A rollercoaster final day of the Big Bash season finished on a dour note for the Melbourne Stars, whose five-wicket loss to the Sydney Sixers meant they will miss the finals series for just a second ever time.
Fate back in their hands after an earlier favour from rivals the Renegades, the Stars (6-177) were edged by a Sixers outfit who deservedly sealed top spot with victory on the second-last ball at the MCG on Tuesday night.
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Requiring all four points to squeeze into the top-five on net run rate, Glenn Maxwell’s side fell at the first hurdle when they conceded the ‘bash boost’ point at the halfway point of the Sixers chase.
Maxwell’s 66 off 41 balls had propelled the Stars to a competitive score, but their total of just 72 after 10 overs meant the Sixers could easily chase the bonus point and with it, first place on the BBL table.
Ben Dwarshuis (3-27) was the pick of the Sixers bowlers while James Vince (46 off 32) and skipper Moises Henriques (38 off 29) were instrumental in sealing the crucial extra point on offer.
The Stars, who have finished runner-up in the past two seasons, will miss their first finals series since 2017-18 while the Sixers will play the Perth Scorchers in a double-chance ‘qualifier’ final on Saturday night.
While they have earned the right to host the final, border restrictions have forced both Sydney sides to host finals outside of NSW.
A Cricket Australia release on Tuesday night said both clubs have nominated Canberra’s Manuka Oval as their preferred alternative.
HILTON’S GREATEST HITS
Hilton Cartwright has had a solid BBL10 campaign in the lower middle order for the Stars, and saved his best ‘finisher’ form for Tuesday night.
Having ticked along to 20 off 15 balls, Cartwright launched three of the last four balls of the Stars’ innings into the crowd.
The last, a low Jake Ball full toss on leg stump, was smashed into the second tier of the Olympic Stand.
STARC’S FINALS RETURN UNKNOWN
Mitchell Starc’s possible return for the Sixers’ finals campaign was still unknown on Tuesday night.
The Sixers confirmed that Starc, who was sent for hamstring scans late week, had since undergone scans for a knee complaint after soreness following the recently-concluded Test series against India.
They hoped to provide an update on Wednesday.
FINCH’S PHILIPPE RAP
After his side’s win over the Hurricanes, Renegades skipper Aaron Finch single out Josh Philippe as one young player to play a role in Australia’s upcoming T20 tour of New Zealand.
“There’s a lot of players who have put their hand up through some great performances,” Finch said.
“To see Josh Philippe up second on the runscorer’s table, Tanveer Sangha the way he’s gone about it as well. They’re all names that will get thrown up, no doubt.”
GADES’ RAMBO DREW FIRST BLOOD FOR STARS
Warnie says he looks like Rambo with his headband and the Melbourne Renegades’ Karate Kid Zak Evans has produced a stunning bowling spell to spectacularly bundle the Hobart Hurricanes out of the Big Bash.
Come-from-the-clouds seamer Evans’ incredible spell of 5/33 made the Renegades’ total of 5-150 a winning one — and gave cross-town rival Melbourne Stars a fighting chance of making the Big Bash Finals.
The Gades’ were spurred on by Stars captain Glenn Maxwell, who tweeted his support during the match, aware that his side, in order to squeeze into the finals on net run rate, required the Hurricanes to lose and then needed to defeat Sydney Sixers and claim the bash boost.
The Hurricanes, themselves, required victory to secure finals action after an earlier Brisbane Heat win pushed them outside the top five.
But in failing to chase the Renegades’ 5-150 at the MCG, Matthew Wade’s side were consigned to a first season without finals action since 2016-17.
After opting to bowl first on Tuesday afternoon, the Hurricanes stamped their authority early and reduced the Renegades to 4-49 following the key wickets of Aaron Finch (6) and Shaun Marsh (12).
But fighting knocks from Beau Webster (54 not out off 35) and Mackenzie Harvey (40 off 37) propelled the home side from a vulnerable position to a respectable total.
The Hurricanes started brightly in response but had the brakes pulled when Wade and McDermott departed inside the power play.
A steadying D’Arcy Short and Dawid Malan partnership took the Hurricanes to 2-70, but regular wickets amongst some superb Renegades fielding made the Hurricanes’ task increasingly difficult, and they fell short of the 22 runs required off the final over.
Breakout star Evans (5-33) was the standout for the Renegades, while fellow surprise packet Peter Hatzoglou (1-24) again shone in bowling the innings’ most difficult overs.
TITLE MUST WAITS
The Hurricanes, along with the Stars, are the only two clubs to have never lifted the BBL trophy.
Runners-up in 2013-14 and 2017-18, the men in purple had appeared a genuine title hope after Wade returned to the squad bolstered an already in-form bowling unit.
But after 10 seasons, the BBL trophy won’t be travelling over the Bass Strait, as the Hurricanes missed the finals for the first time in four seasons.
Victory on the final day was a rare positive moment in an otherwise difficult season for the Renegades.
Perhaps most pleasingly for fans, it was young players who stood up in the game’s tension-filled moments.
It was 20-year-olds Evans and Harvey who played starring roles, alongside one of the season’s best stories in 22-year-old Hatzoglou.
