Like in most other seasons, the Melbourne Stars are off to a flier. A fortnight ago, in consecutive games played in a span of fewer than 24 hours, Stars earned themselves two easy wins to earn themselves eight points. Rain intervened in their third game and no result was possible.
The biggest plus for the side in green is that their skipper – Glenn Maxwell – has put the horrors of the IPL behind him. Since regaining form while playing for Australia, he has contributed heavily in the two wins for his Melbourne franchise.
With the ball, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zama have been on fire. Their economy rate in the matches so far has been under five as they stand peerless.
The story for their opponents in Match 15, is a little more dramatic. Needing 62 off the last seven overs with nine wickets in hand, the Sixers succumbed to quality death bowling by the Hurricanes in their first match and ended 16 runs short.
The Sixers overcame that loss with a 145-run victory against the Renegades, a BBL record for the margin of victory. In their third game against the Strikers, their innings seemed to be going nowhere. They were 61/3 at the end of 12 overs. But, Dan Christian blasted a 16-ball 50 as he did not spare even Rashid Khan. The target of 178 ended up being a bridge too far for the Strikers.
Now, the two strong teams with wins under their belt will face each other at the Carrara Oval.
Akin to the franchise from Mumbai, the defending champs in the BBL have been the most dominant side so far with both bat and ball. Their win against Renegades might be skewing this in their favour but the numbers still look daunting.
Each of top-6 batsmen from the Sixers has been among the runs and has played atleast one innings of substance. As many as five bowlers have an economy rate of under eight, an exceptional feat in the format.
The Melbourne Stars are also not far behind with the ball – the facet of the game that has let them down in the past and has kept them without a title so far. They have been the second-best bowling unit on economy. Accompanying Zampa and Coulter-Nile, they have two other bowlers – Dilbar Hussian and Liam Hatcher – who have an economy of under seven.
However, with the bat, the Stars have relied heavily on Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Hilton Cartwright. An early sign of worry for the Stars has been their batting at the death. Their run-rate of 7.1 in this phase so far is the lowest among teams. Their opponents, the Sixers, are at the other end of the spectrum with a run-rate of 11 in overs 16-20. This also points out to the fact that if Maxwell promotes himself, there is a drop in quality in the lower middle-order. But, all this can witness a significant change with the presence of Nicholas Pooran who was in the XI in the washed-off game.
Whatever the Stars lack with the bat, they make it up with the ball. An economy of 5.8 at the death is not only the best but also exceptional.
If the venue holds any advantage, that will also work in favour of the Stars. Although this will be the first game at the Carrara Oval this season, the Stars have played three games here in the two seasons prior to this. The Sixers have had just one outing here.
Two strong sides with a number of big names against each other, the clash is all set to fit the bill.
Sydney Sixers: Josh Philippe (wk), Jack Edwards, James Vince, Daniel Hughes ©, Jordan Silk, Daniel Christian, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Ben Dwarshuis, Ben Manenti, Steve O'Keefe
Melbourne Stars: Marcus Stoinis, Andre Fletcher, Hilton Cartwright, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nicholas Pooran (wk), Nic Maddinson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Clint Hinchliffe, Tom O'Connell, Liam Hatcher, Billy Stanlake