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After a long tussle, it's finally down to the last five matches and one playoff spot. Melbourne Stars are still pretty much in the driving seat, but another patchy performance may well take the initiative away from them. Brisbane Heat continue to hang in by a thin thread and the upcoming match in the tournament should clear up the clouds of uncertainty, at least to some extent. Brisbane Heat are set to challenge Melbourne Stars on 8th February at the Gabba, Brisbane in what could be a virtual eliminator for them. A win for them will knock will not only put Stars' chances at bay but also knock Strikers out of the competition. However, a loss will mean curtains for them and a semi-final spot for Melbourne Stars. With a semi-final spot at stake, it's certainly going to be a hard tussle between the two sides on Friday.
Although the situation for Brisbane Heat to avoid elimination in the upcoming game is crystal clear, their qualification scenario isn't so. First and foremost, they need to register a win and garner two important points against Melbourne Stars. They then need a couple of other results to go their way in order to finish fourth at the ladder.
Going into the next game, the Heat will relish the return of Joe Burns to their lineup who is coming back into the team on the back of a brilliant Test century against Sri Lanka. With Matt Renshaw amongst the runs, the Heat batting lineup which struggled in the earlier part of the tournament suddenly looks beefed up.
Matt Renshaw produced a splendid 90-run knock to guide Brisbane Heat to an improbable victory against Adelaide Strikers in their last match. Brisbane Heat once again suffered from a horrific start as they were reduced to 18 for 3, but Brendon McCullum and Matt Renshaw pulled the momentum back towards the Heat as the Heat eventually won the match with six wickets in hand and eight balls to spare.
Earlier with the ball, the Brisbane Heat found themselves in a comfortable position at the end of the powerplay after Chris Lynn called to bowl first at the bat-flip toss. Renshaw was lucky with the ball in hand as well as he got rid of Weatherald on a relative harmless delivery. Although the Heat were pretty tight in the powerplay and a few overs thereafter, their bowling was remote from being disciplined at the death. Almost all bowlers leaked runs at the death which allowed Strikers to rack up a total of 176 on the board.
Brendon McCullum, Max Bryant, Chris Lynn, Matt Renshaw, Alex Ross, Jimmy Peirson, Ben Cutting, Jack Prestwidge, Josh Lalor, Mitchell Swepson, Matt Kuhnemann.
Unlike the Heat, the scenario for the Stars is pretty simple. A win in the upcoming game will confirm their berth in the knockouts leaving the remaining matches dead-rubbers. However, even if they lose their upcoming game against the Heat, they will have an opportunity to qualify by simply winning their subsequent game, against Sydney Sixers.
Melbourne Stars had an opportunity to seal a semi-final spot in their last game, against Perth Scorchers, but some ill-luck coupled with irresponsible batting robbed them of that opportunity. Chasing a tall total of 183, the Stars got off to a poor start as Ben Dunk was controversially caught by Nick Hobson in the second over of the innings. Handscomb followed him after a laborious stay at the crease leaving Stars in a spot of bother.
Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell then negotiated the tough phase and followed it up with some delightful shots taking Stars well within the reach of a win. However, they both fell in quick succession and post that, Stars never looked in contention to win the game.
Barring Jackson Bird and Liam Plunkett, the Stars' bowling looked off-color against the Scorchers. Dwayne Bravo was smashed for 41 in his four and Stoinis conceded 32 off his two. Bird and Plunkett returned with the impressive figures of 4-0-25-1 and 3-0-23-1 respectively and were only bright spots for Stars in the first innings of the match.
Ben Dunk, Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson, Sebastian Gotch, Dwayne Bravo, JM Bird, D Worrall, Sandeep Lamichhane, Adam Zampa.
Brisbane Heat did exceedingly well to stay continue to hang in the hunt riding on the brilliant performance by Matt Renshaw. The upcoming match will be the last match in the Big Bash League for Brendon McCullum and the team will love to win him the match as a farewell present. Melbourne Stars, just like the Heat, have been very inconsistent in the tournament. Brisbane Heat will be pumped by their win in the last match and the return of Joe Burns is certainly a big boost to their batting. With power-packed batting lineup play in home conditions, we think that the Heat will continue to hang in the tournament with a win in the upcoming fixture.
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