Adelaide Strikers 5 for 178 (Ingram 57, Head 43, Plunkett 4-36) beat Melbourne Stars 137 (Gulbis 37, Laughlin 3-19) by 41 runs
The Adelaide Strikers overcame a sluggish start to dismantle the Melbourne Stars in Adelaide as a Colin Ingram powershow and some miserly bowling proved enough to contain the visitors.
Ingram combined with the Strikers' captain, Travis Head, to stabilise a slow start for the hosts, before a late-order flurry from Jonathan Wells closed the innings at 178.
The Stars started brightly with Ben Dunk and Evan Gulbis, but the spectre of Rashid Khan loomed large. An unplayable over or two from the Afghanistan superstar saw the Melbourne franchise fall behind the asking rate, from which they never recovered. The innings petered out as the Strikers' bowlers shared the wickets, Ben Laughlin most impressive with 3 for 19, leaving the Strikers well-positioned as the competition hits the halfway point.
Strikers motor after slow start
On a perfect Adelaide evening, the Stars won the flip and elected to field, hoping to limit a powerful Strikers batting line-up without Alex Carey on international duty, but welcoming Head back into the fold.
They were greeted by a pristine batting surface, but Jackson Bird led an excellent start for the Stars, who held the home side to 2 for 25 from the first five overs. The pressure continued to build after each of Evan Gulbis, Ben Dunk and Dwayne Bravo delivered economical overs, as both Head and Ingram scrambled for rhythm.
But they slowly built, taking the partnership from 48 off 42 balls, to then 55 from 47, before an expensive Plunkett over triggered a run spree. Head hit three sixes in a row, the first two over midwicket, then the third over long-off after Plunkett overcorrected. The returned Test batsman then tried to hit another over long-off, but holed out to Bird who took a comfortable catch. The damage largely done, Head departed for 43.
Ingram continued where Head left off, taking Boland for a huge over while accompanied by a Rashid, who was promoted up the order. The move, as the Stars captain Maddinson confessed on-air, had "mucked up" his bowling plans. The Strikers captain was dismissed for 57 from 41 deliveries, leaving 19 balls left in the innings.
A damaging spree of runs followed, as Wells took full toll of the Stars, combining with Harry Nielsen to plough 44 runs from the last three overs, which ultimately took the game away from the visitors.
Rashid the catalyst
It was as though the Stars knew they had to get the runs elsewhere. They started their chase brilliantly, taking 10 and 12 runs from the first two overs respectively, before Rashid was brought on, in the third over, to settle the pace. He did so, completely arresting the Stars' Powerplay momentum by conceding only one from the over.
Wes Agar was then introduced, and expensively so, before an athletic, sprawling catch at the deep-forward square leg boundary by Michael Neser brought Dunk undone from Ben Laughlin's bowling. It was a quality catch, with Dunk swinging the ball away over leg, leaving Neser plenty of ground to make up before he snaffled it to his left.
Normally an asking rate of 10 with 10 overs remaining leaves a sporting chance, but it didn't feel like that tonight. Once Maddinson, the captain, was removed for five, the remainder of the innings felt like a procession. It enabled Wes Agar to break his BBL wicket duck via a number of well-directed deliveries at offstump, and Laughlin to demonstrate his quality through his classic range of changes deliveries, both up and down.
While their bowling just about held up well in the absence of Adam Zampa and Sandeep Lamichhane, the Stars batting is arguably hardest hit by the ODIs. They have to do without their nucleus of Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, and Peter Handscomb, though will welcome each of them back once the Tests begin. They'll certainly look forward to every ounce of the trio's firepower after tonight's display, which revealed little depth. While a number of tonight's Stars may be worthy of a handy contribution batting around the above-mentioned players, at this point they may struggle to post sizeable totals without them.
Sam Perry is a Melbourne-based sportswriter. @sjjperry