Alex Hales Sydney Thunder 1280

Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars
Sunday December 12th, 08:15 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Thunder extinguished at the death

Sydney Thunder looked to have timed their run chase perfectly before going down to the Stars by just four runs on Friday. Sam Billings and Matthew Gilkes put on 89 for the third wicket after losing both openers cheaply and there are few concerns in the middle order.

The Thunder will clearly want more from their openers: Alex Hales has made just ten from two matches while Sam Whiteman has made 21 from his two knocks. The side has won both Bash Boost bonuses but will need faster starts from the men at the top.

Bowling has been shared around a six-man attack but it’s surprising to see Ben Cutting restricted to three overs in those two games. Unless the seamer is nursing an injury, his experience could have been vital in Friday’s match where Daniel Sams went round the park at the death.

Zampa holds his nerve

It’s rare for a spinner to bowl the last over in any T20 game but Adam Zampa’s confidence is high after successful domestic and international stints in 2021. The leg spinner successfully defended 11 from the final six balls to see the Stars over the line in Friday’s reverse fixture.

Melbourne Stars’ batters also mounted a rescue mission after Joe Clarke and Marcus Stoinis were both dismissed for 13. Hilton Cartwright and Nick Larkin responded before Andre Russell completed Daniel Sams’ miserable evening.

Having lost by a record margin of 152 runs in their first game, there are still some concerns in the Stars camp. Clarke and the skipper Glenn Maxwell both need scores after slow starts to BBL 11.

Showdown at the Showground

The Sydney Showground Stadium hosts its first game of the competition and the Thunder should be happy to return home. When the ground was used in 2019/20, there was a lot of rain around and DLS had to intervene in three of the five matches.

THe two games that went the distance provided an average first innings score of 152 and both were won by the side batting second. That’s a small sample size but it suggests that it’s a day to insert and keep the opposition down to that 150 mark.

Having won Friday’s fixture, Melbourne Stars start as favourites and will go into this match at 1.865/6. Sydney Thunder complete the match betting at 2.0811/10 and they will get support at that figure.

The teams look evenly matched and this is very close to call. Several big players – specifically Stoinis, Maxwell, Hales and Clarke have yet to fire at BBL 11. It’s likely that at least one of those batsmen will respond and a ten-over stay at the crease will take the game away from the opposition.

Based on that theory, I’m edging towards the Thunder who have last year’s leading run scorer waiting to blast off.

I’d backed Alex Hales as top scorer in Sydney Thunder’s first game but was wary of his tendency to either hit big runs or make a swift return to the hutch. He lasted just two balls against Brisbane and followed that up with a poor shot to Adam Zampa on Friday.

We can hopefully deduce from this that Hales is ‘due’ so I’ll put my faith in him one more time. He’s too good a player to be out of touch for long and, while he starts as favourite to top score for Sydney at 12/5 on the sportsbook, that’s not a bad price. Other options include Sam Billings at 10/3, Matthew Gilkes at 4/1 and Sam Whiteman at 4/1.

Stars fans have yet to see the best of Joe Clarke but anyone who has followed the T20 Blast in England will know that he’s a dangerous player in this format. He’s similar to his county colleague Alex Hales in the sense that it’s a case of ‘feast or famine’ with Clarke but he’s also due a big contribution.

With three T20 hundreds, a best of 136 and a strike rate above 155, he’ll convert eventually and Clarke carries tempting odds of 4/1 to top score for Melbourne if you want a third pick.

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