The three-time champions Perth Scorchers didn't have a great start to their Big Bash League 2020-21 campaign as they were blown away by Melbourne Renegades in their first game of the season. The Ashton Turner-led side will now be up against Melbourne Stars who have not just won both their encounters but have also fetched the Bash Boost points on offer in their two games.
The Scorchers will have to bring their A-game if they want to topple Glenn Maxwell and Co. at Aurora Stadium, Launceston Wednesday (December 16). There is no denying that Perth are the most successful team in the tournament but the Men in Orange have struggled big time in the last three years, having won just 18 of their last 39 encounters.
SCORCHERS NEED TO BRUSH ASIDE RUSTINESS
Perth will be without two of their key overseas stars - Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy - until Christmas, while there is no update on Ashton Agar's availability as well. The spin-bowling allrounder didn't feature in the T20I series after an apparent calf injury that he suffered in the final ODI. Livingstone (425) was their highest run-getter last season, while Roy is a proven match-winner up the order.
With these three not available, the Scorchers batting looked quite mediocre against the Renegades on Saturday. The wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Inglis, who scored over 400 runs last season, Colin Munro and England's Joe Clarke could only manage 19 runs in total, while the experienced campaigners Mitchell Marsh, Turner and Cameron Bancroft too failed to make an impact.
Last season, Perth had the best strike rate at the death scoring at 10.32 per over and it had largely to do with the way Marsh performed last season. The allrounder walked in to bat at No. 4 against the Renegades, while Bancroft batted at 6. However, it would be more ideal for Perth if they bat Bancroft at 4 and then let Marsh and Turner wreak havoc in the last few overs. The team management would also want the likes of Inglis, Munro and Clarke to hit the ground running and set a solid platform for their middle order.
Perth have a good bowling attack but they would need some runs on the board. As a matter of fact, they would need lots of runs against the Stars who have a formidable batting line-up.
STARS' 'UNDERRATED' BOWLING UNIT
It's very difficult to look past batsmen like Marcus Stoinis and Maxwell who have already stamped their authority in this edition, but it's the Stars bowling unit that has done the job for them in both games. Nathan Coulter-Nile was named Player of the Match in their first game after the right-arm paceman took four wickets to play a huge role in bundling Brisbane Heat out for just 125.
In their second game against Sydney Thunder, Stoinis got them off to an outstanding start but the Stars suffered a late collapse and could only manage a par total of 169 on a solid batting surface at the Manuka Oval, Canberra. Alex Hales and Callum Ferguson kept the Thunder steady in the run chase but that is when Adam Zampa and debutant Liam Hatcher stepped up and shared five wickets between them to turn the game in Melbourne's favour. Zampa in particular was outstanding, finishing with figures of 2/10.
Meanwhile, Dilbar Hussain could only bowl 1.5 overs in the last encounter and had to limp off the field after pulling his hamstring. The Pakistan seamer most probably won't play against the Scorchers and Coulter-Nile could return after missing the second game. There's no update on Zahir Khan either who is currently serving quarantine. But when it's done, the left-arm wristspinner would straightaway walk into the playing XI.
Perth Scorchers: Colin Munro, Josh Inglis (wk), Joe Clarke, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Turner (c), Cameron Bancroft, Aaron Hardie, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye, Joel Paris, Fawad Ahmed.
* Jason Behrendorff will miss this game for the birth of his second child.
Melbourne Stars: Marcus Stoinis, Andre Fletcher, Hilton Cartwright, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nick Larkin, Ben Dunk (wk), Clint Hinchliffe, Liam Hatcher, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Billy Stanlake.