Season 5 of the Big Bash League has reached the final with the Melbourne Stars to take on the Sydney Thunder at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday night to bring the BBL05 season to a thrilling end.
BBL05 Overall Profit/Loss: +8.98 units (17-10) (updated 25th Jan)
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Sunday January 23rd 7:20pm AEDST
It’s the first time that either team has reached the final of the BBL competition with both having very different, but equally frustrating journeys over the years in the Big Bash League.
The Stars have been pre-season favourites every year of the five seasons of the BBL and every season they have progressed to the semi-finals. In previous seasons, that was as far as they could get. With their marquee players pulled into the Australian ODI side at this time every season, they have always struggled to fill the holes as their depth has been tested. Not this year. Just when we thought the Stars were a chance to miss the semis altogether after losing to the bottom-placed Heat in the second-last round, the Stars rocked the Scorchers on their home turf in the final round and then proved it wasn’t a fluke in the semi-final. Dan Worrall, Ben Hilfenhaus and Evan Gulbis wouldn’t be getting a game if this team was at full strength, but they have stood up over the last two games to carry the Stars into the final.
Of course they can also thank the impressive batting of Kevin Pietersen. The enigmatic Englishman smoked the Scorchers in the semi-final and made batting look easy when earlier on in the evening it didn’t appear that way. Pietersen scored 62 off 36 and was only out after the game was already won when attempting a reverse sweep.
Pietersen is the key member of the Stars batting line up. Luke Wright has had a decent season, and Marcus Stoinis made a useful 44 from 41 in the semi-final, but otherwise the Stars do lack fire power with the bat. The fact that Evan Gulbis saved their bacon twice in recent matches, shows how badly they rely on Pietersen, and also how much they miss the striking of Maxwell and Faulkner in the middle/lower order.
The Stars are certainly not the team that I thought would be playing in the final this season. On paper, they don’t have the same sort of depth as their opponent, but they are proving that wise heads and cohesiveness can go a long way.
They are up against a Thunder franchise getting their first taste of success in the BBL. They have finished last or second last in every season to date, so already this is their best campaign by far. The worry is that they are already satisfied with their achievements this year by just making the final. They need to be hungry for that trophy.
The Thunder recruited really well this season and their emphasis on all-rounders has paid dividends with Shane Watson, Jacques Kallis and Andre Russell making an impact this season with both bat and ball. The Thunder will be sweating the fitness of Kallis and will be hoping he recovers from his groin strain to take his place in the team.
Usman Khawaja has dominated in the couple of appearances he has made for the Thunder this season. What a talent he is! I’m genuinely excited to see what he can become on the international stage. Let’s hope he gets in the T20 World Cup squad. Khawaja is clearly the key wicket for the Stars bowlers. Get him out cheaply will take the Stars a long way to victory, but if he gets going, watch out! Last time these two sides met at the MCG, Khawaja scored one of the most blistering hundreds you'll ever see as the Thunder held on to win by just one run.
Of course the Thunder have plenty of batting depth with the above mentioned players, skipper Mike Hussey, as well as Ben Rohrer and Aiden Blizzard making valuable contributions this season.
If there’s any weakness for the Thunder it’s potentially with the ball. Clint McKay has had a great season and Fawad Ahmed is certainly a tricky leg spinner to face at times, however the Thunder have gone with the youth of Chris Green and Nathan McAndrew. It will be a real test to see if they can stand tall under the pressure of a final.
Odds: Melbourne Stars ($1.85) vs Sydney Thunder ($1.95) at Sportsbet
Verdict: It’s an exciting final with Australia’s two largest cities going at it for the title for the very first time. The fairytale story would be the Thunder rising from easy beats to champions, and that’s the way I think this final will go. There’s no doubt that the Stars have played well recently, and play the expansive MCG field very well, but the Thunder are an experience and highly-talented unit. They have a superb batting line up that can post a big score that will make it very hard for the Stars to reach.
Bet: Sydney Thunder to win at $1.95 at Sportsbet – 2 units
The fantastic Big Bash League promotion has returned at Bet365 for the remainder of the BBL05 season. Place a pre-match bet on a Big Bash League match, then place an In-play bet on the same match. If your In-play bet loses, you'll receive a refund of that bet up to the size of your pre-match bet (max $100). You're effectively getting a free bet up to $100 on every match!
Follow Mr.Cricket on Twitter at @MrCricketBYB
Make sure to read full terms and conditions of any betting promotion before placing any bets.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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