After 56 regular season games the BBL08 semi-finals are with us and league-leading Hobart Hurricanes host the Melbourne Stars at Blundstone Arena. James Buttler finds the betting value...
"Assured of a semi-final spot for some time because of a storming start, they slipped to three defeats in their last five games. Momentum is a huge word in T20 cricket and it remains to be seen if Hurricanes have now been downgraded to a light breeze."
Hobart Hurricanes v Melbourne Stars
Thursday February 14, 08:30 GMT
Live on BT Sport
Are table-topping Hurricanes running out of puff?
Hobart Hurricanes have been superb this season and finished the league part of this season's BBL08 at the top of the Ladder with 10 wins from their 14 matches. Mathew Wade's side have defeated the Stars twice already in BBL08 and enter the finals with plenty of confidence.
But winning the league stage and winning the tournament are very different things. In seven previous tournaments the league winners has made the final twice, runner up in BBL01, and winners in BBL06. And there are signs that Hobart are running out of steam. They completed their campaign with a loss to Sydney Thunder. Assured of a semi-final spot for some time because of a storming start, they slipped to three defeats in their last five games. Momentum is a huge word in T20 cricket and it remains to be seen if Hurricanes have now been downgraded to a light breeze.
"It doesn't actually matter if you've had a good tournament or a poor tournament, if you've been the leading run-scorer or haven't scored a run in your last 10 games, you start from scratch," Hurricanes George Bailey said as other sides have finished the tournament with better results.
The Hurricanes batting has been magnificent, but their bowling could prove to be their weak link. Jofra Archer and Clive Rose have enjoyed good tournaments, but they need more support from the likes of James Faulkner and Riley Meredith if they are going to stifle their opposition.
Stars' relief their biggest asset
Melbourne Stars were a game away from being labelled this season's bottle jobs. A Glenn Maxwell inspired 94-run hammering of the Sydney Sixers saw them steam into the semi-finals instead, but they cut it fine, waiting until the final qualifying game to extend their stay in the competition. It was their seventh win in 14 games, but by far their most important.
Maxwell, known as the 'Big Show' for his liking of performing on the big stage, made 82 in 43 balls to rescue a stuttering Stars batting display and propel them to a challenging total of 168 for six. In reply, the spin of Sandeep Lamichhane (3-11) and Adam Zampa (2-15), meant any hopes the Sixers had of winning were short-lived.
The return of Lamichhane has strengthened their bowling and, along with Zampa, Daniel Worrall and Jackson Bird have provided a consistent threat to opposition batting line-ups.
The Stars showed their darker side in their previous game against Brisbane Heat when they were demolished by 10 wickets, when Heat's openers rattled off their chase inside 10 overs. But the relief the Stars will feel could now see them freed up to play their best cricket. They may be far too reliant on the batting talents of Marcus Stoinis and Maxwell, but they will now believe they can go all they way.
Just favouring Stars in crunch clash
This is the second time that Hurricanes and Stars have faced each other in the BBL Finals. In BBL03 the Stars were hot favourites having stormed through the league phase unbeaten, but Man of the Match Cameron Boyce (3-11) secured Hobart a place in the final, where they were defeated by Perth Scorchers. They have never won the Big Bash despite being beaten finalists twice. The Stars too have yet to win a Bash title. Having made the semi-finals in every tournament between BBL01 and BBL06, but only ever mad the final in BBL05.
The Heat lead their earlier BBL08 encounters 2-0 after winning by six wickets at the Blundstone Arena and by 59 runs at the MCG. Despite that, I'm taking the Stars in this one at the bigger price of [2.18] as they are free to play their best cricket after sneaking into the semi-finals, whereas the Hurricanes might just have gone past their best before date.
While the Hurricanes bowling hasn't always fired, their batting has been nothing short of superb. Their trump card has been Matthew Wade and D'Arcy Short opening the innings. They have often got their side off to storming starts and, usually, at least one of them has gone big.
They are the first and second ranked batsmen in the entire tournament with Short on 602 runs and Wade on 590. Both have top scored five times each out of 14 games played, which illustrates how dominant they have been. Ask me to choose and I'd take Wade in this market as he's been in the better recent form but choosing between these two is like picking the identical twin you fancy most. There is nothing between them. Wade is slighter bigger than Short too at 23/10. With Ben McDermott (323), George Bailey (326) and Caleb Jewell (122) contributing from the middle-order, they have a tremendous line-up, but it's led from the top.
It's Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell in this market, but it has to be Stoinis in this market. He has the third best run tally of BBL08 (476) and is almost 200 runs ahead of Maxwell. While Maxwell is always going to steal the headlines, it is Stoinis that has been the Stars player of the tournament so far and at 15/8 he's big enough to play. His batting has been consistently punishing and he's also capable of supplying tidy over with the ball.
Stoinis and Ben Dunk have combined well at the top of the innings and with a strong middle-order there has been plenty of scope for big totals. Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson have been in good form going in to this semi-final and with Seb Gotch and Dwayne Bravo able to add a gloss finish they have good depth in their batting ranks. They will fancy their chances of unsettling a sometimes inconsistent Hurricanes bowling attack.
Of the players in show in this semi-final there are three players who have dominated the Man of the Match markets throughout BBL08. D'Arcy Short and Marcus Stoinis have taken the award four times each and Matthew Wade on three occasions. Which of the three gives the value? As I fancy the Stars to win the match it has to be Stoinis at 7/1.
James Buttler at BBL08
Units Staked 57.00
Units Returned 55.56
Profit/Loss: -1.44 units
BBL07 Profit/Loss +8.20
2 units on Melbourne Stars to win @ [2.18]
1 unit Back Matthew Wade to be Top Hurricanes Batsman @ 23/10
1 unit Back Marcus Stoinis to be Top Stars Batsman @ 15/8
1 unit Back Marcus Stoinis to be Man of the Match @ 7/1