in this game as well.
Brody Crouch was the best of a bad bunch on Sunday. He’s another new player who a lot of the Sydney Thunder batters learnt to respect on Friday, with a worthy 1 for 23.. He has a big follow through in his bowling action which means the batters hit the ball high on the bat and thus make the ball go high in the air. Fresh and full of enthusiasm for the game, he was the only bowler to put in a decent performance on Sunday and he could end up with another couple of wickets here.
Andre Russell played with COVID restrictions placed on him on Friday, and his return to the BBL was ordinary with figures of 0 for 40. He did a good job with the bat but bowlers win matches no matter format the game is, and a player of his calibre is expected to take at least one wicket per game. He is one of the few players in T20 to have a lower bowling average than his batting average, and he is known as a pace bowler who can make staying at the crease unpleasant for the batter. The bowlers at the other end will appreciate the pressure he can apply to the batters, and many wickets come from poor shots that they play after having faced Russell.
Nathan Coulter-Nile has been a stalwart for the Melbourne Stars for a long time now and his 2 for 27 on Friday was just what they needed to keep them in the game. He’s still a very fit and strong fast bowler at the age of 34… and he still has the ability to make the ball kick off a good length and force the batter to raise the gloves which usually forces a catch to the close-in fielders. The Sydney Showgrounds is a good ground to try out this tactic because of the bounce on offer. A lot of BBL batters just aren’t used to facing a bowler of his quality and they usually try some funky shots against him – which normally doesn’t work.
Thunder vs Stars: Market Odds
Thunder $2.15 vs Stars $1.73 with TopSport
Thunder vs Stars: Best Bet
Glenn Maxwell to hit the most sixes for the Melbourne Stars: $4.70 with TopSport
Thunder vs Stars: Best Same Game Multi
Alex Hales to hit the most sixes for Sydney Thunder.
Daniel Sams to collect the most wickets for Sydney Thunder.
Glenn Maxwell to hit the most sixes for the Melbourne Stars.
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