Stars break Scorchers hoodoo to make finalGreg Baum: Why so few in stands for Stars win?
Kevin Pietersen has joked his looming Big Bash League final opponent Usman Khawaja should immediately be called up for the national team, which would sideline him from Sydney Thunder’s final on Sunday away to Pietersen’s Melbourne Stars at the MCG.
Pietersen said Khawaja’s form this season had been “magnificent”, with one of his two BBL centuries coming at the start of the season against the Stars at the MCG.
“I think our bowlers are probably going to have to have a chat,” Pietersen said about Khawaja, who is not part of either Australian limited-overs squad at the moment. He quipped Khawaja should be rushed to Sydney in order to play in Saturday’s one-dayers at the SCG, instead of playing for the Thunder.
“He fully deserves, as Australia’s No.1 batsman at the moment, to play [on Saturday]. So Cricket Australia, pick him,” Pietersen said cheekily.
The Stars’ progression beyond the semi-finals for the first time in five attempts was earned through a combination of stifling bowling and Pietersen’s nerveless batting in response.
Perth, battling for the right to play for a fourth consecutive title, made only 7-139 batting first at the MCG on Friday night. The Stars specialist bowlers all excelled: seamers Daniel Worrall (3-25) and Ben Hilfenhaus and spinner Adam Zampa and Michael Beer (both 1-22).
“Our bowlers were brilliant. On that wicket, to hold them to 139 was just sensational,” Pietersen said.
Perth’s hopes of defending the skinny target were helped by limiting the Stars to 1-15 in the first four overs of the chase. Pietersen got the chase on track by, with partner Marcus Stoinis, taking Perth’s best two bowlers Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye for 31 of the last two overs of the powerplay.
“I thought our first four overs were outstanding,” said beaten Perth captain Adam Voges, who earlier top-scored with 52. “We just bowled a couple of poor balls and it got both Pietersen and Stoinis going. All that pressure we created in the first four overs just got lost a little bit.”
“We bowled him [Pietersen] a half-volley early and couple of balls that just got him going. With class players like that you just can’t afford to do that. You need to build pressure on them early, and we just weren’t able to do that.
“He came in a real pressure situation. We’d bowled really well in those first four overs and he just swung the momentum of the match. That’s what good players do … and we weren’t able to contain him. He ended up being the difference.”
While Pietersen fell 12 runs short of victory, for 62 off 36 balls, he said he was chuffed to have helped take the Stars into the final on Sunday, against the Thunder.
“It was hugely satisfying. I practised well yesterday and I went out [on Friday] with intent. I went to score runs, hit the ball, and I went to win the game for the team. Luckily it came off,” he said.
Voges lamented neither he nor fellow veteran Michael Klinger (44) had been able to go on with their starts, as he believed the Scorchers were at least 20 runs short of a par score.
Voges said he was proud the Scorchers had given themselves a chance to win their third consecutive title.
“It’s a bloody hard competition, and you can’t win them all. But I’m incredibly proud of the boys’ efforts. We made another semi-final,” he said.
“It’s the first time we won’t be playing in a final, but it’s a tough competition and I’m really proud of the boys.”
The result sets up a Hussey versus Hussey battle on Sunday night: Stars captain David Hussey against his elder brother Mike at the helm of the Thunder.
The match will be the last in Australia before retirement for 40-year-old Mike.
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