Brisbane Heat stave off Stoinis' sublime 99
Brisbane Heat 7 for 206 (Ross 51, Burns 50, Stoinis 3-38) beat Melbourne Stars 6 for 191 (Stoinis 99, Faulkner 47*, Shadab 2-41) by 15 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
No Chris Lynn, no worries for Brisbane Heat.
Last season's semi-finalists threw down a marker in their opening match against Melbourne Stars with a win that was more comprehensive than the scoreline suggested. They destroyed the Stars' well-balanced attack and dismembered the Star-studded top order to show that Lynn is a value add to the Heat rather than an irreplaceable member of the Bash Brothers two-man band.
But the Stars have so much talent that they never gave in thanks to a remarkable innings from Marcus Stoinis, who made 99 off 51 balls to take the game to the last over.
Stars' captain John Hastings gave the Heat a leg up early, making the curious decision to bowl first on a superb pitch for batting. He would have felt good after two overs when the Heat were 1 for 10 with Jimmy Pierson back in the shed and Lynn absent as he continues to recover from his shoulder injury.
But Hastings' mood soon soured when Brendon McCullum lit up the Gabba. Scott Boland's first over, the third of the innings, went for 24. McCullum found the rope three times and cleared it once. He raced to 40 off 22 balls before he was deceived by a Stoinis slower ball.
But the Heat never lost momentum despite McCullum's exit. Joe Burns (50 off 28 balls), Alex Ross (51 off 36 balls) and Ben Cutting (35 off 18 balls) climbed into the Stars' seamers to keep the run-rate above 10 an over through to the end of the innings. Hastings and Boland gave up 96 runs from six combined overs, including 10 fours and six sixes.
Strangely, James Faulkner opened the bowling and conceded just seven runs in the opening over but did not bowl again. By contrast, the spin of Michael Beer and Adam Zampa took 2 for 45 from seven overs. Beer did not concede a boundary and McCullum scored just nine runs off 10 balls against Beer in the Powerplay.
The Heat's plans for the Stars' world-class top order worked a treat. Josh Lalor lured last year's leading scorer Ben Dunk into a thick outside edge that was caught on the second bite by a perfectly placed Mitch Swepson at deep gully. The plans to remove Kevin Pietersen and Glenn Maxwell cheaply were cold, calculated and perfectly executed.
Pietersen played the world's most feared quicks extremely well in his prime but his lack of match practice against them recently may leave him exposed. He scored just four runs from 11 balls against the genuine pace of Mohammad Amir and Steven Finn in his only two T20 matches during the English summer, with Finn taking his wicket.
McCullum instructed Lalor, Mark Steketee and Ben Doggett to bowl as quick and aggressively as possible at Pietersen. He hopped, ducked and weaved through his first seven balls to score just four runs before launching a length ball into the stands. But he holed out to mid-off next ball.
The Heat had also scouted Maxwell. In four straight innings during Australia's limited overs tour of India in October, Maxwell fell to the legspin of Yuzvendra Chahal. He also fell to Hobart Hurricanes legspinner Cameron Boyce in a BBL warm-up game after Boyce was introduced immediately upon Maxwell's arrival.
McCullum called on Pakistan legspinner Shadab Khan in the fifth over when pace had already removed Dunk and Pietersen. Maxwell hit the first long-hop for six but holed out to long-on two balls later. Shadab bowled Wright shortly after to seemingly kill off the game.
But Stoinis produced an innings of the highest quality to once again confirm his credentials for further international honours. He struck six sixes and six fours, mixing power with touch and supreme fitness in warm conditions during a 137-run stand with Faulkner to take the Stars to the brink.
Stoinis was run out trying to complete his hundred but he was a thoroughly deserving Man of the Match in a losing cause.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth