The Melbourne Stars have won more games in the last 10 days than they did all of last season but the major test will come over the next fortnight.
An underwhelming crowd of 8156 meant that the experiment to take a home game to the Gold Coast couldn’t be considered a raging success, but in the middle, the Stars handled the slow Carrara pitch better than Sydney Thunder to record a third-straight victory and move to second on the Big Bash League ladder.
Jono Cook is run out by Dwayne Bravo of the Stars.Credit:AAP
It’s a refreshing change for Melbourne’s supposed glamour club, who have again found their groove after a dire campaign last season in which they won just two of 10 games, and a slow start to this season in which they dropped their first two.
To win their next three will take some doing. Already missing Test batsman Peter Handscomb, the Stars will have to make do without captain Glenn Maxwell, in-form all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, leg-spinner Adam Zampa, as well as Handscomb, all of whom are part of the Australian one-day international squad which convenes in Sydney next week.
The ODI window takes in the Stars’ games against the Perth Scorchers (MCG) on Wednesday night, the Adelaide Strikers (Adelaide Oval) on Friday and the Hobart Hurricanes (MCG) on January 14.
The representative quartet is close to irreplaceable, although the Stars should at least benefit from the imminent inclusion of off-season recruit Nic Maddinson, who is set to make his Stars debut against the Scorchers after breaking his arm in the Sheffield Shield last month.
Glenn Maxwell fields deep at Metricon Stadium. Credit:AAP
Speaking after the match, Maxwell wouldn't reveal who will captain the Stars in his absence but has earmarked Maddinson to fill the hole at No. 4.
"There’s obviously some guys who have been biding their time and will get opportunities," Maxwell said.
Thunder captain Shane Watson won the bat flip but his side struggled to generate momentum. The destroyer-in-chief for the Stars was paceman Scott Boland, who liberally used cutters to get the most out of the wicket. Boland removed this season’s leading run-scorer Jos Buttler for 18, before Callum Ferguson departed for a golden duck the following ball. Boland wasn’t far off taking a hat-trick either, drawing the edge of England Test captain Joe Root only for the ball to fall short of gloveman Seb Gotch.
Glenn Maxwell guided the Stars home.Credit:AAP
Boland finished with 2-28 from his four overs, and had plenty of help. Dwayne Bravo (1-18) did an outstanding job at the death, while Stoinis, Zampa, and English import Liam Plunkett all struck. The Thunder fell to 5-71 when Root departed for 26, and if not for the lusty swinging of Daniel Sams (42 from 25 balls, including four sixes), the match might have been over considerably earlier.
Ben Dunk made a bright start but remains unable to truly break the shackles, gone for 13 after clipping Sams to short extra-cover.
Still, the Stars were never really made to sweat as Stoinis took to young spinner Jono Cook. Stoinis fell for 34 to Fawad Ahmed but Maxwell (41 not out) and Nick Larkin (41 not out) controlled the chase from there as the Stars cruised to an eight-wicket win with 16 balls to spare, Maxwell sealing the deal with a six.
Maxwell also said he had been keeping his head stiller at the crease to pick up slower balls.
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