"It means a lot!"
Andre Fletcher finally repaid the faith shown in him by Melbourne Stars with a match-winning 49-ball 89* against Adelaide Strikers in Match No. 40 of the Big Bash League on Friday (January 15). The Spiceman set the Melbourne Cricket Ground on fire before Adam Zampa claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in BBL and played a key role in bowling Adelaide out for their lowest total ever and the third-lowest in BBL history.
Asked to bat, Melbourne didn't get off to a rapid start but turned the game on its head in the final 10 overs. Fletcher hammered eight fours and four sixes during his stay in the middle and got good support from skipper Glenn Maxwell (28-ball 37) and Hilton Cartwright (17-ball 30*). Having scored just 57/1 in the first 10 overs, the Stars smashed 122/1 in the last 10. Chasing 190, Adelaide never looked in the game and were bundled out for a mere 68 in 14.2 overs. The Stars won the encounter by 111 runs and moved to fourth place in the points table, while the Strikers slipped to No. 6.
FLETCHER FINALLY COMES GOOD
Cameron Valente and Daniel Worrall didn't extract too much movement with the new ball but still didn't allow the Stars to get off to a flying start. Having not managed a single 20-plus score in nine innings, Fletcher announced his arrival with a boundary over backward point before lofting Wes Agar down the ground to get the ball rolling. Marcus Stoinis however started slowly and was kept quiet by Worrall. The right-arm seamer only conceded four runs in his first two overs as the Stars could only manage 23 in the powerplay.
Fletcher however looked switched on from the word go but didn't find much support from Stoinis. The big all-rounder struggled with the strike rotation and pressure started to build on Fletcher. Stoinis looked completely out of touch and could only score 13 off 26 before he was caught at long-off off Danny Briggs' bowling. Maxwell promoted himself to No. 3 to up the ante but Agar and Co. didn't let him dictate terms. Rashid Khan is gone but Briggs and Liam O'Connor did a pretty decent job to keep Maxwell and Fletcher in check in the first half of the innings.
Having lost only one wicket, the onus was on Maxwell and Fletcher to improve the scoring rate and that's exactly what the two did. Maxwell first smoked Valente for a four and a six in the 11th over before Fletcher smacked O'Connor for his first six to keep the momentum going. The boundaries started to flow at regular intervals and the two accumulated 45 runs in the space of four overs. The Stars kept delaying the Power Surge for some reason and lost Maxwell before those two overs. The right-hander smashed three fours and a six before he mistimed one straight into the hands of the fielder at long-on.
Fletcher brought up his maiden BBL fifty off 36 deliveries before the Stars finally took the Power Surge (overs 17-18). The hosts were in desperate need of some quick runs and Fletcher didn't disappoint. He hit Agar for three consecutive fours before clobbering Worrall for 15 runs, including two boundaries and his signature 'no-look' six. The Stars blasted 33 runs in the Power Surge, with Agar and Worrall constantly bowling in the slot and Fletcher making the most of it. Cartwright too joined the party and smoked Agar for two maximums and a four in the penultimate over to take some pressure off Fletcher. The Strikers bowlers looked clueless in the last four overs, in which Melbourne plundered 67 runs.
ZAMPA AND CO. BAMBOOZLE STRIKERS
Maxwell opened the bowling along with Zahir Khan and the ploy paid off as the latter got rid of dangerous Philip Salt (5) only in the second over. Before the dust had settled, Maxwell knocked over Alex Carey (1) in the very next over and put Melbourne in commanding position. Adelaide got off to a horrible start as they lost two wickets and could only manage 15 runs in the powerplay. The onus was on Matt Renshaw and Jonathan Wells to rebuild but Maxwell kept attacking with his spinners and kept the pressure on.
Maxwell himself bowled three overs in the trot and conceded only eight runs. The required run-rate soon went over 12 but there were no signs of aggression from Renshaw and Wells. The two batsmen couldn't read Zahir and the left-arm wristspinner gave them no freebies to pounce on. Renshaw scored 20 off 23 before falling to Zampa. Adelaide couldn't even score 57 in the first 10 overs and literally gifted Melbourne the Bash Boost point.
Things went from bad to worse for Adelaide as Maxwell returned for his final over and sent Wells (23-ball 18) back in the hut. The offspinner finished with figures of 2/12, while Zahir claimed the same number of wickets at the expense of 19 runs. Ryan Gibson (1), Jake Weatherald (10) and Worrall (0) too couldn't contribute much as the Strikers kept losing wickets at regular intervals. The Power Surge (overs 13-14) made no difference whatsoever as Adelaide lost four wickets in those two overs, with three of those going to Zampa in one over.
The legspinner claimed the final wicket as well and completed his maiden BBL five-wicket haul. Zampa finished with figures of 5/17 as Adelaide lost their last eight wickets for just 23 runs.