Worrall and Maxwell continue curse of table-toppers as Stars reach BBL final
Dan Worrall made early inroads into the Hurricanes' powerful top order and despite three wickets for Qais Ahmad the chase was comfortable
Melbourne Stars 4 for 157 (Maxwell 43*, Ahmad 3-33) beat Hobart Hurricanes 7 for 153 (McDermott 53, Worrall 4-23) by six wickets
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
And on a cold night in Hobart, five years on from the Hurricanes upsetting the undefeated Melbourne Stars in the BBL 03 semi-final, the Stars exacted revenge on the best side of the home and away season to march into Sunday's final.
The win was set-up by a sensational spell from Stars quick Dan Worrall. He took 4 for 23 including the prize scalp of Matthew Wade and Caleb Jewell in the second over of the innings. The Hurricanes lost three wickets in the Powerplay for only the second time in the tournament and again lost the game. Wade and D'Arcy Short contributed just 37 between them after scoring 810 as a pair throughout the tournament. The Hurricanes' five losses in the BBL all came when batting first. Ben McDermott made 53 and shared a steadying partnership with George Bailey but they couldn't find the rope through the latter overs and the total of 153 always looked light. The Stars lost Ben Dunk early in the chase but Peter Handscomb played a gem making 35 from 26 balls. Qais Ahmad ripped out Marcus Stoinis, Nic Maddinson and Handscomb but the scoring rate never slowed and it allowed Glenn Maxwell and Seb Gotch to cruise to victory with six wickets and seven balls to spare.
Wade and Short have dominated the competition like no other opening pair in BBL history to help the Hurricanes plunder attacks throughout the regular season. But Worrall's mix of swing, seam and slower balls put the Hurricanes under immediate pressure in the second over. They slumped to 2 for 5 as Worrall firstly removed Wade first ball with a beauty that angled in and seaming away from the around the wicket to scratch the edge of Wade's broad bat. He then went over the wicket to the left-handed Jewell five balls later and clean bowled him with an off-spinning slower ball that pitched on leg stump before gripping and spinning to hit middle and off. Short provided a counter-attack racing to 35 from 20 balls but he made a rare error in both judgement and execution. Having already hit Adam Zampa for six in the final over of the Powerplay, he went to the well again and holed out to long-on to leave the Hurricanes 3 for 42.
McDermott and Bailey had to salvage a wreck against the Melbourne Renegades when the Hurricanes last lost three wickets in the Powerplay. On that occasion they convened at 3 for 11 and both made half-centuries in a 102-run stand. Here they were able to put on 75 in 62 balls but the difference was neither man could take the innings deep. Bailey fell for 37 with four overs left trying to up the ante against Worrall. McDermott reached his second fifty of the BBL but holed out with 13 balls remaining. It meant the Hurricanes could only score 17 runs from the last 13 balls with four players who had not done a great deal of batting throughout the tournament.
Qais sera sera
The Hurricanes appeared to miss a trick early. Jofra Archer made the first breakthrough in the second over with Dunk given out caught behind. Archer and Riley Meredith bowled at warp speed. Meredith delivered a frightening over to Handcomb beating the bat four times and clocking 151kph. But as the run-rate climbed briefly above eight, Archer decided to abandon speed for a length slower ball and Handscomb released the pressure with a boundary. He followed with two more and the Stars reached 1 for 46 at the end of the Powerplay to be in cruise control. Qais Ahmad changed that. He delivered a spectacular leg break to clean bowl the white-hot Stoinis. Maddinson was promoted to take down Ahmad. Wade probably should have turned to the speed of Meredith with Maddinson's recent troubles against pace fresh in the memory. He opted to stick with the legspinner and Ahmad got Maddinson but he did concede two sixes. Ahmad pinned Handscomb lbw in the 11th over to keep the game interesting but the Stars had done enough to make the equation 69 from 54 balls.
The responsibility of captaincy has brought out the best in Maxwell. He was determined to finish the match off his own blade again and he did so by barely taking a risk. Gotch was again a terrific ally. Unlike against the Sydney Sixers, where Gotch scored just one run in a 52-run partnership, he smacked three boundaries in his first eight balls to ease the burden on the captain. Maxwell then took control. He hit a ball so well through cover he forced Bailey to dive full length on the rope and left him with what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. While the Hurricanes had earlier struggled to find the boundary in the back end of their innings, Maxwell and Gotch struck eight fours and a six between them. Gotch added the finishing touches with a wonderful strike over cover to win with seven balls to spare.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne