Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Stars: Stars feeling Heat as play-off place beckons

Marcus Stoinis Melbourne Stars
Marcus Stoinis has 361 BBL08 runs and could be the Stars' turn again
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We're into the crunch BBL08 matches with few second chances around. James Buttler is looking for the big names to stand up to the pressure and deliver in this one...

"If things don't go their way this will be the last time we see former New Zealand captain Brendan McCullum in Big Bash action. The big hitting Kiwi has announced that this will be his last tournament Down Under and the legendary Kiwi will not want to go out with a whimper."

Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Stars
Friday February 8, 09:40 GMT
Live on BT Sport

One chance left for Heat

The Heat have taken two wins on the bounce and it's given them a chance. Victories over Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers mean that the play-offs are still on their radar. That hope disappears completely if they cannot beat Melbourne Stars on Friday.

If Chris Lynn's team can get passed the Stars they still require other results go their way. They would need the Hurricanes to beat the Thunder and then the Sixers to beat the Stars. They are not in control of their destiny, but it's all irrelevant if they don't first perform their own part of the bargain.

Matt Renshaw played the key hand in their last win with an unbeaten 90 from 50 balls after Josh Lalor's 3-25 had restricted the Adelaide Strikers. Prior to that it had been Lynn's rapid fifty that saw his side past the Scorchers.

If things don't go their way this will be the last time we see former New Zealand captain Brendan McCullum in Big Bash action. The big hitting Kiwi has announced that this will be his last tournament Down Under and the legendary Kiwi will not want to go out with a whimper.

Stars have two bites at play-off cherry

For Melbourne Stars the permutations are simpler. Beat the Heat and they are into the semi-finals. Lose to the Heat and then beat Sydney Sixers and they are also through. Lose both games and it's all gone horribly wrong.

The Stars are in serious danger of running out of steam and, if they did progress, they wouldn't be my pick for further glory in BBL08. Their defeat to the Scorchers was embarrassing with only Glenn Maxwell (61 from 40) delivering with the bat and the bowling was pretty weak. A lot could depend on Maxwell who is capable of winning games on his own and certainly needs to inject some stardust into his side.

Marcus Stoinis has developed a decent opening partnership with Ben Dunk. Stoinis has enjoyed a stellar BBL08 with bat in hand, but needs to offer more with the ball to make his side economical in the field.

With Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson and Dwayne Bravo in their batting line-up the Stars have plenty of fireworks at their disposal. The leg-spin of Adam Zampa could be crucial if they want to restrict the Heat with the ball.

Just favouring Stars in crunch clash

When you see players like Lynn and Maxwell on either side you know that 20 or 30 minutes of them in top gear is all it might take to win this game. As these two sides fight it out at The Gabba I have changed my mind more than once when writing this preview. On that basis I think the value is on the player markets rather than the outrights.

The Heat lead the encounters between these sides by 6-3, and it's 3-2 in their favour at The Gabba, but when they met at the MCG earlier in the competition the Stars won by five runs. That win ended Heat's five-game domination of this fixture and could be a very important factor in changing the momentum of where this match is going.

That said, I am a sucker for value in the markets and, with home advantage, in a game that is so hard to call, there is no reason that Brisbane Heat should be deemed outsiders at [2.16].

Looking to Lynn to catapult Heat to big score

When Chris Lynn is in full swing he is one of the very best T20 players in the world. His 385 runs in BBL08 have come at a strike-rate of 126.22 and with the Heat's chips very much down they will be looking to Lynn to do something magical. At 23/10 he takes my sensible stake above nearest rival in the market Brendan McCullum (10/3). Any bet on McCullum would be sentimental.

Matt Renshaw could provide a half-stakes play after scoring an unbeaten 90 in the last game and the price on the Aussue international of 5/1 is simply too big. Joe Burns is back in the Heat camp after scoring a century for Australia in the Test Match, but he's offered nothing in BBL08 to encourage a bet against his name.

Can the 'Big Show' book a Big Final berth?

The reason that Glenn Maxwell earns a lot of money playing T20 cricket around the world is because he has it in his locker to stand out there in the middle of the green stuff and perform something incredible whilst those around him stutter and stammer over their lines. He's 7/2 to top score for the Stars and, as I am playing Marcus Stoinis to be Man of the Match, Maxi takes my money. Stoinis is another fine shout in this market as he opens the innings and potentially has more time at the crease than Maxwell. His 361 runs in BBL08 have been the reason the Stars are still fighting for a semi-final berth and, if I wasn't already playing him to be Man of the Match, would take my full sensible stake at 2/1.

Stoinis to provide the star turn

Going for an all-rounder in this market is always a good choice as you get double the chance to impress. The Stars' victory over the Heat in Melbourne earlier in BBL08 shapes my thinking here. Marcus Stoinis is a hard hitting batsman, he opens the innings, he bowls seam that, in a T20, cam take a few wickets. At the MCG a week-and-a-half ago Stoinis bit a rapid 43 and then took 4-23 with the ball. There are plenty of other potential match winners in this clash, but Stoinis at 5/1 is a great pick and my favourite bet for this game.

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Follow James on Twitter @cricket_badger

James Buttler at BBL08

Units Staked 53.00
Units Returned 55.56
Profit/Loss: +2.56 units

BBL07 Profit/Loss +8.20

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