Melbourne Stars 7 for 186 (Pietersen 46, Dunk 30, Mills 2-56) beat Hobart Hurricanes 7 for 185 (Christian 56, Bailey 32, Hastings 2-41) by three wicketsScorecard and ball-by-ball details
The Hobart Hurricanes had a semi-final berth in their own hands.
But a Kevin Pietersen cameo, in his last appearance for the Melbourne Stars, combined with a multitude of tactical and execution errors by the Hurricanes, saw the game slip through their fingers. Their semi-final fate now rests on the result of the match between the Melbourne Renegades and the Brisbane Heat.
The Hurricanes did everything right with the bat, posting a formidable total without a single run contributed by star opener D'Arcy Short. Daniel Christian, George Bailey and Nathan Reardon, in his first T20 match in over 12 months, all played superb hands as the Stars' bowling and fielding dropped to a new low.
The Stars needed 115 runs from 64 balls in the chase with six wickets in hand. Pietersen, John Hastings and Evan Gulbis produced some stunning power-hitting as the Hurricanes lost the plot with the ball. The Stars got home with five balls to spare.
D'Arcy Short has been the most dominant player in the BBL and few bowlers, if any, have been able to contain him. So the Stars turned to their opening batsman Ben Dunk to bowl the first over the innings and his first of the tournament. Dunk, who is a wicketkeeper first and foremost, had only bowled four overs in his T20 career and had one wicket. But his part-time off spin removed Short first ball, sliding on with the arm from around the wicket and trapping him lbw. Bailey picked up the slack and struck the ball exquisitely for 32 from just 20 balls before he picked out backward point. The Hurricanes careered along at 8.5 per over for 12 overs but had lost four wickets by then, which threatened their ability to accelerate in the last eight overs.
Before his game against the Strikers on January 17 - in which he didn't get to bat - Reardon's last T20 match was for the Brisbane Heat against the Melbourne Stars in January 2017. With the exception of the Hong Kong Sixes last October he had not played any other professional cricket in that period. While he and Christian got settled the run-rate dropped below eight an over for the first time in the innings. But Reardon changed that. He cracked two sixes and two fours in seven consecutive balls faced from Daniel Worrell and Hastings. Christian accelerated to 50 from just 34 balls after a crisp strike through cover. Both fell in the last over but Hastings also conceded 16 runs to see the total rise to 7 for 185.
Faulkner the Finisher bats three
James Faulkner has had an unusual tournament with the bat. He has been known as a finisher in previous seasons but his strike-rate this year has barely hovered above 100 and despite often not losing his wicket at the end of innings he has really struggled to find the boundary. The Stars opted to bat him at first drop after Peter Handscomb's early dismissal. He struck a four and a six in his first 10 balls, benefitting from the field being up. Dunk looked in good touch early as well. But the wheels fell off when both men holed out in the first two overs post the Powerplay. The Stars chase appeared to go from bad to worse when Rob Quiney was run out, despite significant doubt over whether Matthew Wade's gloves or the ball broke the bails.
Mills' and Bailey's nightmare
Hastings won the captaincy battle, promoting himself to pinch-hit at number six and it was a masterstroke. He launched two sixes and a four in his first four balls to bring the equation to 99 from 60 balls. Then Bailey turned to Tymal Mills who continued his nightmare tournament. He delivered lengths that were routinely dispatched before a bouncer accounted for Hastings. Mills had given up 29 in his first two overs. Pietersen and Seb Gotch were well held for the next four overs, leaving the Stars needing 53 from 30 balls. Bailey had the option not to bowl Mills again as Christian, Clive Rose and Jofra Archer had five overs left between them. But Bailey backed his overseas pro and paid a price. Pietersen launched three fours and a six in four balls. Mills claimed his wicket with a superb reflex return catch but the damage was done. The equation dropped to 34 from 24 balls. Rose gave up just five singles and picked up Gotch in the 17th. But Archer uncharacteristically lost the plot in the 18th. He delivered an above-waist-high full toss that was carved for four by Gulbis, plus the added run for the no-ball. Later in the over he was hit for six off a ball for which only three men were inside the circle. The equation dropped to 12 off 12. Mills bowled the 19th and Gulbis bombed him straight for six. Mills final figures were a calamitous 2 for 56 from four overs. Christian had three runs to play with in the last over and conceded them all off the first ball.