Evans was crunched for a six and a four by Wade, before dismissing the discarded Test man and dominating the match from there.
KLINGER IN THE GUN
Despite the final day win, another tough season has left a big question mark over Klinger’s future at the club.
Appointed at the start of BBL09 after the resignation of title-winning coach Andrew McDonald, Klinger has not only overseen back-to-back wooden spoons, but the two biggest ever losses by runs in BBL history this season (by 145 and 129 respectively).
At this stage, he remains contracted for next season.
MARNUS MARVEL BOOKS HEAT FINALS SPOT
Man for all occasions Marnus Labuschagne hauled Brisbane Heat into the BBL finals with clutch wickets and key runs in a thrilling, six-run win against Perth in Adelaide.
Chris Lynn (51, 25) and Labuschagne (46, 38) had propelled the Heat to a 7/181 total – setting Perth the second highest BBL successful run chase at Adelaide Oval. Test No.3 Labuschagne, who wants to excel across all formats for Australia, put on crucial stands of 58 with Lynn and 56 with Lewis Gregory (36, 23).
A late assault from Mitch Marsh (54, 26 balls), helped by a dropped chance from Max Bryant off Mark Steketee, saw Perth (6/175) needing 17 off the final over. However, too much had been left for Marsh and Jhye Richardson (13, 7) who were united at 6/126 in the 17th over.
Labuschagne’s four overs of leg-spin (3-35) tripped up Perth removing Colin Munro (7) and keeper-batsman Josh Inglis (12) before deceiving Ashton Turner (0). Aaron Hardie’s run out in the 17th over left Perth with 56 required off 21 balls.
Brisbane’s four point bounty secured a first finals slot in four years and proved cathartic after Australia’s shock Test series loss to India.
“I love the game and think the quick change of format just gives me that clarity of mind. You probably don’t overthink it as much what happened in that Test series,” Labuschagne, Australia’s most consistent batsman against India with 426 runs this Test summer at 53.25, said after his man-of-the-match effort.
“It is nice to come back to Big Bash (after the series loss to India), a little bit of colour, a nice competition to be part of.”
The leg-spin of Labuschagne and Swepson (2-20) unravelled Perth in contrast to counterpart Fawad Ahmed who conceded 0-52.
“I am happy with any wickets I get,” Labuschagne said.
“It was just making sure me and Sweppo had the right plan.
“I think we are a big threat. It is exciting for us to get in there.
“It is an exciting thing for us going into the finals. We haven’t put the perfect game in and we snuck in.”
The Scorchers are fortunate to have gun imports Liam Livingstone (32, 22) and Jason Roy (41, 32) opening with the most partnership runs this BBL. It all fell apart for Perth after a 53-run opening stand in 37 balls.
The top-ranked Scorchers were comfortably in the finals but Brisbane kept its season alive with an upset, bonus-point triumph. Perth’s loss could cost a home grand final.
Lynn introduced veteran seamer Ben Laughlin in the sixth over with Perth 0/49. Perth would add just 47 runs and lose five wickets over the next eight game-changing overs with Laughlin, Mitch Swepson (2-20) and Labuschagne impacting through scoreboard pressure.
Scorchers skipper Ashton Turner surprised by granting leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed four overs which ended in his most expensive BBL figures (0-52) and difficult run chase. There was little variation or spin from the Pakistan refugee granted asylum by Australia.
Livingstone is an impressive if underrated leg-spin option who was underestimated by Lynn (51). The Brisbane skipper had bullied Perth’s attack from the outset but hit against the spin and lofted a swirler to Hardie.
The innings was trademark Lynnsanity, belligerent, exhilarating stroke play with the opposition relying on the opener to get himself out.
Brisbane wanted a ton from its inspirational leader chasing a bonus point win but Lynn has 420 runs a league high 42 average this season and sizzling 157.3 strike rate.
Lynn exploded with four fours and four sixes including a massive strike off Richardson into the second deck of the eastern stand. Fawad (0-52) was glad to see the back of Lynn having conceded 36 from his opening two overs.
ONE EYE ON SOUTH AFRICA
Labuschagne will front for his adopted country, Australia, on a maiden Test tour of his birth nation next month in South Africa. Labuschagne notched a ton on his first one-day tour of South Africa last year but a Test series there is special.
“I love Test cricket, it is always exciting when you get to play against the best opposition,” said Labuschagne ahead of a series Australia must win to make the ICC Test Championship final at Lord’s in June.
“We have just played against one of the best oppositions. To go to South Africa and have to win there is an exciting challenge and I am really looking forward it.”
TOUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE
Seamer Mark Steketee (0-54) had an off day against the Heat but is second on the BBL wicket tally with 22 this season.
Labuschagne has played cricket since under-12s with Steketee and believes the paceman could earn a T20 squad call-up for Australia in New Zealand next month or the Test tour of South Africa that will run concurrently.
“He has developed so much, a real hunger, aggression has been great and been able to perform really well for us in all formats, one-day, Shield cricket and T20s,” said Labuschagme of Steketee.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on one of those squads.”