Our prediction is Brisbane Heat to win!
The final round of Big Bash League matches is upon us and match 53 sees Brisbane Heat take on the Melbourne Stars at the Gabba.
For both sides, this is pretty much last-chance saloon territory. Heat must win and hope results elsewhere go their way if they are to reach the semi-finals. The Stars have already missed one chance to qualify when they were beaten by the Perth Scorchers so they will want to make up for that slip-up. A win for the Stars guarantees a semi-final place but they can still qualify by beating the Sydney Sixers even if they lose.
These two sides met at the Gabba in the opening game of last season, when Heat ran out winners by 15 runs. However, just two games ago, the Stars hosted the Brisbane side and beat them by five runs, suggesting this game could be a close one. Over BBL history, Heat have the edge in this encounter, winning six matches to the Stars’ three. At the Gabba, it is a little closer with Heat leading 3-2.
Heat looked down and out before responding to that defeat to the Stars and a hammering by the Hobart Hurricanes with six-wicket wins over both the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers – two sides who are out of semi-final contention. Vital half-centuries from their experienced hands Chris Lynn, Brendon McCullum and Matt Renshaw were just what they needed while Josh Lalor took a hat-trick against the Scorchers to set up victory.
Just when they needed it most, their big names are stepping up with strong performances and that will give them plenty of confidence going into this match. They will be desperate to give McCullum a fitting Gabba send-off in what could be his last BBL appearance.
Heat have Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne available again following Test duty but given their excellent batting performances in the last two matches, may not bring both back into the side. Burns could open in place of Max Bryant, who has failed to register a half-century all season.
Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Chris Lynn (c), Brendon McCullum, Matt Renshaw, Alex Ross, Jimmy Peirson, Josh Lalor, Jack Prestwidge, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Matthew Kuhnemann .
Ben Cutting, Matthew Kuhnemann, Matt Renshaw, Jack Prestwidge, Chris Lynn, Josh Lalor, Max Bryant, Jimmy Peirson, Brendon McCullum, Mitchell Swepson, Alex Ross
The Stars had been building up a head of steam and were expected to brush Perth Scorchers aside in their last game but struggled and went down to a 27-run loss. They will be hoping that is a blip as it came after three straight wins over the Melbourne Renegades, the Adelaide Strikers and Heat.
Small margins determine the outcome of close games and the Stars have been guilty in the last couple of matches of not giving enough support to their danger men. While Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis have been in good form, they need others to step up and contribute to ensure they put winning scores on the board.
On the bowling side, the return from injury of Daniel Worrall is a huge boost for the Heat, especially with Liam Plunkett now set to depart to join up with the England squad. With Sylhet having failed to reach the semi-finals of the Bangladesh Premier League, they could also get Sandeep Lamichhane back into the side as well.
Ben Dunk, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nic Maddinson, Dwayne Bravo, Peter Handscomb (wk), Seb Gotch, Jackson Bird, Daniel Worrall, Sandeep Lamichhane, Adam Zampa.
Dwayne Bravo, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, Sandeep Lamichhane, Nic Maddinson, Sebastian Gotch, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Ben Dunk, Glenn Maxwell, D Worrall
The Gabba pitch has been pretty consistent throughout the BBL and should offer a decent contest between bat and ball. The bigger issue will be the rain which is forecast to linger throughout much of the week in Brisbane. That will slow things up and potentially lead to a shortened match.
The Gabba has now hosted 32 completed domestic Twenty20 matches with no obvious advantage to batting first or second. The side batting first averages 171 with the bat, but this season that score has dropped to 156. The last three completed matches at the venue have been won by the side batting second.
Brisbane Heat have always fielded first after winning the toss this season and did so in the matches against the Strikers and the Scorchers that put them in with this shot at the semi-finals. The Stars have also favoured winning the toss and chasing and expect both teams to look to do that, especially if the weather is threatening to intervene.
This is an opportunity for Brisbane Heat to stay alive in the tournament and one which they must have thought they weren’t going to have. The Stars'inability to beat the Scorchers has brought Heat back into contention and they were suffering a wobble at the worst possible moment. Taking the form of the entire playing squad into account, and their record at the Gabba, we just give Heat the edge in this one.
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