Glenn Maxwell gestures to the crowd to make some noise. They don't. The seagulls at the MCG are making the loudest noise.
Melbourne Stars usually lose players at this time of year to the national side. This year the Stars have four former Australian players. Ben Hilfenhaus has been left out for the younger bowlers while Scott Boland, who has played three games, has an economy rate of 11.5. Rob Quiney usually smashes the ball in the Powerplay, but he's the third-choice opener this season, and has failed in the two games he has played. And then there is the left-arm spinner Michael Beer, who has had some good games and some poor ones, but he's not the reason for the Stars' defeats. Of the former Australian players, Beer is the only one who should be playing.
Then the Stars have lost two players to the Australian team. Marcus Stoinis averages nearly 45 with the bat but has leaked 10.62 runs an over in the BBL. His absence has left the batting struggling, but has perhaps made the bowling stronger. Adam Zampa has bowled economically, but has taken only two wickets in five games.
James Faulkner's true bowling economy (where you consider the runs conceded by the bowler in relation to the average runs conceded for that over number), over the last three years, is about par. But he has taken five wickets in 15 games. In that time, he has averaged over 50 with the bat for the Stars with a strike-rate of 108. For every over he's out in the middle, his true economy rate means the Stars lose two runs an over. And this form is not new; he has averaged 49 and struck at 106 for three seasons. Of the 324 batsmen who have made over 500 T20 runs in the last three years, Faulkner has the third-worst boundary rate: he hits one every 9.83 balls.
The big signing for the Stars this season was Ben Dunk. He had scored 364 runs in eight innings last season, but in this season he has scored only 66 runs in seven innings. You don't need advanced statistics to show he's struggled. Peter Handscomb has made 64 runs at less than a run a ball this season, and he's also the fourth-worst boundary hitter in T20s.
Maxwell's numbers this season look good on paper: he has 214 runs in seven innings at an average of 36 and a strike-rate of 148.61. But usually, he comes in during the middle overs, when that strike-rate is exceptional. This season he's not been as impactful as he has had to bat in the Powerplay with the top three not making enough runs. You want him to shine like a crazy diamond. Instead, he's been more of a backbone player battling away after top-order failures.
Luke Wright as an overseas signing is a great pick, if he bowls. If he doesn't, he's a good pick. He hasn't been bowling for the Stars since 2013-14. Over the last three years, Wright has averaged 30.73, and struck at 137.54 with the bat. His true strike rate is about par. It's not the numbers of an overseas player. And this year he's made far fewer runs and batted way more slowly. On Tuesday night, Wright got struck in the head more times than he hit boundaries.
Kevin Pietersen, despite all but retiring mid-tournament, has done better than Wright. Even if at times he has moves with the athleticism of a man ten years retired, he's not worth any runs in the field. He's averaging 28 at a strike-rate of 135.48, which for him is well down in both columns. His quality still occasionally shines through, but he's a player who likes the big moments, the clutch games, and all the sport clich s you can fire at him. The Stars haven't had many such moments since he came back from seeing his family at Christmas.
Evan Gulbis would be a handy player in certain situations, but he doesn't make enough runs, and he doesn't take enough wickets. And he seems like a bits-and-pieces player in what is moving towards being a sport for people with specific skills. You want him to be a back-up player, but he simply has to play to cover the gaps of bat and ball.
John Hastings was not long ago one of the better players in T20 cricket. His slower ball made batsmen look silly. His bounce troubled them at the start, and as a hitter he was good for one or two fast innings a year. At his best he was a great death bowler. This season he's made 22 runs from 22 balls. He has picked up five wickets at 8.97 an over, a run more than his career economy rate in T20s. His true economy is also one run more an over than you'd expect the average player to cough up. This has been Hasting's first year as the Stars' captain. He had missed the entire last season because of injury. The two seasons before that he was taking wickets and going for almost a run less an over.
The two back-up wristspinners are promising, but not perfect. Liam Bowe looks talented, but a little overawed, while Daniel Fallins looks confident but very raw. Jackson Coleman and Daniel Worrall have bowled well from limited opportunities, and at the very least are something to hope for next year, but neither are saviours. That's all the players the Stars have used this year.
And it's not like this was an excellent Sydney Sixers team tonight. If the Stars are the worst team this season, the Sixers are the second worst. It was the Sixers who almost stuffed up a chase against the also pretty poor Sydney Thunder team on Saturday. Most teams try to break the chase, but the Sixers didn't even bother bending it. With eight wickets in hand, they left it to the last ball. They then flew to Melbourne and won with eight wickets and 29 balls to spare.
Twice this season at their home ground, they've talked about how tricky the pitch is to bat on, before the opposition scored at 2.1 and 2.75 an over quicker. They made tactical blunders in their opening games. They're the slowest batting team (7.6) and the second-worst bowling team (8.5).
The last ball tonight was mis-hit in the air. Dunk ran after it, dived and fell. He was nowhere near the ball and there was no real reason to dive. It's been that kind of season for the Stars.