Adelaide Strikers vs. Sydney Thunder, Thursday, January 21, 2015, 7.40pm AEDT, Adelaide Oval
Melbourne Stars vs. Perth Scorchers, Friday January 22, 2015, 7.40pm AEDT, Melbourne Cricket Ground
AND then there were four.
The four best teams in the fifth incarnation of the KFC T20 Big Bash League will square off in a pair of semi finals this Thursday and Friday.
And the question on every one’s lips is can the Melbourne Stars some how break their hoodoo and make it past the semi final round?
They have made it in all five seasons of the Big Bash to date, but never won. And they have to make it past their nemesis, the Perth Scorchers.
A massive MCG crowd is set to watch the Stars take on the league’s historical bench mark, the Scorchers having made the finals in every season of the Big Bash League, twice winning the title.
But they will have some very encouraging form to take into the match, having stolen a home final from the Scorchers with a crushing final round victory.
Such is the nature of the Big Bash, the Stars were not even assured of a finals berth going into the match, but their 52 run win catapulted them up the ladder and into a home final.
The Stars made 9/146, captain David Hussey top scoring with 36 off 25 balls and then restricted the Scorchers to just 94, Adam Voges playing a lone hand with an unbeaten 46 off 51 balls.
Unheralded Daniel Worrall and former Aussie seamer Ben Hilfenhaus ripped through with three wickets each, with Matt Dixon emulating their effort for the Scorchers.
In Adelaide, the Strikers are the favourites to win the Big Bash League title at $3.20 with WilliamHill.com.au, but will have the Sydney Thunder – outsiders at $4.25 with the same bookie – to win the title.
The Strikers finished on top of the ladder, losing just one match, winning through to their second straight semi final.
The Thunder are contesting their first ever finals series, but possess a potent line up led by Mike Hussey, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and potential player of the tournament Andre Russell.
The only meeting between these two sides this season adds to the intrigue of this match.
While the Strikers, with the likes of master blaster Travis Head and gun old hand Brad Hodge leading the way, are the favourites, they were hammered by the Thunder by seven wickets earlier this season.
In that match, the Thunder, thanks to two wickets each to Russell and Clint McKay, held the Strikers to just 9/117 (Hodge led the way with 34 off 33) and then cruised to 3/121 in just 16.3 overs for an easy win, Jacques Kallis carrying his bat for 49 off 48 balls.
If the Thunder can match the intensity of that match, they will go a long way toward winning their way into the final.
Semi Final 1: Adelaide Strikers vs. Sydney Thunder
Adelaide Strikers (1st)
Match odds: $1.72 with CrownBet.com.au
Most runs tip: Travis Head ($4.33 with sportsbet.com.au)
The competition’s third highest run scorer has managed his 276 runs at the ridiculous strike rate of 156.8. Head’s stunning Big Bash League emergence has bore much fruit, the young star selected in the Australian T20 World Cup squad for India. The Strikers’ batting becomes almost unstoppable when he fires and, whether they are chasing or setting a total, it will probably need to be big against a side with one of the strongest batting line ups in the competition.
Most wickets tip: Adil Rashid ($3.25 with sportsbet.com.au)
The wily English man weaved a web of deception over the Big Bash League this season to take 15 wickets, more than any other player. His economy rate of 6.39 was good enough for fifth, indicating that he not only ran through teams, but he strangled them as well. His variation is as good as any ones in the competition and he is the man the Thunder will fear most in a side packed with bowling talent.
Sydney Thunder (4th)
Match odds: $2.12 with CrownBet.com.au
Most runs tip: Shane Watson ($4.33 with sportsbet.com.au)
Has the indomitable Mike Hussey, who finished second on the Big Bash League’s run scorer table, to contend with, but the 34 year old has recently struck some serious form, much of his 222 runs coming in the latter stages of the competition. Is perhaps Australia’s most maligned cricketer, but there is no doubting his talent in the shortest form of the game. He’s just been picked in Australia’s 17 man T20 World Cup squad, after believing his international career might be over, and that might just be the tonic for a massive score in a final to cement his spot.
Most wickets tip: Andre Russell ($3.75 with sportsbet.com.au)
The West Indian gun for hire has taken the Big Bash League by storm and probably would have been its highest profile player, were it not for the Chris Gayle experience. Can tear a side apart with both bat (he has a strike rate of nearly 200) and ball, as evidenced by the 14 wickets he has taken, sharing second spot on the competition’s pole list with team mate Clint McKay.
Semi Final 2: Melbourne Stars vs. Perth Scorchers
Melbourne Stars (2nd)
Match odds: $1.90 with CrownBet.com.au
Most runs tip: Kevin Pietersen ($3.60 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Is there a more elegant batsman to watch than KP when he is tearing a side apart. His Big Bash League season might best be remembered for his stunning shot making when calling where he was going to deposit the bowlers against the Sydney Thunder – and then doing it – in an innings of 76. Recent form has been a worry, but you have to back him in to bounce back in such an important game.
Most wickets tip: Adam Zampa ($4 with sportsbet.com.au)
The unheralded Zampa might seem like an odd tip, but the Stars have had a workman like approach to their bowling this season, with no real stand outs to speak of. No Stars player is in double figures for wickets, but Zampa leads the way with nine, equal with the much more seasoned Hilfenhaus. The leggie can give it a rip and will be hoping to do some damage to a Scorchers line up that will miss superstar Shaun Marsh, but still boast an impressive array of weapons to throw at the Stars.
Perth Scorchers (3rd)
Match odds: $1.90 with CrownBet.com.au
Most runs tip: Michael Klinger ($3.75 with sportsbet.com.au)
Without Marsh, Klinger is the key man for the Scorchers and when he fell for a duck against the Stars last time out, all hope was lost. You can almost stamp it that we won’t see a repeat of that, with the run machine, who has blasted 241 runs at over 40, hell bent on atonement. If he can pick apart the openers and Voges continues his hot form, the Scorchers will be unstoppable.
Most wickets tip: David Willey ($4 with sportsbet.com.au)
Looks like we’re on the Pommy bandwagon for our tips for the semis, with another English man in Willey making an appearance. Willey has the nine wickets at 26, and has to contend with the likes of Tye (13) and Behrendorff (10), but we feel like the Stars will use caution against those two and try and take to the pom. That could be a big mistake – we’re backing him for a big one here.
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