Hobart Hurricanes (1-0) @ Melbourne Stars (0-0) @ Bluestone Arena
Preview - The Hurricanes host a big Boxing Day match against the Melbourne Stars as they look to start with back-to-back victories in BBL6. The Hurricanes were hugely impressive 63-run victors over the Sixers at the SCG, and will be buoyed by a sold out home crowd back at Bluestone Arena. The Stars are the only team yet to play a game in BBL6, and go into this year's campaign, once again, as one of the bookies favourites for the Title. The Stars have a power packed roster once more as they search for that elusive title after four Semi-Final defeats and a Grand Final defeat in their first five seasons. The Stars were convincing 8-wicket victors against the Hurricanes last year, however that match was played at the MCG.
Hobart Hurricanes Scouting Report -
I went into the season thinking the Hurricanes might be a bottom feeder, however I'm starting to question that thought after their first-up display. You don't want to overreact to one game, but they appeared to have found one or two solutions that no one saw coming. You can't go past D'Arcy Short as a starting point with his explosive 63 off 29 balls really catching everyone off guard. Short was making his BBL debut, and with only one First Class appearance, the 26 year old was an unknown quantity coming into the BBL. However, he displayed no nerves and hit the ball so cleanly, with a number of aerial boundaries both sides of the wickets. I looked at the Hurricanes as a batting line up without an explosive opening batsman that could scare and hurt the opposition, however Short will be receiving a bit of video time from the Stars' bowlers in the lead up to this game. Tim Paine might have fallen out of favour in terms of longer form cricket recently, however he has been reliable at the top of the Hurricanes' order. I still think the Hurricanes are a little light down the order, with Dan Christian coming in at Number 5. Christian strikes at 132, but only averages 21, and with Michael, Kingston and Boyce, if teams can get a few early wickets against the Hurricanes, they will be confident of limiting the damage.
With the ball it was good to see Shaun Tait start the season emphatically, claiming 3 wickets against the Sixers. Tait can be expensive, but he can also rattle the opposition with his pace. His ability to bowl two lengths at speed - either really short or yorkers - makes him a very handy death bowler who can be a nightmare for lower order batsmen especially. Stuart Broad had a disappointing debut for the Hurricanes, looking quite rusty, but will be better for the run. I thought their spinners could prove a weakness, however both Clive Rose and Cameron Boyce did a great job against the Sixers. Rose claimed two wickets in the Power Play while only going for 7 an over, while Boyce was steady through the middle overs. With Tait and Broad up front, the Hobart spinners will be hoping to pick up wickets.
Melbourne Stars Scouting Report -
The Stars have both their English imports back in Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen. Wright has been with the Stars since the first BBL, playing all five seasons and averaging 29.89 from 43 BBL matches. Wright is not the most consistent player, however he can be match winner at the top of the order. Last season he scored a magnificent 109 n/o against the Renegades in front of 80,000 fans at the MCG. However, the rest of BBL he was below par scoring just 171 runs from 9 games and averaging under 20. Kevin Pietersen, on the other hand, was consistently productive, scoring 323 runs at an average of 40 and a strike rate of 153. Pietersen made 73 in the Final, however the Stars were unable to defend 181 against the Thunder. With the likes of Glenn Maxwell, David Hussey, Robert Quiney, Marcus Stoinis and James Faulkner, the Stars have real depth and fire power to their batting line-up. Maxwell should be used as high up the order as possible. Despite a slightly underwhelming batting average of 23, his strike rate of 156 is among the best in the world. At 28, Maxwell should be in the prime of his career, and I would be batting him at Number 3. Stoinis opened the batting last year for the Stars, however I reckon the Stars might shelve that plan as it didn't really come off. I wouldn't be surprised to see Robert Quiney back at the top of the order. Quiney has not done well in T20 cricket, averaging 16 from 71 games, however was prolific at the top of the order for Victoria in 50-over cricket. David Hussey is a rock for the Stars in the middle order, capable of playing a destructive innings or a more sedate one. Through 28 games, Hussey averages 30 at a decent strike rate of 133. With James Faulkner lurking down the order, the Stars have a proven match winner and finisher of an innings.
The Stars fast bowling stocks have been weakened with an untimely injury to John Hastings. Hastings is a proven T20 performer with the ball, with 96 wickets from 84 games with the impressive economy rate of 7.57. Hastings was also capable of adding further depth to the Stars' batting. The Stars pace attack will be led by veteran Ben Hilfenhaus, as well as Australian ODI representatives Scott Boland and James Faulkner. Boland has burst on to the scene as a bit of a late bloomer and is capable of bowling at good pace. Faulkner is an experienced short form bowler for Australia with his slower balls and cutters considered his strength. The Stars will be really well served in the spin department by Adam Zampa who has done outstandingly in his nine T20 Internationals for Australia and has an excellent T20 record overall. He bowls flat and accurately, but has good aggressive body language and is always looking to take wickets. Combined with Glen Maxwell and David Hussey's round arm left off spinners, the Stars should be able to get 8-10 quality overs out of their spin attack most games.
Verdict - This should be a cracker. The short square boundaries in Hobart will be interesting, as usually at Bluestone there is one really short boundary teams target. The Hurricanes' confidence will be sky high after their excellent performance in Sydney, and I think they will perform well again in this game. The Stars look the better side on paper in terms of strength and depth in their batting line up. They have far more firepower than the Hurricanes, and if two or three of their big names fire, they are capable of scoring 200+. Where the Hurricanes may have a slight edge is with pace, and if Shaun Tait can crank things up a little more, then the Stars' attack seem capable of. I think this game will be pretty high scoring on a flat wicket and with small boundaries in Hobart. Stars are deservedly slight favourites, however expect this game to go right down to the wire.
The Lurker - " the lurker is on the stars tonight get on maxwell to score 50 plus and Faulkner to take the post poles.