Big Bash League 2017/8: Melbourne Stars Preview

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ALBURY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 12: Kevin Pietersen of the Melbourne Stars plays a shot during the Big Bash League exhibition match between the Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Thunder at Lavington Sports Ground on December 12, 2017 in Albury, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

The Melbourne Stars pipped their local rivals to qualify for the knock-out stages last year. However, a poor batting display in the semi-finals meant that they were unable to reach the final. This betrayed what had been an otherwise successful tournament for the Stars. Their squad this season is relatively unchanged. John Hastings has been appointed captain in the absence of David Hussey, who has been replaced by the superb addition of Ben Dunk. They beat the Sydney Thunder recently in a warm-up match for the Big Bash, with Kevin Pietersen, Marcus Stoinis and Evan Gulbis all firing with the bat.

Batting

The Melbourne Stars have a host of top international batsmen at their disposal. English T20 star Luke Wright opened the batting for them last season and had a fairly productive season. Wright is the all-time leading run scorer for the Melbourne Stars and has been with the franchise since its creation. Recently Wright had a poor end to the Bangladesh Premier League and will be hoping to return to the form he was in for Sussex at the end of the County Championship season. Rob Quiney partnered him in the Big Bash League 06, but it could be the case that Ben Dunk replaces him. Although Quiney notched up a handy 227 runs in the season, Dunk’s haul of 364 runs was the highest in the competition.
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Former England international Kevin Pietersen is set to occupy the number three role again. After commentating on the Ashes for BT Sport, Pietersen switched into T20 mode in the Melbourne Stars exhibition match against the Sydney Thunder. He smashed 34 off 19, hitting four boundaries and one maximum. Glenn Maxwell entertained the crowds in that clash as well, with a blistering cameo of 18 off 9. The Australian all-rounder is arguably the best T20 player in the world, with a score of 145* to his name in an international game against Sri Lanka. His career strike rate of 165.48 pays fitting testament to his explosive nature. It was slightly surprising to see him not included as part of Australia’s Ashes plans, but we can look forward to him entertaining in the Big Bash instead.

All-rounders Marcus Stoinis, Evan Gulbis and James Faulkner can all contribute lower down the order. Stoinis looked in imperious form against the Sydney Thunder, hitting spinner Arjun Nair out of the ground in his knock of 32. Gulbis also supported him nicely with 34 off 20, demonstrating some superb striking of the ball. This Melbourne Stars batting unit is one of the best in the competition, second only perhaps to the Brisbane Heat.

Bowling

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The Melbourne Stars bowling department is probably as strong as their batting. Fast bowler John Hastings is their newly appointed captain and is set to lead their line. He will be accompanied by Scott Boland who had a terrific campaign last time out. Boland picked up 14 wickets in that season, which was the third highest total in the whole competition. He picked up two wickets against the Sydney Thunder as well, but was rather expensive. All-rounder James Faulkner could also be considered to open the bowling. Faulkner is very experienced in limited overs cricket and has a full armoury of variations which he likes to use.

Leg-spinner Adam Zampa could play a key role for the Stars this season as well. After an incredible IPL performance, Zampa has proven himself to be one of the best limited overs spinners in the world. The Sydney Thunder certainly struggled to cope with him as he ended up with man of the match figures of 4-0-17-2. Glenn Maxwell could bowl a few overs in the middle period of the innings and Michael Beer is also available for the Stars to use.

How will they do?

Qualification is certainly on the cards again for the Melbourne Stars. The addition of Ben Dunk is handy and the in-form batsman could partner Luke Wright. Last year they were let down by a collapse in a crunch match and it will be interesting to see whether they can cope with the pressure this season and not choke again. If they can deliver under pressure, the Melbourne Stars could go far in the tournament.

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