Cricket

RAIN PAIN ANTI-CLIMAX FOR STARS?

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THE cricket gods just seem to have it in for the Melbourne Stars – but they’re not dead and buried yet, says Chief Writer RON REED:

THERE are many ways to ensure that a cricket team does not win the Big bash premiership and the Melbourne Stars have famously investigated most of them.

Now it looks like they might have found a new one.

The worst – the most frustrating – might be yet to come. They are into the final, for the second year running, but will not even get the chance to challenge the Sydney Sixers on Saturday night if the weather forecast for the harbour city proves to be on the money – constant rain.

If the match cannot be played, the Sixers get the chocolates courtesy of their win over the Stars in the first finals match – which will be a hair-tearing outcome for the green team after dominating enough of the regular season to finish clearly on top of the ladder.

It will also be borderline ridiculous for a tournament that has taken two months to play out – too long, probably – to be allowed to be resolved in such a way without any attempt by Cricket Australia to avoid it by scheduling a reserve day, especially as Sunday is available. It’s not as if the weather gurus haven’t given them plenty of warning.

Yep, it would throw up some logistical challenges – although not nearly as many as moving the game to sunny Melbourne – but is this not another case of sports administrators shooting themselves in the foot?

Anyway, we shall see – at least the Stars have smashed the four-match losing sequence that was shaping as yet another elongated choke and are still in the race for their maiden title after demolishing Sydney Thunder by 28 runs at the MCG on Thursday night.

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As performances go, their 2-194 could not have been more starkly different from their previous effort, when the Sixers bowled them out for their lowest ever score, an embarrassing 99, in pursuit of a modest 143.

And so it should have been. The Thunder were the last team into the finals and to the naked eye are simply not as well equipped as the Stars, not in terms of potential matchwinners, anyway.

That was confirmed when the Stars prevailed easily with their main man, skipper Glen Maxwell, playing almost no part – 4no off 5 balls – other than winning the bat flip and deciding, against his season-long policy, to bat, the first time the Stars have done that in a final since the semi against Hobart in season three, 2193 days ago.

Not the least of the differences between the sides was the fielding. The Sydneysiders were terrible, dropping two catches, misfielding regularly and failing to run out either Marcus Stoinis or Nick Larkin when they collided mid-pitch late in the innings.

In contrast, the Stars ran out opener Alex hales with a superb direct hit by Nathan Coulter-Nile and when the same bloke bowled Usman Khawaja, slogging wildly, the result was never seriously in doubt.

Thunder’s most egregious fielding error was when wicketkeeper Jay Lenton dropped the simplest of chances off Stoinis when he was on 19 in the fourth over, a long, long way from his eventual contribution of 83 off 54 balls.

Again, Stoinis – officially and deservedly the player of the tournament – was the matchwinner. If the chance had been taken, anything could have happened, but it wasn’t and he went on to his sixth half-century and almost his second ton, which swamps any quibbles this column has expressed about him.

Or does it? For all his heroics in this campaign, he still hasn’t been selected in the white-ball team that is about to tour South Africa, named as a back-up in both the 50 and 20 over formats. That’s because there is no room for him at the top of the order, where Aaron Finch, David Warner and Steve Smith are locked in, and his strike-rate in the low 130s is trumped by Matthew Wade’s of 170-plus in the middle order.

Still, it is difficult to argue that he does not deserve a spot in the T20 World Cup to be played on these shores at the start of next season.

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Given that he has a licence to bat right through the innings if he can, whereas Maxwell never appears during the power-play and sometimes, as in this case, not until the innings is more than half over, Stoinis will probably be the Stars’ most important weapon if the final does take place.

But he’s far from the only one. Which is why the men in green – dark green, that is, not the lime of the Thunder – are well and truly back in contention, but under plenty of pressure. Again. For students of the psychology of sport, this will be fascinating. If it happens.

mm

Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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