Adelaide Strikers dismantled a listless Melbourne Stars to reclaim top spot on the BBL table thanks to an efficient run chase steered by Alex Carey, who played the anchor role while Travis Head provided the horsepower with 53 off only 32 balls.
The Stars season slumped from bad to worse. Their top order failed to fire again, their bowlers failed to make inroads and they dropped three catches in the field to gift the Strikers a comfortable eight-wicket win with eight balls to spare in Adelaide.
The visitors scraped together 6 for 151 after electing to bat, with Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis forced to rescue the innings from the precarious position of 3 for 34. It was another even bowling performance from the Strikers headlined by more magic and mystery from Rashid Khan.
Luke Wright's absence due to a back injury gave the Stars an opportunity to change the order. Stoinis was promoted to open but he could do nothing to stop the early carnage. Billy Stanlake cranked up the pace, regularly touching 150kph with bounce and swing away from the right-hander. Six dots in the first eight balls forced Ben Dunk to take a risk and he holed out to mid-off trying to launch Michael Neser. Stanlake was too quick for Kevin Pietersen. The batsmen survived a close lbw shout and a run-out chance off the same ball before losing his off stump trying to hit a 150kph rocket over cover-point. Peter Handscomb flew in from Sydney earlier in the day having spent the previous night celebrating the Ashes triumph. His poor form continued when he tried to pull a ball from Ben Laughlin that wasn't short enough and was caught by the wicketkeeper.
Stoinis and Maxwell salvage mission
Stoinis has all the tools to be a successful T20 opener but the numbers don't back it up. According to CricViz, he averages 10 runs fewer opening than not (17 to 27) and strikes at 28 runs fewer (104 to 132) per hundred balls. He took his time in the Powerplay, by circumstance rather than design, but he showcased his talent in the seventh over with two high-quality shots off Stanlake. He raced to 37 from 25 but would only score one more run before finding long-off to hand Rashid his only wicket of the night.
Maxwell, who averages 53.8 when he faces 15 balls or more, compared to a career mark of 24.5, picked up the slack. He played conventional cricket to move to 16 from 15 balls and then he pulled out all the stops, including a reverse sweep over point against Rashid's bowling. It was the only boundary the legspinner conceded in another exceptional four-over spell. Maxwell eventually finished on 60 off 38 balls, playing several jaw-dropping shots, with a reverse swat off Peter Siddle for four the pick of them. His innings could have ended on 39, though, when nicked the same bowler to the wicketkeeper only to find no-one appealing.
Carey and Jake Weatherald had time to play themselves in given the required rate was only 7.5. The Stars trusted only pace during the Powerplay having dropped left-arm spinner Michael Beer from the line-up. But their quicks have not taken enough wickets. All five of the Strikers frontline bowlers have five wickets or more for the tournament with Rashid and Laughlin claiming 11 each. Stoinis was the Stars' leading wicket-taker coming into the game with four. The Strikers opening batsmen took few risks and picked their deliveries to dispatch and cruised to 40 for 0 at the end of the Powerplay. It took a stunning stumping by Handscomb to break the partnership in the seventh over.
Head and Carey did not score a boundary during their partnership until the last ball of the 10th over. The equation reached 74 from 52 balls before the key moment of the match transpired. Head cracked a flat pull shot to deep midwicket. John Hastings was 10m off the rope and the ball got to him quicker than expected. So much that he parried it over for six. Head did well to target the Stars' under-fire quicks taking 42, including three sixes and five fours, from Stoinis and Scott Boland. He holed out to Stoinis with 28 still needed from 26 balls but the damage was already done. Maxwell and Jackson Coleman both dropped Colin Ingram in the outfield but it wouldn't have mattered. Carey ended it with a powerful slog sweep for six off Adam Zampa.