The Melbourne Stars host the Sydney Sixers on Friday night at the MCG for a game that is known as ‘The Qualifier’. The Qualifier is between the top two teams at the end of the regular season and it is the ideal game to win. The winner will go straight into the BBL 09 final and will be the host, which means we will see the final take place at either the SCG or MCG this year. The loser of this match will meet the winner of the Knockout match on Saturday for ‘The Challenger’ game on Thursday 6th February for a place in the final.
Both teams have been very good all season and they have one win each against one another this year, with the Stars scoring a big win at the MCG with Stoinis hitting 147 not out before the Sixes got revenge just over a week later, winning by 21 runs via Duckworth-Lewis.
The Stars ended the regular season on top of the table and despite a few below par results seeing them lose their last three, they should come into this with plenty of confidence on the back of an overall strong campaign so far. They also receive the huge boost of strike bowler, Haris Rauf returning to their squad from international duty. Rauf has been devastating so far in BBL09 with 16 wickets in just 7 games and will look to continue that form into the finals.
The Sixers are coming into this in a totally different fashion to the Stars, having won their last three matches and they travel to the MCG with the added confidence of beating the Stars the last time they met. The Sixers have made one change to their squad for this clash, with their all-time leading wicket taker, Sean Abbott returning from injury. This should be one close and high quality contest.
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 Sixers Squad (13): Moises Henriques (c), Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Ben Dwarshuis, Josh Hazlewood, Dan Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Philippe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, Steve Smith, James Vince
How can you go past Stoinis here. He has been in scintillating form this season and is the current top run scorer in the BBL by over 100 runs. He has managed 607 runs in his 14 matches, including one hundred and five fifties which has seen him average just over 60 this season. Stoinis should appreciate the predictability of the Sixers bowling attack and get the Stars off to a great start.
Stoinis has two big scores in both games against the Sixers this season. He has his high score of 147 not out at their game at the MCG as well as a 62 off only 37 balls in the return fixture at the SCG. Stoinis also has the highest average of any batsmen in the history of clashes between these two sides of 63.25. There is no reason to suggest why Stoinis can’t replicate those performances again as he is the in-form batsmen of BBL09.
Henriques has continued to impress in BBL09 as he has gone through the season a little under the radar, consistently adding in good scores when the Sixers need him. He has scored 244 runs in 12 matches this campaign, averaging 27.11.
Henriques has also been one of the few Sixers batsmen to make runs in both games, being the top scorer and second top scorer in their matches this season. He has scored 41 off 25 in their first meeting before outdoing himself with a 72 off just 31 balls which saw his strike rate soar above 230. With the likelihood the pitch will play fair for both bowlers and batters and Henriques BBL 09 average and average against the Sixers is well above the 19.5 line, the chances are Henriques clears 20 and could goes on to make another big total in the process.
This match in so many ways can be seen as a coin flip, however, with the return of Rauf and the home ground advantage I will side with the Stars to get the win. The Stars lead the head to head between these two teams, seven wins to five and they haven’t lost to the Sixers at home since the start of 2017. They also have won three of the last four encounters between the two sides and have the greater X Factors of Rauf, Stoinis, Maxwell and Handscomb.
With plenty of big hitters in their team, the Stars have the ability to put a big score on the board or conversely chase down whatever total the Sixers get. Therefore, the Stars look likely to get the win and lock in the home final they desperately desire, largely off the back of their stellar batting line-up.
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