10th Match (N), Sydney, December 12, 2021, Big Bash League
(17.1/20 ov, T:152) 155/4

Stars won by 6 wickets (with 17 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
42* (21)

Russell, Couch and Qais help Melbourne Stars demolish Sydney Thunder

Alex Ross' 77 and Tanveer Sangha's two-wicket haul were the only bright spots for the Thunder

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
Andre Russell muscles the ball away, Sydney Thunder vs Melbourne Stars, BBL 202-21, Sydney Showground Stadium, December 12, 2021

Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Melbourne Stars 4 for 155 (Russell 42*, Maxwell 40, Sangha 2-20) beat Sydney Thunder 5 for 151 (Ross 77*, Qais 2-17, Couch 2-26) by six wickets
Andre Russell hurt his former team Sydney Thunder with an unbeaten 21-ball 42 to give his new team Melbourne Stars a six-wicket win in the battle of the greens at the Sydney Showground Stadium. Walking in with the Stars in a difficult position, Russell maximised the power surge and demolished the Thunder bowlers to help chase 152 with 17 balls to spare.
When Russell came in, the Stars had just lost Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell. However, five massive sixes and one four from the West Indian put all fears to rest, and the Stars now sit at third on the points table with two wins in three games.
Russell wasn't the only standout player for the Stars. Seamer Brody Couch, only three T20s old, took 2 for 26 and Afghan leggie Qais Ahmad picked up 2 for 17 to restrict the Thunder to 151. Maxwell, too, entertained with a 25-ball 40.
Russell's muscle after Maxi's hustle
After legspinner Tanveer Sangha dismissed the set Stars batters - Stoinis and Maxwell - in the 12th over, the Stars were 83 for 4. The first ball Russell faced was Sangha's hat-trick delivery. But when Nathan McAndrew offered pace in the 13th over, Russell pummelled him for six over long on and clobbered two more sixes in the next over when Daniel Sams missed his mark with two short balls.
With 26 runs off his first 11 balls, Russell had swiftly absorbed all the pressure that the Stoinis-Maxwell dismissals had brought along, and once the power surge was taken, run-scoring eased up even further. Sangha's half-tracker was pulled over long on, Gurinder Sandhu's short ball was punished in the same direction, and before one knew it, Russell was collecting the Player-of-the-Match award - from a distance, of course, due to the special and strict bio-bubble/close contact rules applied by the BBL for him.
In an unbeaten 68-run stand for the fifth wicket with Russell, the No. 6 Hilton Cartwright contributed 23 in 13 balls.
Before the stand, though, Maxwell played his part in shepherding a third-wicket stand with Stoinis. The duo added 59 after Stars lost Joe Clarke for a duck and Nick Larkin for an 11-ball six, with Stoinis choosing to anchor himself for the long haul after the early dismissals.
That forced Maxwell to take the onus of keeping up with the required rate, and he started his assault with a well-timed flick off McAndrew over deep midwicket in the seventh over. After surviving a dropped chance, he drilled two fours back past Ben Cutting in the eighth and even hit Chris Green for a reverse-sweep that very nearly went for six. His 40 seemed to be the match-defining innings of the evening, but his dismissal instead made way for Russell to steal the day's headlines.
Young Stars bowlers impress
With Alex Hales hitting three fours off Nathan Coulter-Nile in the first over of the match, it was the Thunder who came off the blocks red hot. And Stars captain Maxwell had to shift to spin very early to put Hales in an uncomfortable position. After Hales carefully saw off the second over from Adam Zampa, he clocked Qais over mid off for a six in the third. However, Maxwell's persistence with spin finally paid off when he himself dismissed the other opener, Sam Whiteman, in the fourth over.
With a new batter in the crease, Qais then pounced on the opportunity by bowling four tidy deliveries before bowling Matthew Gilkes behind his legs. Two quick wickets put the pressure on Hales to go big, but he failed to do so as Couch - who celebrated his 22nd birthday last week - went short, and the batter instead edged an attempted upper-cut to Joe Clarke behind the sticks. Couch, in fact, was Maxwell's sixth bowling option inside the first seven overs, a ploy he said, when mic'd up, was to unsettle the Thunder batters.
It wasn't the Hales wicket that was most impressive about Couch, but his bowling channel through his first spell. With a packed leg-side field on the boundary line, he went short or on a length, forcing the experienced middle-order batters Sam Billings and Alex Ross to only play across the line.
From the other end, Qais' toss-ups tempted the batters, but his guile ensured they couldn't find boundaries. Instead, a frustrated Billings succumbed to cover looking to break the shackles by attacking a Qais delivery that had extra turn.
All this time, Ross had been industrious in his run-scoring by picking singles and twos and playing low-risk shots, but with the death overs approaching and the Thunder's score still under 100, he looked to change gears. After Sams clobbered Zampa for two sixes in the 18th, Ross tore into Russell with a hat-trick of sixes in a 23-run 19th over. Those hits helped Ross reach his highest-ever BBL score of 77.
However, the young Couch bowled two terrific overs at the death to keep the Thunder down to a gettable total when momentum was not with the Stars. He kept Ross and Sams quiet in a five-run 17th over. And given the responsibility of the 20th, he conceded just one six in an 11-run final over that also included Sams' scalp. Together, Couch and Qais shared four wickets for 43 runs in eight overs and were key contributors in ensuring that their side needed only 152 to win.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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