The Melbourne Stars have avoided an embarrassing straight-sets finals exit after blitzing the Sydney Thunder by 28 runs in their BBL preliminary final at the MCG.
All the pressure was on the Stars after finishing the regular season on top of the ladder, but they were a class above in smashing 2-194 – their highest score in a finals match.
Thursday night’s result ensures the Stars progress through to their third BBL decider and they will face the Sydney Sixers on Saturday night at what is expected to be a wet and soggy SCG.
The Thunder will rue costly dropped chances off Stars batsmen Marcus Stoinis and Nick Larkin. They went on to punish the visitors with a 117-run second-wicket partnership.
In-form opener Stoinis should have been out for 19, but Thunder wicketkeeper Jay Lenton put down a simple catch in farcical circumstances off Chris Morris’ bowling.
Larkin was dropped by Daniel Sams near the boundary when he was on eight, before going on to record his highest Twenty20 score with his unbeaten 83.
He took a while to find his groove, but Larkin stepped up a gear with some clean-hitting when Stoinis was bowled by Morris in the 17th over.
Stoinis passed Hobart’s D’Arcy Short (637) for the most runs in a BBL season to reach a total of 695 for the tournament.
Usually a fan of bowling first, Maxwell decided to bat after winning the bat flip in front of a disappointing crowd of 13,067.
Haris Rauf dismisses Callum Ferguson
When the Thunder batted, former international Nathan Coulter-Nile dismissed danger man Alex Hales with a terrific run-out, before bowling Usman Khawaja for 23.
Once captain Callum Ferguson went out shortly after, the Thunder’s hopes of making the final an all-Sydney affair were dashed, but Alex Ross fought hard with 58.
The Stars have made the finals in eight of the nine BBL seasons, but are one of only two teams – along with Hobart – who are yet to win a title.