Haris Rauf can shine with the ball again for the Stars but even his pace may not stop the rot with the Thunder looking a decent bet to make the final, says Jamie Pacheco.
"It’s one of those cases where it’s not so much about the Thunder being a great side as it is about the Stars finding new ways to lose matches from winning positions. That and the fact that the Thunder are the ones carrying all the momentum."
Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder
Friday February 6, 8:40
TV: live on BT Sport 1
Stars doing their best to mess things up
The Stars were looking unbeatable at the start of the tournament before a number of things went wrong.
Batsmen Ben Dunk and Nic Maddinson, of whom much was expected, started playing like the game of cricket was a new experience to them.
Pat Brown, pencilled in to replace Dale Steyn when he left, got injured before he played a game. Haris Rauf was called up by Pakistan.
Adam Zampa and Peter Handscomb were called up by Australia. Nathan Coulter-Nile was carrying a niggle for a couple of games and missed a few others. They lost Sandeep Lamichhane for the rest of the tournament after he was called up for international duty.
Still, there were little or no excuses for the way they capitulated against the Sixers on Friday. It was a competitive total they were chasing and the Sixers bowled well; but to be bowled out for less than 100 was inexcusable.
They have no momentum at all and are extremely thankful that their consistency in the Group Stages means they just need to win this to be in the final despite all their cricketing sins over the past couple of weeks.
Thunder handling the pressure brilliantly
It's a minor miracle the Thunder are here at all. If they were an animal, they'd be a cat because they've had close to nine lives. Matches between other teams going their way and a win of their own in their last Group match to ensure they made the play-offs at all, were followed by two do-or-die matches in the Play-Offs; they won both.
So yes, they've ridden their luck at times but credit to them for coming good time and again when they were one match away from going out.
Their bowling doesn't look any great shakes on paper but between them they've excellent. Daniel Sams, unknown to many outside Australia, will end as the Big Bash's top bowler by a country mile, while the likes of Chris Morris and Arjun Nair have been doing their bit as well.
Just can't trust the Stars
The Stars are 4/51.8 and you can just about understand why. They're brilliant on their day and have four or five players who can turn the game on its head with bat or ball in a space of five or ten minutes. They're a side who should make the final given their resources but that counts for nothing. They can also be excused for having a lost a bit of self-belief after losing so many games over the past couple of weeks or so.
A few punters out there are on the Thunder at odds of 199/1200.0 when they needed to win five or six games to make the final. Good on them. But if you're not one of those lucky enough to have grabbed those fancy prices, then you could do worse than back the Thunder here at 6/52.2.
It's one of those cases where it's not so much about the Thunder being a great side as it is about the Stars finding new ways to lose matches from winning positions. That and the fact that the Thunder are the side carrying all the momentum.
The Thunder top batsman market is as ever, a three-horse race between Alex Hales (23/10), Usman Khawaja (3/1), and Callum Ferguson (16/5).
Hales is the form player, Khawaja the class act who is due and Ferguson the one looking to play the anchor role rather than going boom or bust. I'd probably just about favour Ferguson but there's not much in it.
What about Chris Morris, though? He's yet to make a big score but he'll come in at five or six and if no-one gets many, it won't require too many blows from that big bat to get him to 30 or 40. It may just be enough.
If you want good reasons to back Haris Rauf, consider this. His 17 wickets are more than anyone else in the side, despite playing just under half the games of others. His strike rate is an obscene 10.8 while the second best - Adam Zampa- has a strike rate of 14.2 and others who have taken wickets have their SR at around the 16 mark.
For good measure he's by far the quickest bowler in the side and probably the quickest in the whole tournament full stop. And pace will always be vital in any form of cricket.
Plenty of reasons then to think that 3/1 is a pretty decent price about the Pakistani speedster.
JAMIE'S BIG BASH P/L 2019/20
Points Staked: 21
Points Returned: 16.45
Back the Thunder to win @ 6/52.2
Back Haris Rauf to be Stars’ top bowler @ 3/1