Perth Scorchers (4-2) v Melbourne Stars (3-2) @ The WACA
Preview - It's a high octane clash between two Top 4 sides as the Scorchers host the Stars at the WACA in the second leg of a double header on Saturday night. The Scorchers are sitting pretty on top of the table after a 27-run victory over the Heat in Brisbane on Wednesday night. The Scorchers looked much like their old selves in defending a moderate 5/156, with strike bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Tye ripping through a Heat batting line up missing Chris Lynn. The Scorchers are 2 from 3 at home this season, and a victory can wrap up a final's spot and continue their push towards a home semi-final. The Stars have rebounded with back-to-back victories to sit at 3-2 in 4th spot on the competition table. Wins over the Renegades and Strikers have rescued a season that might have been slipping away after frustrating losses to the Renegades and Thunder. The Scorchers and Stars have clashed in several huge games over the years, with both franchises a perfect 5 from 5 in terms of making the semi-finals. However, the Scorchers have often had the last laugh winning two BBL titles while the Stars are yet to break through. While the Scorchers have often had the last laugh at the WACA, the Stars did the double over them last season with both clashes taking place at the MCG. Last season, the Stars won by 7 wickets in the semi-final to advance to their first final, before losing to the Thunder.
Squad Changes - The Scorchers have one big out from the side that beat the Heat, with wicket keeper batsman Sam Whiteman missing the game through concussion. In his place comes wicket keeper Josh Inglis. Inglis has represented Western Australia in Under 17s and Under 19s cricket, as well as having played for the Cricket Australia X1. The Stars make just one change to their squad with Jackson Coleman bought in to replace Seb Gotch.
Perth Strikers Scouting Report - Shaun Marsh was one of the top few T20 opening batsmen in the world coming into BBL6, however he is yet to fire a shot in anger. I don't think the Scorchers will have any thoughts of dropping Marsh down the order - nor should they. Marsh has been a large part of their success over the years and has been crucial in building the platforms for the middle order. Fellow opener Michael Klinger is having another outstanding BBL campaign, with 224 runs at an average of 37 and a strike rate of 129. Ian Bell, after a great start, has gone a bit off the boil in the past few games, and Perth need a bit more out of their middle order in the absence of the prolific Mitchell Marsh. The Scorchers have delivered sub par totals in their last two matches, only for their bowlers to bail them out in Brisbane with a win.
With the ball it was great to see Mitchell Johnson back opening the bowling. He really set the tempo for the Scorchers with his aggression and pace. The Scorchers would have been pleased with overseas import Tim Bresnan's first up effort as he claimed 2/29 from his 4 overs. Bresnan is a vastly experience bowler and was great under pressure on Wednesday night. I thought Ashton Agar put in by far his best performance of BBL6. Despite not picking up a wicket, Agar bowled an outstanding spell of 0/18 from 4 overs under pressure with no bad balls.
Melbourne Stars Scouting Report - The Stars have been well served by their top order in BBL6, with both Robert Quiney and Kevin Pietersen in sparkling form. Quiney has been in imperious form opening the batting, and the Scorchers will not want to bowl too straight to him as he has really targeted those leg side boundaries. Where the Stars have wobbled in BBL6 to date is their middle order form. Ben Hilfenhaus bailed them out against the Strikers, however they will want more contributions from the likes of Peter Handscomb, David Hussey and the out of sorts Marcus Stoinis.
The Stars fast bowlers, Scott Boland and Ben Hilfenhaus, have been one of the more consistent and productive of any fast bowling pairs in BBL6. While I have not been particularly impressed by some side's death bowling, the Stars have been well served by both Boland and Hilfenhaus, showing a good variety of quicker and slower balls. Young spinner, Liam Bowe, made a very promising debut, however will be tested with the shorter straight boundaries in Perth. Bowe showed nerves of steel on debut to not bowl any long hops or full tosses, however I would not be surprised if the Scorchers batsmen targeted him early in his spell tonight.
Verdict - This has the potential to be a really closely fought and highly entertaining game of cricket. The Scorchers have a good record against the Stars in Perth, so I think the home side deserves favouritism. I expect Shaun Marsh or Ian Bell to really fire in this game as it's hard to keep class players down for too long. For the Stars, I expect either Peter Handscomb or David Hussey to lay a better platform in the middle overs. I think the side batting first will be looking for a score of around 175-180 to fancy their chances of taking out a victory in this game.
The Lurker - "I am sticking my beak out here and backing the Stars on the road. Have a lash at the high bat double of Ian Bell into Peter Handscomb. Also I think the Stars will hit more horns than the Scorchers."