WHEN he’s on fire, no cricket match is ever a lost cause — Chief Writer RON REED watches Glenn Maxwell do it again:
GLENN Maxwell has never liked the nickname he acquired early in his colourful cricket career, The Big Show, and you don’t hear it much these days.
But he’ll just have to forgive those of us inclined to resurrect it after his astonishing display of power hitting at the MCG on Sunday, because that’s what it was – quite a show!
The Melbourne Stars captain’s innings of 82 off 43 balls was, by a considerable margin, the difference between his team beating the Sydney Sixers in the last home and away match of the Big Bash league’s eighth season and making the finals, or consigning yet another campaign to the dustbin of history.
The Stars have always been, well, the Stars – the would-be glamour team of the competition since the early days when president Eddie McGuire lured Shane Warne out of retirement to captain them – but have never won the competition. Last year, they finished last.
They’ll do well to win it this year, too, because they have to travel to Hobart to take on the Hurricanes, clearly the best team in the competition, in a semi-final.Embed from Getty Images
But any time Maxwell is in the form and mood he was this time, the current Stars line-up – and yes, it does boast its fair share of big names in Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, Nick Maddinson, Ben Dunk and Dwayne Bravo, just to name the batsmen – is capable of beating anyone.
So we shall see. At least a tediously strung-out season over-loaded with unexciting blow-outs might have something special to offer at the business end.
If the Stars do manage to go all the way, Maxwell will be something of a hero no matter how many runs he contributes because he is also the captain, more or less accidentally because he was appointed only after veteran all-rounder John Hastings had to retire prematurely because of a medical condition.
But it is unlikely they will get across the line without him doing something special.
In the end, the Stars beat the Sixers extremely comfortably because they had too many runs on the board – 6-168 was well ahead of the generally accepted MCG par score of 150 and just about up with the “safe” target of 170 – but that was looking far from the case when they were 5-116 off 17 overs. Although as it turned out that would have been enough, the Sixers collapsing for 74 off 13.4 overs.
Not much earlier, Maxwell had uncharacteristically ground out 17 off 20 balls.
Then … kaboom!
Maxwell changed gears by whacking Australia’s greatest-ever off-spinner Nathan Lyon for six and four. Over the final three overs it was difficult to keep track of his statistical progress but it was spectacular.
He needed no help – the last two batsmen, Bravo and Seb Gotch, faced one ball between them for one run while Maxwell and a couple of extras added 67. Gotch did not face his only ball until the partnership was worth 44.
Maxwell ended up with 82 off 43 with four fours and six sixes – smashed in several different directions – at a strike-rate of 190.6 and was out off the last ball of the innings which he hit so high that he and Gotch crossed for a second before it was caught.
The last three overs had gone for 15, 15 and 20.
It is tempting to suggest that Maxwell is in a class of his own when it comes to huge hitting, the best in Australian cricket since Adam Gilchrist. But Brisbane Heat’s Chris Lynn heads a list of other genuine contenders and while the Stars’ fans were in raptures over their man’s latest display, they only had to think back two nights to be reminded that the Heat’s Max Bryant and Ben Cutting chased down a similar target, 8-156, in just 10 overs, a BBL record.Embed from Getty Images
There was never the slightest chance of the Sixers duplicating that as they were brushed aside 34 short of hosting their own semi-final against the other Melbourne team, the Renegades. At Marvel Stadium the Renegades will probably start favourite which opens up the possibility of an all-Melbourne final, which would probably be Cricket Australia’s perfect scenario.