KFC Big Bash Final: Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Thunder

Written by Jason Dewey for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Thunder | Sunday 24 January | Melbourne Cricket Ground | 10:30

Who would have thought that this season’s KFC Big Bash final would have been contested by the Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Thunder? Not many I’d wager. With that being said, though, both teams have been full value for their place in the showpiece match of this event.

Can the Stars claim their first ever Big Bash title in front of a packed MCG or will the Thunder rain on their parade when the two go head to head on Sunday morning?

To Win Match *Expected odds
Melbourne Stars 4/5
Draw 35/1
Sydney Thunder 1/1

Melbourne Stars
The Stars will have been relieved more than anything after breaking the semi-final hoodoo that has seen them advance to the play-offs in every single edition of the BBL prior to this season, without ever making the final. They’ll have the honour of hosting the Sydney Thunder this weekend at the majestic MCG in front of what will be a sell-out crowd. The Stars have done well this season despite losing a number of their best players to the Australian national side. They will go into the biggest game in the club’s history without the likes of Glenn Maxwell and John Hastings.

The club’s two English imports have been solid, if not remarkable throughout the fifth edition of the Big Bash. Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen have shown flashes of brilliance, otherwise putting in measured performances that have taken their side to within touching distance of their first Big Bash title.

Much like their opposition in the Sunday’s final, the Stars haven’t relied too heavily on one or two players, instead relying on solid team performances to carry them through to the final. This much was evident in their semi-final victory over the Perth Scorchers where every single one of the bowlers – with the exception of Evan Gulbis – managed to keep the scoring down and pick up at least one wicket. They never looked like slipping up in their pursuit of the Scorchers’ rather underwhelming total of 139, even after the early dismissal of Wright. Marcus Stonis and Pietersen played measured innings (by T20 standards), ensuring that the Perth side were never in the game.

It will take another solid team performance to get one over this season’s surprise package on Sunday morning. Whether or not they’ll be able to cope with the pressure of a first ever finals appearance is a different story altogether.

Sydney Thunder
The Sydney Thunder, for so long the whipping boys of the competition, are full value for their place in this season’s final. As I’ve mentioned before, the additions of Shane Watson and Andre Russell to the playing squad in the off season have paid dividends. The bonus of recruiting the duo is that they can do the job with both bat and ball. Having all-rounders of this calibre in the squad has dramatically improved the Sydney outfit.

Russell has claimed 15 wickets at an average of 18.13 in the competition while Watson has bagged seven of his own at a decent average of 30.57. They’ve both made telling contributions with the bat too. Russell – although he’s only averaging 25 – has been striking at just over 190 down at the end of the innings. Watson, who has been given the job of opening the batting, has mustered 229 runs this season at an average of 25.44.

The real star of this side, however, has been Usman Khawaja. Having been released from the ODI squad and overlooked for the T20 squad to face India, the Islamabad-born batsman has gone on set the Big Bash alight, even if he has only made three appearances in the competition thus far. In those three appearances, he’s managed to accrue an astounding 275 runs. His scores in BBL05 read as follows: 109*, 62 and 104* - surely scores like these should warrant a place in the Australian national set-up? Darren Lehmann’s loss, however, is the Thunder’s gain. One feels that if he does fire in the final, the Sydney club could well go on to claim their maiden BBL title.

Other notable performers for the Thunder this season have been Michael Hussey and Clink McKay. The evergreen Hussey is the tournament’s third-highest run scorer with 288 at an average of 42.47. McKay has been sensational this season bagging 17 wickets in just nine games, and might also fell slightly aggrieved to have been overlooked for Australia’s T20 squad. He concedes fewer than eight runs an over and averages a shade under 14 in this season’s competition.

Unlike many of the other teams in this season’s competition, the Thunder haven’t leaned too heavily on a few players, instead, they’ve put in consistently good team performances that have propelled them to the final.    

Verdict: Thunder
Even without Shane Watson in their side, I still think that the Thunder have more than enough in terms of batting and bowling to blow their opposition away. With Hussey, Khawaja, Russell and Kallis at the top of the order; it’d take a brave punter to bet against them. As such, I’m tipping the Thunder to claim their maiden Big Bash title on Sunday morning at even money.

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