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Stars brush aside Scorchers to take top position

Melbourne Stars 3 for 137 (Pietersen 44*, Stoinis 40*, Richardson 2-26) beat Perth Scorchers 7 for 134 (Tye 42, Agar 29*, Beer 2-12, Hilfenhaus 2-15) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

After so many run-fests in this year's Big Bash League, including Chris Lynn's fireworks and Hobart Hurricanes' record run-chase, there was finally a day for the bowlers. No sooner had the Sydney Sixers been kept to 99 for 9 at the SCG than the Perth Scorchers staggered to 134 for 7 at their home ground in the west.

Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Beer and Scott Boland reduced the Scorchers to 4 for 13, which then became 5 for 34 when Marcus Stoinis had recent Test debutant Hilton Cartwright skying a top edge behind the wicket.

Ashton Agar and Tim Bresnan piled on 51 unbeaten runs for the eighth wicket that lifted the Scorchers to a respectable total, but it provided few alarms for the visitors. Rob Quiney bashed 35 off 23 balls at the top of the order, Kevin Pietersen ran the middle with a steady-paced, unbeaten 44, and Stoinis produced the late hitting to finish it off. The Stars' triumph followed up from their win at this venue last season, made it three in a row against Perth.

Key performance

Western Australia's best-regarded export must be beer, thanks to the Little Creatures Brewery on the shorefront of Fremantle. But locals at the WACA must have been wishing their state's authorities hadn't sent a certain spinner back across to Melbourne alongside those kegs of golden ale.

Former WA left-armer Beer basically ended the contest in the first-eighth of the game. He opened the bowling to tie down Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger for three runs, leading to Klinger's desperate pull shot against Ben Hilfenhaus that knocked down the stumps. Beer's arm balls then nailed the in-form Ian Bell lbw for a golden duck, and Cameron Bancroft the same way, trying to sweep. The next over, he took a low catch at short fine leg off Boland to dismiss Marsh.

A one-run over and a missed stumping later, Beer finished with four overs, two wickets, a dozen runs conceded, and thirty thousand former members of his home crowd looking askance at Scorchers coach Justin Langer.

The middle

If Twenty20 cricket is a game played at high pace, it can also be over very quickly. With such a squeeze put on the top of the Scorchers innings, there were few places for this game to go. Andrew Tye coming out to bat after four overs of a T20 wasn't quite Mitchell Johnson batting in the seventh over of a Test, as per Trent Bridge in 2015, but it was still an incongruous sight.

Tye did respond to the challenge, clouting 42 off 33 balls in the middle order, including four to the rope and one over it. Johnson was there too, but only had to watch the bench as Agar and Bresnan got through unbeaten.

The Scorchers were able to dismiss the dangerous Luke Wright and new Test star Peter Handscomb cheaply, but with Quiney and Pietersen scoring freely around them, those dismissals didn't come early enough to produce any pressure. After all the thrilling finishes of recent weeks, you could allow the BBL a foregone conclusion.

The cameo

If there was one thing fans of the longer game were looking forward to, it was Johnson versus Kevin Pietersen. The pair most famously clashed during the 2013-14 Ashes series in Australia, when Pietersen was England's top-scorer across their 5-0 whitewash, before he was ejected from the side in an acrimonious parting of ways.

Johnson may not be the terror that he was then, making the red ball leap off the pitch at speeds into the mid-150 kilometre-per-hour range. But he was still operating well into the 140s with the white ball on his adopted WACA deck, and wasted no time sending some short balls up into his rival's ribcage.

It didn't overly bother Pietersen though, who got away with facing only three balls from Johnson initially, then three more in Johnson's fourth over. The last of those wasn't one Pietersen was keen on, after seeing Stoinis wear a fast delivery square in the box, but there was no choice but to take the euphemistically-named leg bye.

Heavy traffic at the top

The Scorchers grabbed the top spot on the table by virtue of net run-rate after beating Brisbane Heat in their previous match, but are now vulnerable with both teams on eight points and Brisbane with an extra game in hand. The Sydney Sixers also have eight points, but like the Scorchers, only have one game to play, while the Stars have joined those three teams on eight, but, like Heat, have two games left.

That means any of these sides could still make the top-two and host a home final, even at this late stage of the season. Mind you, any of the bottom-four sides could end up on eight points: Hurricanes and Sydney Thunder by winning one game, Strikers and Melbourne Renegades by winning their last two. The Sixers, especially, could be vulnerable on net run-rate if the Stars knock them in the last game of the regular season.