Sunday, January 24, 2015, Watch on Network 10
Melbourne Stars: Second
Sydney Thunder: Fourth
Melbourne Stars: 5-3
Sydney Thunder: 4-4
Melbourne Stars: 10
Sydney Thunder: 8
Last five matches
Melbourne Stars: WWLWW
Sydney Thunder: WWLLL
THEY almost missed the finals all together, but now the Sydney Thunder are playing off for the KFC T20 Big Bash League final in their first ever post season campaign.
They will take on another side that is experiencing a first, with the Melbourne Stars finally banishing the hoodoo that had them eliminated at the semi final stage of the four previous Big Bash League competitions.
And the punters simply cannot split them!
Both teams are $1.90 to take victory in the decider on the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground turf this Sunday night.
The Thunder smashed the Adelaide Strikers in the semi final on Thursday night on the back of a peerless century from superstar opener Usman Khawaja.
The Stikers won the toss and elected to bat, but that looked a disastrous decision when both openers were removed with the score at 11. They rallied back through 47 from Alex Ross and 27 of 16 from Michael Neser, but their 7/159 never looked enough. Clint McKay was the chief destroyer with 3/44.
The Thunder lost just two wickets in the chase, passing the score with 14 balls to spare.
When he was done, Khawaja, who has starred in the Test arena in recent months, had pummelled 13 boundaries and three sixes on his way to an unbeaten 104 off 59 balls.
His half century came from just 24 deliveries, with nine fours and a six in his first 21 balls.
While former Aussie stars Shane Watson (7) and Mike Hussey (11) came and went, it was unheralded Kiwi Henry Nicholls who played foil for Khawaja, first grafting and then teeing off on his way to 35 off 27 balls.
“I’m hitting the ball really well,” Khawaja said after the match
“I don’t think too much when I play cricket.
“I wanted to get off to a good start and thankfully I did … and I’m glad I was there at the end.”
It was a huge win for a club that had never made the finals in four previous attempts and it’s hard to believe Khawaja was left out of the Australian squad for the T20 World Cup in India.
The Stars similarly hammered the Perth Scorchers with a miserly bowling performance that set it up for the great man Kevin Pietersen to drive the run chase.
Adam Voges and Michael Klinger were the chief run scorers in the Scorchers’ 7/139, the captain cracking 52 off 40 balls with six boundaries, with the opener managing 44 off 45 balls, the pair putting on 79.
But the wheels fell off when Klinger fell with the score at 2/109, the Scorchers losing 2/0 as part of a collapse of 5/26.
Unheralded swinging maestro David Worrall moved it all over the place early and he was the most dangerous bowler with 3/25, while spinner Michael Beer was his usual unplayable self with 1/22 off his four – under six an over – along with leggie Adam Zampa with the same figures.
KP then tore apart the Scorchers to lead his side into the grand final, clubbing 62 off 36 balls with five fours and two sixes, the Stars cruising to victory with 11 balls to spare.
Marcus Stoinis was also a key figure for the Stars with 44 off 41 balls at the top of the order, the 69 run partnership with Pietersen helping break the chase’s back.
Champion South African all rounder Jacques Kallis, who just retired from international cricket, is set to play in the final, after missing the Thunder’s semi final win with injury.
And it’s shaping as a Hussey vs. Hussey classic, with captains and brothers Mike and David set to lead their sides into battle in the biggest match of backyard cricket they have ever been in.
Mike will play his last competitive game of cricket.
The Thunder lost four games in a row in the middle part of the competition and only a last round win in the Sydney Smash against the Sixers, coupled with a Melbourne Renegades loss, saw them sneak in to the finals.
They have struck form at the right time and that gorgeous top order of Khawaja, Kallis, Hussey, Nicholls, Rohrer and Russell is so turbo charged it would probably pick apart most international bowling attacks.
Bookmaker specials on the T20 Big Bash League final
Place a pre-match bet on the Big Bash final and bet365 will refund your first In-Play bet on that game to the same stake up to $100 if it loses.
Place a head to head bet on the Big Bash final and if your team scores 160 runs or more but loses, Luxbet will provide a bonus bet equal to your stake up to $100.
Sportsbet is offering the same thing as LuxBet, except it’s return is $50, instead of $100.
For the first two overs of the Big Bash final, the in-play head to head market odds will be the same as when the first ball is bowled.
Match result: Sydney Thunder wins ($1.90 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Highest opening partnership: Sydney Thunder ($1.66 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Have the Thunder already played their grand final? That’s the big question on every one’s lips. They absolutely destroyed Adelaide, thanks to some largely disciplined bowling and some devastating batting from the chief Khawaja. Can they put it all together again for one last tilt? If they can, the fairytale would be complete. The Stars finally busted out of their semi final failures and will play in their first final. The balanced attack of swing and spin will have to be at its absolute best against the dynamic Thunder batting line up. Whether it’s Khawaja and Kallis or Khawaja and Watson, that top two should deliver the goods for the Thunder in the highest opening partnership stakes. The Thunder held off the fast finishing Stars by one run in their clash this season, making 6/178 on the back of a ton from Khawaja, before holding Melbourne to 5/177, with Pietersen’s 76 off 42 the best. Let’s hope for a repeat thriller.
Top run scorer
Kevin Pietersen ($3 with sportsbet.com.au)
The biggest star on the biggest stage is the man of the moment. Pietersen, more than any other player in this match – save for maybe Andre Russell – has the ability to have the most influence on the result. He has had a tendency to get going and then get out before the job is done, but he will be keen to atone for the loss to the Thunder when he smashed 84, but got out at a crucial time and left his team mates one run short of victory. If he scores plenty, the Stars will win.
Usman Khawaja ($2.60 with sportsbet.com.au)
We tossed up with our last tip, before picking Andre Russell. The issue there is always the fact that the big hitting West Indian bats in the middle to lower order, so he doesn’t always get a hit. Ussie has perhaps become the best batsman in the entire Big Bash League. He is in the form of his life and basically hit the ball out of the screws 59 times for 104 runs in the semi final. We should have picked him for the semi, so we’re not making the same mistake twice. Watch this majestic left hander pick apart the bowling attack on his way to yet another huge individual total.
Top wicket taker tips
Daniel Worrall ($4 with sportsbet.com.au)
Who the hell even is this kid? One thing we know is the Victorian born South Australian seamer knows how to swing a ball. Is he the heir apparent to the Bowlologist Damien Fleming? He certainly has a good teacher at the Stars in Ben Hilfenhaus. This kid has burst onto the scene with a pair of superb performances in his last two outings and the Thunder will no doubt fear his gentle seamers that hoop all over the place.
Andre Russell ($4 with sportsbet.com.au)
Was pipped by McKay in the wicket taking stakes, but always gives himself a chance with his mixture of length, pace and variation. Russell is all shoulder when he hits the crease and his fast action makes it hard for the batsmen to pick his variation. The West Indian will be stiff not to win the player of the tournament when it is announced. He could put the icing on the cake with a dominant performance with the rock in the grand final. Is uber talented with both bat and ball, but his value has been most evident in his ability to bowl with the new ball and at the death with equal aplomb.
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