It's been a lengthy, but thrilling BBL09 season to date and we are on the home stretch with just two games to go. Teh Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder will face off in 'The Challenger' on Thursday night.
The winner of the game will go on to face the Sydney Sixers in the final on Saturday night, who defeated the Stars convincingly last week. See our full preview and tips for Thursday night's game below.
Melbourne Stars Squad (13): Glenn Maxwell (c), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Peter Handscomb, Clint Hinchliffe, Dilbar Hussain, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Haris Rauf, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa
Sydney Thunder Squad (13): Callum Ferguson (C) (12), Jonathan Cook (50), Brendan Doggett (35), Matt Gilkes (22), Alex Hales (6), Usman Khawaja (18), Jay Lenton (70), Nathan McAndrew (44), Chris Morris (24), Arjun Nair (7), Alex Ross (49), Daniel Sams (60), Chris Tremain (20)
The Melbourne Stars woes in the BBL finals continued in their first game against the Sixers last week. The Sixers batted first and set a respectable 142 off their 20 overs. The total would have seemed extremely manageable for the talented Stars batting line-up, however, they suffered a monumental collapse in their innings, losing three wickets in the first five overs and eventually being bowled out for just 99.
Marcus Stoinis has been the in-form batsman of the competition so far and a lot will rest on his shoulders in this final. He'll have an extra point to prove after being left out of both the ODI and T20 squads for the upcoming tour of South Africa despite smashing 612 runs at a ridiculous average of 55.64 this BBL season. He was dominant against the Thunder in their two games earlier in the season, belting 58 off 51 in the first game and then 50 off 44 just a few days later in the second game, both wins. If the Stars are to win this game as we expect they will, expect Stoinis to go large at the MCG, where he averages 34.63 across 26 career games.
The Thunder have stunned the league twice in the playoffs so far and will be looking to cause their third straight upset victory to book a place against their cross town rivals in the BBL09 final. In the first game, they downed an in-form Hobart Hurricanes by 57 runs after posting a massive score of 197. Just a few days later, they travelled to Adelaide to take on the Strikers, where they were once again successful batting first, setting 151 and winning by 8 runs.
Alex Hales was massive in the last three games of the regular season and has been arguably the player of the finals series so far with two match-winning performances against the Hurricanes and Thunder. In his last five games, the opener has smashed 314 runs at an average of 62.8. This has pushed his run line all the way up to 25.5 for this match, which we actually think is a bit too high. He has a dismal record against the Stars, scoring just 31 runs across four games at an average of 7.75 and the bigger MCG ground might give him problems here.
The two Sydney teams might be the form sides in the competition at the moment but how can you look past the resume that the Stars have put together throughout the year. They were basically untouchable until a few dead rubbers at the end of the season broke their form. In such a big game though, we expect them to bounce back on the back of big performances from their star players in Stoinis, Maxwell and Zampa.
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