Having thrown away a winning position against Sydney Sixers, Glenn Maxwell's Melbourne Stars should bounce back and overcome the Thunder on Tuesday, says Matt Harris...
"A strong batting unit should be boosted by the return of Nic Maddinson and Marcus Stoinis"
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars
Tuesday, 08:15 GMT
Live on BT Sport
Thunder on a hot streak
Sydney Thunder lost the reverse fixture against the Stars as Callum Ferguson's side went down by 22 runs in their opening match of BBL10. Since then, the men in green have won three games in a row to sit in second place as the sides prepare to meet again on Tuesday.
Thunder's run has come without too much assistance from Alex Hales who was the second highest run scorer in last season's tournament. The English opener had made two consecutive first ball ducks but passed 1,000 Big Bash runs in Saturday's win over the Renegades.
Skipper Ferguson has top scored twice while useful contributions with the bat have come throughout the order but Hales does need to find some consistent form. Sydney's bowlers were not tested by a poor Renegades batting unit but the attack will face a greater challenge this time.
Stars on the slide
Melbourne Stars would have been clear at the top had it not been for Glenn Maxwell's bizarre decision to bowl the last over in Saturday's defeat to the Sixers. Like the game itself, hindsight is always 20/20 but it was an odd call by the skipper who wasn't exactly short of better options.
Earlier, Maxwell and Nicholas Pooran combined to put on 125 for the fifth wicket and a strong batting unit should be boosted by the return of Nic Maddinson and Marcus Stoinis. Stars have no issues in the batting line up and should be capable of posting above-par scores on a consistent basis.
The problems may come in a bowling attack that offers up to eight options. Variation can obviously be helpful but it needs to be used more wisely moving forward.
Welcome return to Canberra
A return to the Manuka Oval in Canberra allows both sides to be at full strength and, after some rain on Monday, a clear day is expected. A full forty overs is in prospect at a ground where Thunder's 209 against the Renegades was the highest total of the tournament so far.
In five matches, the average first innings score here is 166: Three wins have gone to the chasing side with the remaining two going to the team taking first knock. The trend has been to insert but, with two batting units in explosive form, I'd be looking to make first use of the facilities.
Despite Thunder's three-game winning streak, Callum Ferguson's men are very much the outside bet at 2.186/5 while Melbourne Stars lead the way at 1.774/5. T20 cricket isn't always about the batsmen but recent indicators suggest a tough evening for the respective bowling attacks.
Tuesday's match focuses on two in-form batting units and it should be closer than this market suggests. With Stoinis and Maddinson likely to bring Melbourne Stars back to full strength, I'll side with the favourites but it's a tight call.
Another failure for Alex Hales may have cost him his place with pressure from compatriot Sam Billings but 35 against the Renegades will save him from a spell in the dugout. As a follower of Notts Outlaws, I've seen these slumps before and Hales is rarely out of touch for too long.
Usman Khawaja starts as the favourite to top score for Sydney Thunder at [13/5] on the sportsbook while Hales follows at 11/4. Having delivered a profit in two previous games, there will be interest in Callum Ferguson at 7/2 while Oliver Davies may offer value at 9/2. If Thunder are to have a chance, they will need a major contribution from the openers and we'll back Alex Hales at a reasonable price.
Sydney Thunder's Tanveer Sangha took full advantage of Melbourne Renegades' second double figure score of the tournament on Saturday. Figures of 4/14 now make the leg spinner a tempting option for Thunder's leading wicket taker at odds of [9/2].
Switching focus back to the batters, Sydney look a good outside bet to deliver most sixes at [6/5] as opposed to the Stars [10/11]. I'm staying with two picks for Tuesday but, as always, there are plenty of options among the remaining side markets.
Matt Harris' BBL P/L