Having taken the bragging rights in the Big Bash League's first Melbourne Derby of the season, the Stars would look to consolidate their position at the top-half of the table when they once again take on the depleted Aaron Finch-led side at Docklands Stadium on Wednesday (January 20). Cellar-dwellers Renegades are out of the race for the finals, while a win here would take Glenn Maxwell and Co. to second position in the points table.
The Stars got their campaign off to a superb start but lost five of their six games in the middle to find themselves at the bottom-half of the table. The Stars however are back in the contention having won their last two games in an authoritative fashion. Meanwhile, the Renegades have won only two of their 11 encounters and are on their way to finish last for the second consecutive season. The Men in Red have won just five of 25 games since winning the title in 2018-19.
FINCH CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE, AND SO DO RENEGADES
The Renegades batsmen have been dreadful this season and so have been their bowlers. Skipper Finch is having his worst BBL season, having scored just 159 runs in 10 innings at a mediocre average of 15.9. He has tried batting in different positions but nothing has worked for the Australian white-ball captain. On Sunday, Finch was knocked over for a two-ball duck, and would be eager to regain some form in the remaining three games. It's not just Finch, as almost every single Renegades batsman has struggled big time in this edition, with Shaun Marsh (30.1) being the only one averaging (barely) over 30.
Their bowling hasn't been great either. They have the worst economy rate (8.8) and strike rate (20.6) this season and have conceded a boundary every 5.5 deliveries. The second worst are Sydney Thunder who have leaked a boundary every 6.1 deliveries. Kane Richardson and Peter Hatzoglou have been amongst wickets but haven't been as disciplined as they would have liked in crunch situations.
The young guns like Jake Fraser-McGurk, Mackenzie Harvey, Will Sutherland, Hatzoglou, Noor Ahmad, Mitch Perry, Zak Evans and Jack Prestwidge have got a decent number of opportunities and the Renegades are going to continue to back them and nurture them for the coming seasons. Brayden Stepien and Brody Couch are the ones still waiting in the wings.
STARS' IMPRESSIVE BOWLING UNIT
The likes of Marcus Stoinis, Maxwell, Andre Fletcher, Nick Larkin, Hilton Cartwright and Nic Maddinson have all been amongst runs of late, but it's their bowlers who have emerged as the real match-winners. The Stars bowlers have a strike rate of 15 this season, which is best amongst all the eight teams. Adam Zampa has scalped 18 wickets in nine encounters, while Billy Stanlake and Liam Hatcher too have played their roles.
Zahir Khan and Maxwell have picked up 11 wickets between them but the two have offered solid support to Zampa. Haris Rauf is gone but the Stars team management would be delighted with the fact that Nathan Coulter-Nile is not far away from making his much-awaited return. The paceman hasn't played since he injured his calf on December 26.
Sydney Sixers (32 points) are two steps ahead of all the teams in the points table, while the Renegades are out of the finals race, but apart from that, there is a very close competition between the remaining six teams. If the Stars could manage a win here, it would give them some breathing space and they could also be on their way to attaining one of the top-two slots ahead of the finals.
Melbourne Renegades: Aaron Finch (c), Shaun Marsh, Mackenzie Harvey, Sam Harper (wk), Jake Fraser-McGurk, Beau Webster, Imad Wasim, Will Sutherland/Jack Prestwidge, Kane Richardson, Peter Hatzoglou, Noor Ahmad.
Melbourne Stars: Marcus Stoinis, Andre Fletcher, Nick Larkin, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nic Maddinson, Hilton Cartwright, Seb Gotch (wk), Adam Zampa, Liam Hatcher, Billy Stanlake, Zahir Khan.