Our prediction is Sydney Sixers to win!
Match 56 of the Big Bash League and the final game before the semi-finals sees the Melbourne Stars with one last chance to qualify against a Sydney Sixers side that are already safely through.
The Sixers come into this match on the back of four straight wins while the Stars have missed two chances to qualify already, losing to the Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat. When these two met in the corresponding fixture last season, the Sixers won by eight wickets, an ominous sign for the Stars on this occasion.
Over the course of BBL history, however, the Stars have the edge with five wins to four, including three of the last four matches. At the MCG, it is two wins apiece and when they met at the SCG earlier this season, the Stars ran out five-wicket winners.
It wasn’t meant to go down to the wire for the Stars. They knew they would be stronger towards the end of the tournament after they were struck by international call-ups in the middle of the campaign and lost Sandeep Lamichhane to the BPL. However, even though on paper they might now have the best possible squad to choose from, on the field it has not come off as they would have liked. Wins over the Melbourne Renegades and Adelaide Strikers put them in the hunt, but they have stumbled in recent games. Their 10-wicket defeat against the Heat will have been a huge blow – fortunately for them net run-rate is now irrelevant.
What they desperately need is for their batsmen to step up and support Marcus Stoinis, who is in great form, and their bowlers to provide more control. It has been three games since anyone other than Stoinis took more than one wicket in an innings.
With everything to play for, they might consider making changes as this set of players has now lost two in a row but at the same time, their options aren’t extensive. Nobody is banging on the door and the players they dropped, such as Evan Gulbis and Liam Bowe, simply weren’t performing. They might have to go in unchanged again and simply bank on it all coming together.
Marcus Stoinis, Ben Dunk, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nic Maddinson, Peter Handscomb (wk), Seb Gotch, Dwayne Bravo, Jackson Bird, Adam Zampa, Daniel Worrall, Sandeep Lamichhane.
The Sixers, on the other hand, can throw caution to the wind in this game as they have already qualified and guaranteed themselves a home semi-final. However, they will be desperately keen not to put in a substandard performance and risk losing any momentum ahead of the knockout stage.
They have won their last four matches and three of those have come batting second, during which time they lost just five wickets. Daniel Hughes, Josh Philippe, Moises Henriques and James Vince are all in good form and will want to pile on the runs again here to send out a message to whichever team they face in the semi-final – which could, of course, still be the Stars.
They have rotated their bowlers with Lloyd Pope coming in for Ben Manenti last time out but he might miss out as Nathan Lyon is now available. They might also think about giving the likes of Jordan Silk and Jack Edwards – neither of whom batted or bowled in the last two games – some time at the crease and mix up their batting order a bit.
Daniel Hughes, Josh Phillipe (wk), James Vince, Moises Henriques (c), Jordan Silk, Jack Edwards, Tom Curran, Sean Abbott, Ben Dwarshius, Steve O’Keefe, Nathan Lyon.
Rain is forecast on Friday and Saturday but by Sunday, the forecast is for it to clear and that should mean no rain interruptions during the match. The MCG has been slow and inviting for spinners during the BBL and both sides should expect more of the same.
The MCG has now hosted 37 completed domestic Twenty20 games with the side batting second having a clear advantage, with 23 wins to 12 batting first. That has shown itself to be true again this season, with three wins to two from five matches. The side batting first scores an average of 156 at the MCG although this season that has dropped to 153.
The Sydney Sixers batted first after winning the toss in their first game of the season but since then have always chosen to field first. The Stars, meanwhile, have always chosen to bowl first and given how badly they defended against Heat last time out, it seems certain they will want to do again. The venue favours chasing so expect both teams to want to do exactly that.
Previous games between these two suggest a close encounter, but the form of the sides coming into this match wouldn’t necessarily back that up. For the Stars to prevail, they really need to be less reliant on Marcus Stoinis; if the Sixers can get him out early or get after his bowling, they could be well set. On the other hand, if the Stars can get among the wickets and stop some of the Sixers’ in-form batsmen from carrying on their fine form, they have a chance. However, on balance, we give the edge to the Sixers, whose batsmen and bowlers are working better as a unit than the Stars.
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