Melbourne Stars have got their Big Bash League 2020-21 campaign off to a perfect start, fetching all the eight points on offer in less than 24 hours. After having thumped Brisbane Heat on Friday (December 11), the Glenn Maxwell-led side outclassed Sydney Thunder by 22 runs at the Manuka Oval, Canberra on Saturday (December 12). The Thunder have now lost all of their last five encounters against the Stars.
Opting to bat, Marcus Stoinis (37-ball 61) got Melbourne off to an outstanding start but Sydney made a solid comeback in the second innings and restricted them 169/8 in their 20 overs, which by no means was a match-winning total. In response, Alex Hales (41-ball 46) and Callum Ferguson (35-ball 54) were amongst runs but never looked threatening. Adam Zampa (2/10) was named Player of the Match, while Liam Hatcher (3/28) too impressed on his debut.
GOOD START, BITTER ENDING FOR STARS
Stoinis, who failed to open his account against Brisbane Heat, walked out all guns blazing and announced his arrival with a massive six down the ground in the very first over. Andre Fletcher too wasn't beating around the bush and went after last edition's leading wicket-taker Daniel Sams, slamming him for a four and a six. The two didn't allow anyone to settle in and got Melbourne off to a fiery start in the powerplay. They even ripped apart Chris Green who is known to be economical in the powerplay. Stoinis smoked the offspinner for 17 runs as the Stars raced to 41 for no loss by the end of four overs.
The Thunder were in desperate need of a wicket and they finally got one in the fifth over. Making his BBL debut, Tanveer Sangha took only three deliveries to make an impact as the legspinner got rid of Fletcher for 12. The opener from West Indies was a bit unlucky with the lbw call as the replays later suggested that the ball might have pitched outside the line of leg stump. The in-form Glenn Maxwell promoted himself to No. 3 but it was still Stoinis who was getting all the boundaries. The big man completed his fifty off just 29 balls and allowed Maxwell to play out few deliveries. Stoinis looked set for a big score but before he could do any further damage, Jonathan Cook had him caught at deep cover.
The scoring rate started to drop down after Stoinis' departure and the onus was on Maxwell to wreak havoc in the second half of the innings. Maxwell was well set and Melbourne opted for the Power Surge after the end of the 13th over. Nathan McAndrew and Green however bowled according to the field and didn't allow Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright to make full use of these two overs. After McAndrew (1/36) dismissed Cartwright (9), Green made a stunning comeback after leaking 29 runs off his first two overs. The offspinner pinned Maxwell (29-ball 39) right in front of the stumps as Melbourne managed 19 runs in the Power Surge at the expense of two crucial wickets.
The Thunder built on the momentum they gained in the Power Surge and didn't allow Melbourne to dictate terms in the last five overs. Sangha returned for his third spell and got rid of Ben Dunk (16) to finish with impressive figures of 2/26 on his debut. The spin trio of Cook, Sangha and Green did a commendable job in the last few overs as the Stars kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Green in particular was superb in his last two overs, in which he claimed two wickets for just 13 runs. No other team took more wickets in the last five overs than Sydney Thunder (43) in the previous edition and they were at it once again. The Stars were 113/2 in 13 overs but lost six wickets in the final seven overs.
NOTHING 'THUNDEROUS' ABOUT SYDNEY'S BATTING
Last season, the Thunder relied a lot on their top-order and they needed their top-three - Usman Khawaja, Hales and Ferguson - to fire in the run chase. The three scored almost 60 percent of the total team runs last season. Cartwright almost pulled off a blinder at deep mid-wicket in the very first over but Khawaja and Hales tried to go after the bowlers from the word go. Dilbar Hussain however gave Melbourne an early breakthrough by getting rid of Khawaja (7) in the third over. The left-hander was given caught behind while trying to scoop Hussain but the replays later suggested that there was no bat involved.
Coming in at No. 3, Ferguson started well with a couple of solid pull shots but before he and Hales could cut loose, Maxwell brought in Zampa and the legspinner gave nothing away in his first two overs. Hussain too was outstanding but the fast bowler had some issues with his left hamstring and had to leave the field after bowling 1.5 overs. Hatcher too did a decent job on his debut and varied his length and pace, not allowing Ferguson and Hales to bat freely. The Thunder scored only 68/1 in their first 10 overs, compared to Melbourne's 92/1, giving the latter one bonus point.
With 102 needed off 60, Hales and Ferguson finally opened their shoulders. The Englishman first tonked Cartwright for a maximum before Ferguson crafted Stanlake for consecutive boundaries. Just when Hales was starting to get into his groove, the opener mistimed a shot off Clint Hinchliffe and was caught at deep square leg for a 41-ball 46. Ferguson however looked unfazed with Hales' departure and kept finding boundaries at regular intervals. The Thunder skipper however couldn't carry on and fell to Hatcher soon after completing his fifty.
Sydney recruited Ben Cutting (2) ahead of the season and it was up to him and Alex Ross to get 52 off the remaining 24 deliveries. The big-hitter however could make no impact whatsoever and became Hatcher's second victim. The pacer was brilliant on his debut and finished with figures of 3/28. Ross was still around, fighting the lone battle. The 28-year-old smashed Billy Stanlake for a six and a four in the 18th over but didn't find much support from the other end. The Thunder lost two wickets in the Power Surge and could only manage 18 runs.
The battle was over when Cartwright had Ross (15-ball 18) caught at deep mid-wicket. Hatcher and Cartwright picked up five wickets between them, but it was Zampa who proved to be the difference-maker. The legspinner only conceded 10 runs in his four overs and also managed a couple of wickets in his final over.