It had looked likely from a long way out that Hobart Hurricanes would top the Big Bash ladder as the dominant team of the group stage. However, such is the nature of the tournament – and the lack of a second chance for the table-topping team to reach the final – that one bad day can undo all the good work of the season.
Blundstone Arena has become a fortress for them this season with five victories in five games, and another in the semi-final would mean they get to host the grand final on Sunday. Their season has been driven by the prolific opening pair of Matthew Wade and D’Arcy Short, backed up by consistent contributions by George Bailey and Ben McDermott in the middle order.
The bowling has benefited from the resurgence of James Faulkner, who has recovered from a niggle to be available for the semi-final, as part of an attack that has all bases covered – especially since the signing of legspinner Qais Ahmad for the closing stages of the competition. However, Riley Meredith’s recent struggles may have created a bit of a headache.
Melbourne Stars left it late to book their place in the knockouts – they had three chances to secure the last lot of points they needed, and it took them until the last of those to get there. And then, too, it needed a special innings from Glenn Maxwell against Sydney Sixers. It had been a slightly quiet season for Maxwell until then, but if he has timed his form right then anything is possible for the Stars who can call on a host of international names.
What happened in the group stage
December 24, Hobart: Hurricanes 4 for 156 (Wade 52, Lamichhane 3-24) beat Stars 5 for 155 (Maxwell 47, Larkin 45, Archer 3-25) by six wickets
January 14, Melbourne: Hurricanes 2 for 185 (Short 96) beat Stars 126 (Meredith 4-21) by 59 runs
Run to the finals
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
James Faulkner sat out the final group match against Sydney Thunder as a cautious approach was taken over a troublesome knee and his absence was noticeable. He has been a key part of the Hurricanes’ success, leading their wicket-takers’ table with 18 strikes while bowling at the toughest stages of the innings. Against a batting line-up that boasts Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Peter Handscomb, Faulkner’s four overs could have a huge say on the outcome.
Nepal legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane has become a globe-trotting T20 star, so much so that the Stars had to manage without him for the middle phase of the season as he went to the Bangladesh Premier League. After the BBL finals, he’s off to the Pakistan Super League. For the next few days, however, he could be the trump card for the Stars. When these two sides previously met in Hobart, he took 3 for 24, but was unable to stave off defeat. It will be interesting to see whether Maxwell uses him early against the Hurricanes’ powerhouse top two of Wade and Short.
The fit-again Faulkner returns in place of Tom Rogers.
Hobart Hurricanes Matthew Wade (capt), Qais Ahmad, Jofra Archer, George Bailey, Alex Doolan, James Faulkner, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Simon Milenko, David Moody, Clive Rose, D’Arcy Short
Nick Larkin has been approved as an injury replacement for Travis Dean and comes into the squad in place of Jackson Coleman.
Melbourne Stars Glenn Maxwell (capt), Jackson Bird, Dwayne Bravo, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Sandeep Lamichhane, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Marcus Stoinis, Dan Worrall, Adam Zampa
Stats and trivia
The 810 runs scored between Wade and Short is already the second-best by any pair in any T20 series or tournament (minimum 13 innings). The only pair with a higher aggregate is Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, who had added 939 runs in 13 innings in the Indian Premier League 2016.
The Hurricanes’ two victories over the Stars this season boosted what had been a poor head-to-head. In their 10 meetings, the tally is now 6-4 in favour of the Stars.