Wright, Maxwell fifties blow Hurricanes away
Melbourne Stars 2 for 126 (Maxwell 56*, Wright 51*) beat Hobart Hurricanes 124 (Bailey 55, Zampa 2-18, Boland 2-26) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Luke Wright has had a strange few days. It began, on Saturday night, with the innings of his long career, on the night of the Big Bash League's short life. Perhaps the most significant statistic was 80,883, but Wright's unbeaten 109 won the Melbourne derby for the Melbourne Stars. It was a knock of staggering, bunted beauty, short-arm-jabbing and clearing the front leg for his life.
Hours after, however, everything looked a whole lot less rosy. Getting back to his hotel at 4.30am, at least two sheets to the wind, he checked his phone. There lay a raft of messages from England, asking him to call urgently.
The news, inevitably, was bad. Sussex - the county Wright captains - fast bowler Matthew Hobden had died, aged 22. Details were hazy. Hobden was a popular, friendly, gentle, perhaps slightly slow, soul, the sort no one dislikes. The sort everyone will miss, and the sort with everything before him. For Wright, memories of the death of another good friend taken far too soon, after Tom Maynard, were all too fresh.
"From the best night ever to the worst," he tweeted upon waking with a headful of dust on Sunday morning. Wright's immediate plan was to fly home, to be with those close to Hobden at Hove, and to play his part in Sussex's strong front in the face of unthinkable, shocking tragedy. After a million and one phone calls, it was decided he would stay in Melbourne, and soldier on with the Stars.
Wright and his Sussex team-mate and good friend George Bailey asked the Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes to wear black armbands for today's fixture in memory of their mate Matt.
And so his strange few days ended the same way it started, with a match-winning knock at the MCG for the resurgent Stars. Wright's 99-run stand with an uncharacteristically sedate and straight Glenn Maxwell saw the hosts home after a slightly rocky start to their pursuit of 125.
Earlier, had the Stars written out their exact game plan in note form, it might have looked something like this: win the toss, bowl first. Bowl probing, nagging, frankly irritating spin first up, and snag a wicket in each of the first two overs. Field like demons, and nab a pair of run-outs for your trouble. Remain patient in the middle overs, in the knowledge that your earlier efforts have left your opponents with limited wiggle room. As the death overs approach, let the pressure tell and see off the set batsmen. Then, to the finisher and the tail, bowl yorkers. Just yorkers. The result: 124 all out, four wickets in the first six overs, six in the last five. What a simple game.
Maxwell took the first wicket, Tim Paine slapping the third legal delivery to James Faulkner, who took a fine jumping catch at mid-on. Three balls later, Michael Beer had strangled Kumar Sangakkara down the leg side, although it may have just hit his pad, and an over after that, Bailey ran out Ben Dunk, who had pierced the infield in a manner he has not managed in recent weeks. Having been 20 for 3 against the Melbourne Renegades two nights ago, the Hurricanes were 21 for 3 now.
Bailey ran the rebuild, but soon lost Dan Christian to a fine Wright direct hit, running to his left from mid-on. Bailey found a magnificent cover drive off Adam Zampa, launched Faulkner for a long and straight six and sent Scott Boland over Kevin Pietersen at long-off. But his partner for 10 overs, Jonathan Wells, was done in the flight by Zampa, and by the over's end Bailey was gone too, beaten for pace.
Faced with the magnificent John Hastings and Boland, who continuously aimed for the toes, Hurricanes' tail was unable to drag them to respectability, with the innings finishing with three wickets in three balls; Cameron Boyce and Sam Rainbird bowled by Boland's toe-crunchers, then Shaun Tait was run-out looking to improve the score, with a single.
Hurricanes bowled well first up, and when Pietersen hared towards Wright - whose scream of "no" came a little too late for the ever-eager Pietersen - a steadying influence was required. Or two, as it proved. Wright and Maxwell took no risks in picking off their target, and remained in utter control. As the end approached, Maxwell launched Boyce over cow corner, then down the ground for four.
Then, consecutively, they brought up their fifties - Wright's with a pull to the wide long-on boundary, followed by a long look at the night's sky - before Maxwell ended the over, the game and his BBL season (he, along with Faulkner and Boland, will join up with Australia in Perth on Friday) with a skipping six over long-on.
Wright had done a smiley stint on the mic for Channel Ten and, post-game, his typical cheeriness belied all that had gone before. He admitted that five days on, his first knock still hadn't quite sunk in. "What a terrible celebration," he lamented, "but it's one of those moments I can tell my grandkids about." One senses that the news that came in between may take rather longer to compute.