Adelaide Strikers 4 for 162 (Wells 55*, Hinchliffe 3-19) beat Melbourne Stars 8 for 151 (Handscomb 65*, Siddle 4-33) by 11 runs
Adelaide Strikers' bowling firepower stymied league leaders Melbourne Stars at the Adelaide Oval to help the team inch closer to an invaluable double chance in the playoffs.
Chasing a seemingly modest 163, the Stars struggled against a Peter Siddle-led bowling attack until a late flurry from acting captain Peter Handscomb (65 from 39 balls) provided some hope before falling short.
The Stars had appeared in control with the ball with their spinners menacing after Handscomb won the toss and elected to bowl. Only a late flourish from Jonathan Wells ensured the Strikers mustered a competitive total.
The Stars (10-3) have already secured the minor premiership, while the Strikers (7-4) are equal on points with second-placed Sydney Sixers.
Spinners shackle Strikers
The pitch looked a batting paradise, but the Strikers got off to a slow start scoring just seven off the first two overs with Jake Weatherald notably struggling. Knowing they could ill-afford to waste more overs in the Powerplay, Phillip Salt switched gears and hit four consecutive fours in the third over off Dan Worrall with sweet blows around the wicket.
Glenn Maxwell, who relinquished the captaincy for the game due to the bereavement of a friend, bowled Salt in the fifth over and promptly kissed his black arm band before pointing to the sky in an emotional tribute.
Handscomb successfully rotated the bowlers in the Powerplay, including using Adam Zampa who continued his strong form after bowling well in India. The Strikers crawled to just 1 for 38 after six overs with Weatherald making a painstaking six off 17 balls.
The Strikers looked to Travis Head for a push, but the spinners continued to menace with Clint Hinchliffe bowling the left-hander then dismissing an out of sorts Weatherald, who only mustered 15 off 27.
Sandeep Lamichhane became the fourth spinner used inside 10 overs with the home side limping to 3 for 57 at the midpoint.
Wells counterattacks at the death
The Strikers could ill afford to meander in the middle overs and fortunately Alex Carey, making his BBL re-emergence, was in an aggressive mood. He clubbed the first six of the innings in the 11th over off Zampa and added two more shortly after to quickly transform the game.
Carey's enterprising knock ended prematurely when he holed out off Hinchliffe, who was outperforming his higher-profile teammates. Spin was working such a treat that Handscomb turned to Nic Maddinson in the backend instead of seamer Marcus Stoinis, who was not required in the innings.
After 11 straight overs of spin, Worrall returned in the 18th over and maintained the miserly effort of the spinners with accurate full-pitched death bowling.
The Strikers finally broke the shackles with a late flurry off Zampa, whose figures soured after a tight start to finish with 0 for 38 off 4.
Wells crossed fifty in the final over to ensure the Strikers finished with momentum.
Stars crawl in the Powerplay
The Strikers needed early wickets and Siddle in the second over landed the prized scalp of Stoinis, whose skier was well caught by Salt. The Stars were forced to rejig their batting order due to an injury to Hilton Cartwright before the match and were out of sync managing just 12 runs in the opening fours overs in their slowest ever start in the BBL.
With the Stars anchored, Head used talisman Rashid Khan to end the Powerplay and the spin maestro delivered second ball by clean bowling Maddinson. The Stars' tally of 26 runs was their second lowest ever Powerplay and they slumped further shortly after when Nick Larkin holed out in Wes Agar's first over.
The pressure was on Maxwell and he started nervously with his first boundary narrowly missing the stumps off an inside edge before finding his range against Agar in the 10th over. But Maxwell's cameo ended when he hit straight to mid-off, as the Stars' run rate crept over 10 an over at the midpoint.
Siddle holds off Handscomb's late rally
Handscomb and Seb Gotch stabilised the innings with cautious batting but boundaries were hard to muster. Gotch fell trying to accelerate in the 15th over putting the pressure firmly on Handscomb's shoulders.
Rashid wasn't taking wickets but continued to tie down the scoring in the middle overs to ensure the Stars' run-rate spiralled out of control. Handscomb could barely score above a run a ball until unleashing several lusty blows late to cross fifty and give the Stars a sniff of a miracle.
Needing 22 off the final over, the Stars fell short with Siddle holding his nerve against a hot Handscomb.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth and writes on sports for the Guardian and mailerreport