Brisbane Heat 0 for 158 (Cutting 81*, Bryant 71*) beat Melbourne Stars 8 for 156 (Stoinis 81, Lalor 3-43) by 10 wickets
The Brisbane Heat powered to a crushing 10-wicket win over the Melbourne Stars in Brisbane on Friday night, after rapid, unbeaten half-centuries from Ben Cutting and Max Bryant blew the visitors away.
Set 157 to win, the home side's openers blitzed the Powerplay, amassing a record-breaking 94 for no loss after six, before powering on to seal the victory in ten overs, leaving the door ajar for an unlikely semi-final appearance.
Both sides entered the fixture with stakes in the match. The Stars could guarantee a semi-final berth with a win, while the hosts sought to keep their slim hopes of qualifying for the knockouts alive and farewell stalwart Brendon McCullum on a high in what was his last home game in the BBL.
After Chris Lynn won the bat flip and elected to field, Marcus Stoinis' stellar performance gave the visitors some hope on a good batting surface, before it all evaporated at the hands of Cutting and Bryant's belligerent hitting.
See-Saw start as Stars start fast
Matt Renshaw bowled the first over and was characteristically tight, with both Ben Dunk and Marcus Stoinis surviving half chances in the game's first exchange.
Josh Lalor followed, and after beating Stoinis with a beauty, was hit for consecutive boundaries - the first over mid-off and the second carved through backward point - to finish his over.
When Matt Kuhnemann was introduced, Ben Dunk took full toll. With an early four down the ground, a six over deep midwicket and two singles, the 12 runs from the over signalled a positive start from the visitors.
Despite the loss of Dunk from the second ball of Renshaw's next over, Stoinis kept up the momentum, taking the Powerplay specialist for 14 off his last three deliveries. The first boundary was a rapid-handed flick through leg, the next ball brought a six into the second tier straight down the ground, and the final ball brought a cut through point for four.
His team-mates, however, weren't faring so well. A four and a six from Maxwell and Stoinis respectively in the sixth over was bookended by wickets. First, Peter Handscomb flicked Lalor straight to short fine leg to fall for 1 from 2 deliveries, before Maxwell was dismissed from the last ball of the same over as Lalor caught his leading edge, taking an easy return catch.
After six overs, the contest already had a see-saw feel to it, with the Stars registering 3 for 60.
Heat turn screws
Some fantastic bowling from the Heat, in particular Jack Prestwidge, tightened the screws on the Stars, who were content to pick up singles after losing more wickets than hoped. Nic Maddison looked especially hamstrung, and when he departed for 12 from 16 balls, caught at short cover via a Swepson wrong'un, the Stars slumped to 4 for 79 in the 11th over.
But while Stoinis remained, the Stars appeared dangerous. He raced to his fifty from 33 balls, and after a lull without strike, was able to wreak havoc from Swepson's bowling, moving to 75 from 46 balls in the 16th over. Meanwhile, Prestwidge was rewarded with a wicket, claiming Gotch for 11.
When Stoinis went for 81, run out after an excellent piece of fielding from Alex Ross, it was Dwayne Bravo who picked up the slack, compiling 21 from 16 in a handy cameo that kept the visitors on track for an imposing total. Finishing with 156 for 8, the score felt underwhelming, but defendable.
Sizzling openers destroy Stars
In one of the most memorable opening stands in BBL history, Bryant and Cutting swatted 158 runs chock-full of the cleanest hitting the tournament has seen to date. Commencing with ten from Daniel Worrall's first over and not relenting thereafter, both batsmen put the afterburners on and never looked back.
Bryant was particularly savage early on, racing to 22 from 12 after taking Worrall for three boundaries in the third over. He was, however, quickly overtaken by Cutting, who later lined up Stonis for fierce treatment as he struck 24 from the Stars lynchpin's first over.
Bryant brought up his fifty off 20 balls with a four, before Cutting brought up his own from 17. The Stars simply could not extinguish the Heat's fire, with both openers remarkably remaining at the crease as they motored on to the total in 10 overs. It left many wondering how big a total might have been, and begs the question: if results fall their way, can the Heat power their way into an unlikely BBL 2018-19 final?
Sam Perry is a Melbourne-based sportswriter. @sjjperry