The match in a tweet: Strikers seize second place in tight finals race by beating front-running Stars for second time in BBL|09
The Score: Adelaide Strikers 4-162 (Wells 55no, Carey 33, Short 23no; Hinchliffe 3-19) defeated Melbourne Stars 8-151 (Handscomb 65no; Siddle 4-33, Agar 2-30) by 11 runs
The Hero: Jon Wells has established himself as the most reliable and versatile element of Adelaide Strikers top-order batting, and his unbeaten 55 from 36 balls this evening was perhaps the most important knock of his most productive BBL season. Arriving at the crease with his team 3-51 and battling to generate any momentum, Wells was typically unfazed and belted four boundaries as well as two sixes as he carried the Strikers to a competitive total that had – for the first half of their innings – appeared out of reach. The 31-year-old has now topped 400 runs for BBL|09, placing him among the top echelon of batters in this campaign.
The Support Cast: Wes Agar began BBL|09 as an auxiliary member of Adelaide Strikers’ seam attack. But as the third-highest leading wicket-taker behind Rashid Khan and Peter Siddle, Agar was called to the bowling crease as the Stars batter looked to impose themselves on the game. Despite being crashed for four and six by Glenn Maxwell, the 22-year-old claimed the vital wickets of Maxwell and Nick Larkin, He might also have added Stars captain Peter Handscomb but for a tight lbw call, and ended his four-over spell with 2-30.
The Consolation Act: Left-arm orthodox spinner Clint Hinchliffe would have happily star billing behind the Stars’ higher-profile tweakers Adam Zampa, Sandeep Lamichhane and Glenn Maxwell. However, the 23-year-old stole the limelight when brought into the spin-based attack immediately after the power-play. In the space of three overs he dismissed Adelaide Strikers big three – Travis Head, Jake Weatherald and Alex Carey to pocket the best bowling figures of his 11-game BBL career (3-19 from three overs).
The Heavy Heart: Following the death of his close friend, the former Australia and Victoria women’s cricket representative Tammy Foster, Glenn Maxwell chose to forego captaincy duties which were assumed by his senior Stars’ teammate, Peter Handscomb. But Maxwell’s influence remained as potent as ever, from the moment he took the ball for the second over of his team’s innings. He claimed the vital wicket of Phil Salt an over after the Strikers opener had thrashed four consecutive boundaries from seamer Daniel Worrall, and finished with 1-19 from his four overs He then threatened to take hold of the game of the bat, thumping a boundary and a six from consecutive deliveries before he holed-out to extra cover for 19 off 16 balls.
The Stand-in Skipper: With Maxwell standing down from leadership duties in sombre circumstances, Peter Handscomb stepped into the role just a day after stepping off the plane from India with Australia’s men’s ODI team. Handscomb showed signs of having played little competitive cricket over the past few weeks, but with the Stars facing a near-hopeless task he found his groove to blast 41 from his final 16 balls to finish unbeaten on 65.
The Catch: If Adelaide was going to successfully defend their 162, they needed to dismiss the tournament’s leading scorer and stand-out batter, Marcus Stoinis, before he could inflict significant damage. When Stoinis (on five) miscued an attempted flick over square leg the ball hung for seconds in the night sky, along with the home team’s early hopes. Phil Salt hared back from his position at mid-on inside the inner-circle, and covered around 25m at full sprint before clutching the catch that brought the crowd to its feet.
The Over: Under thick cloud and cool conditions that seemed destined to favour bowlers, Adelaide’s opening pair found scoring almost impossible against the Stars’ spin and seam in the first two overs, which yielded just five runs. However, come the third (from swing bowler Daniel Worrall), UK import Phil Salt decided something had to give and he peppered the boundary to post four consecutive fours – all clubbed through the leg side – to give the Strikers innings a pulse.
The Spin: Adelaide opted to go pace-heavy and omitted leg spinner Liam O’Connor in favour of towering quick Billy Stanlake. But it became clear in from the start of their innings that a lack of pace on the ball loomed as a key. With four specialist spinners in their line-up – including Maxwell who shared the new-ball – the Stars were able to exert crucial pressure and claim early wickets. The Stars even opted to employ part-time spinner Nic Maddinson for an over, with the quicks sending down just a quarter of the Stars’ 20-over allocation. It was the first time in BBL history a team has delivered 15 overs of spin.
The Next Stops: Already assured of finishing atop the ladder, Melbourne Stars’ last hit-out prior to finals comes against the mercurial Brisbane Heat at the MCG on Saturday. Adelaide Strikers’ next assignment is in Perth against the fourth-placed Scorchers on Friday.
Adelaide Strikers XI: Philip Salt, Jake Weatherald, Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (wk), Matt Short, Jonathan Wells, Michael Neser, Rashid Khan, Peter Siddle, Wes Agar, Billy Stanlake
Melbourne Stars XI: Marcus Stoinis, Nic Maddinson, Nick Larkin, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb (c), Seb Gotch (wk), Clint Hinchliffe, Adam Zampa, Daniel Worrall, Lance Morris, Sandeep Lamichhane