Pietersen fifty guides Stars to the final
Melbourne Stars 3 for 140 (Pietersen 62, Stoinis 44) beat Perth Scorchers 7 for 139 (Voges 52, Klinger 44, Worrall 3-25) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
On Thursday, one of the BBL's hoodoos rolled on, as Adelaide Strikers became the fourth consecutive table-toppers to fail to make the final. A day later, one was lifted, as Melbourne Stars, after the pain of losing four semi-finals, finally made the final. On Sunday, the Big Bash League will have a new winner, as Stars take on Sydney Thunder at the MCG. Whoever wins, however, will have a captain from the same family, as Thunder's Mike Hussey, in his last game in Australia, takes on Stars' David.
Stars had put up an excellent performance to limit Scorchers to 139; Daniel Worrall had produced the goods in the powerplay and at the death, with clever swing and a nagging line, while the spinners were superb, with Adam Zampa's leggies tough to get away and Michael Beer's swerving anglers, which often resembled medium pace, proved to be equally parsimonious.
The chase was not going to be easy. But as soon as Kevin Pietersen, who put together a measured mini-masterpiece, was at the crease, Stars looked in control. The sight of Pietersen shadow-batting in the middle two hours before the game, inspecting the pitch, and loosening his limbs, was an interesting, arresting one. Say what you will about Pietersen, but nobody in the game prepares better.
At the crease, Pietersen instantly looked just that: better prepared. Stars took eight runs from the first three overs before Luke Wright slapped to cover. Pietersen was immediately away, flicking David Willey for two. He then combined with Marcus Stonis and ensured that the next two overs cost three fours each. Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye, usually stingy, were carted, with Stoinis particularly severe on Tye through the legside.
After that, remarkably, Stars went six overs without a boundary. But such was the pair's calm that this was not an issue. The MCG is big, and they exploited the spaces with ones and twos. Brad Hogg then jagged one back and had Stoinis lbw for 44. Pietersen, though, rolled along in the company of Peter Handscomb. He faced just six dot balls, and unfurled out some trademark fanciness, including the one-legged ramp and a dance down to bump David Willey - who had given him some lip - over long-off for six. Eventually, after a late assault on Joel Paris, he was bowled trying a reverse ramp. David Hussey, however, joined Handscomb to finish the job with 11 balls to spare.
Right from the first over, the hosts had looked out to right wrongs. Rob Quiney at mid-off dove full stretch to cut off a Marcus Harris drive, and two balls later Worrall got one to nip away and Quiney took the catch from a skied short-arm jab. Michael Carberry looked in good touch but, after he drove Ben Hilfenhaus beautifully through cover, Worrall had him too, cramped up when trying to cut. These key scalps were Worrall's reward for discipline.
During Michael Klinger's partnership with Adam Voges, however, everything reverted to a rather familiar feel, with Scorchers steadily accumulating in readiness for late acceleration. Voges looked particularly business-like, firing Evan Gulbis's only over for three fours. Zampa was drilled back over his head and Stoinis pumped over mid-off. Klinger, who had looked less fluent, got in on the act too, tracking Hilfenhaus and sending him for a handsome straight six.
But that late acceleration never came. With his final ball, the last of the 16th over, Zampa tossed one up and ripped with his wrist; Klinger had premeditated a sweep and long-on barely had to move. Next ball, Willey tried to slog Stoinis, who had taken the previous catch, and was caught on the edge of the circle. Ashton Agar almost succumbed to the same fate, but Hilfenhaus shelled a terribly tough, sliding catch at third man. When Voges found long-on in the next over off Beer, Scorchers were in disarray at 5 for 116 having uncharacteristically wasted a platform.
Stars, right on cue, found two fine death overs to seal the squeeze. Hilfenhaus claimed Agar and gave away only six in the penultimate over of the innings, before Worral returned to york Tye. If any team could defend 139, it was Scorchers, but this felt terribly underpar, much like the crowd, which looked thin due to the threat of rain and the fun of tennis.
With each ball faced by Pietersen, the hope of a third title for Scorchers became ever slimmer. Remarkably, like Stars, Pietersen has never won a domestic T20 title. Both have more hoodoos to end on Sunday.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp