Welcome to the BBL05 Semi-Finals preview. After 32 home and away matches, 8 teams have become 4 as we enter the knock out semi-final stage of BBL05. It is a familiar looking group of four with the Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars reaching their fifth consecutive semi-finals, while the Adelaide Strikers finished on top of the table for second straight year. The Stars and the Scorchers will participate in their fourth semi-final against each other in five years, a rivalry that has been dominated by Perth. The Sydney Thunder will make their debut semi-final appearance though after years of bottom two finishes, creating a point of difference the competition needed. All four franchises are missing key players, which is a shame as it would have been nice to see the Australian ODI players released. Despite that, we should be provided plenty of entertainment.
Melbourne Stars head to head @ $1.95
ADELAIDE STRIKERS ($1.72) VS SYDNEY THUNDER ($2.12)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, THURSDAY 21/01, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Strikers 9/117 (Hodge 34, McKay 2/18, Russell 2/28) lost to Thunder 3/121 (Kallis 49no, Blizzard 35, Laughlin 2/22) by 7 wickets at Spotless Stadium.
The Adelaide Strikers have finished on top of the Big Bash table for the second consecutive season and won’t want to waste its home ground advantage this time around after being bowled out for 94 last year. The Strikers have had many contributors this season, but the form of English import Adil Rashid has been the most influential. The leg spinner has claimed 15 wickets during the tournament to date, operating at an impressive 6.38 runs per over. His consistency in both length and performance has been vital, having taken 2 or more wickets six times during BBL05. Travis Head has the third most BBL05 runs with 276, but the Strikers don’t rely heavily on any particular batsman with Ludeman, Hodge, Jayawardena and Ross all having their moments throughout the competition. Mahela Jayawardena has been named to return from injury, but isn’t a 100% guarantee to take his place. If he can’t, Jono Dean is more than capable at the top of the order after his 48 against the Renegades. Kane Richardson is the only player lost to ODI duties.
The Sydney Thunder will make its Big Bash semi-finals debut on Thursday night, after comfortably dealing with the Sixers to secure a top four position. It was a welcomed return to form for the Thunder after losing the previous four consecutive games. Some of those losses were genuinely unlucky after being on the wrong side of wet conditions, but the Thunder have managed to keep in a positive frame of mind. Despite the loss of Jacques Kallis, the batting order still looks very strong with the likes of Michael Hussey and Shane Watson in good form. Usman Khawaja has been omitted from the ODI squad and is a massive inclusion for the Thunder. In only two Big Bash innings, he has scored 171 runs at a strike rate of 152.67. Clint McKay and Andre Russell have been surprise packets with the ball having struck 28 wickets between them and must produce again for their side to be a chance.
The Thunder are the only side to have beaten Adelaide this Big Bash, having restricted them to their only batting failure of 117. The Strikers are deserved favourites, but the Thunder possess match winners who have high ceilings. This has the potential of being a tight one.
Prediction: Adelaide Strikers to win by 5 runs/4 wickets
MELBOURNE STARS ($1.95) VS PERTH SCORCHERS ($1.85)
AT THE MCG, FRIDAY 22/01, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Stars 9/146 (Hussey 36, Dixon 3/32, Tye 2/25) defeated Scorchers 94 (Voges 46no, Worrall 3/15, Hilfenhaus 3/17, Zampa 2/16) by 52 runs at the WACA.
Many on the outside were wondering whether the Melbourne Stars could do enough to hold its top four position, but the team in green did more than that and won by enough to jump ahead of the Scorchers on the table. The net run rate booster means that the Stars now host this semi-final at the MCG, after three failed efforts during this stage of the tournament at the WACA. The Stars headed to the WACA on Saturday with a second string attack, but Daniel Worrall and Ben Hilfenhaus stepped up to the challenge with six wickets between them to help bowl Perth out for 94. With only six days between the two encounters, this could well be a massive swing in confidence and momentum. The Stars will have to improve with the bat though, after the top four of Stoinis, Wright, Pietersen and Handscombe all failed which saw the score at 4/55 in the eighth over. The Stars will be disappointed that the likes of Maxwell, Faulkner, Hastings and Boland haven’t been released from the ODI squad, meaning its depth players will have to do the job again.
The Perth Scorchers looked to have secured a fourth home semi-final after restricting the Stars to 9/146, but a batting collapse that saw them fall to 5/34 after 8 overs completely changed the fortunes of each team. The batting order had held up well in the absence of Shaun Marsh or if Klinger didn’t get a start during the tournament, but the middle order failed to pick up the pieces this time around. The bowling has held up its part of the bargain all season and did so again without Jason Behrendorff. His replacement Matt Dixon took 3/32 and looked the most dangerous option. Behrendorff is expected to play through the pain of stress fractures in his back though, making himself available for the semi-final and the final if need be. He will be rested for the remainder of the domestic season after the Big Bash, which raises fear that he won’t be at his best.
Surely this is the Melbourne Stars time after semi-final losses to Perth during the BBL01, BBL02 and BBL04 tournaments. The Stars finally get a chance at the MCG against the Scorchers in a knockout encounter and will be desperate to end its winless semi-final record of 0-4. It is difficult to imagine Wright, Pietersen and Handscombe all failing again. Playing in front of a big MCG crowd and with Behrendorff bowling sore, the Stars must be considered value at $1.95.
Prediction: Melbourne Stars to win by 15 runs/5 wickets