Melbourne Stars 6 for 168 (Maxwell 82) beat Sydney Sixers 74 (Lamichhane 3-11, Zampa 2-15) by 94 runs
Glenn Maxwell's brilliance and Sydney Sixers' total collapse combined to serve up a semi-final berth for Melbourne Stars against Hobart Hurricanes, and a home semi-final for Melbourne Renegades, in an afternoon of high drama at the MCG.
In the final qualifying game of the Big Bash League 2018-19, the Stars looked to be struggling to mount a defendable total in the first 15 overs of their innings, before Maxwell did nothing short of detonating as 77 runs were piled up in the final five. Maxwell's innings, as captain of the Stars, not only pushed the hosts to a total unimaginable with five overs remaining, but appeared also to knock the stuffing out of the Sixers.
Their innings was to trigger a series of surrenders in the face of Melbourne pressure, as all the Stars bowlers enjoyed success - none more so than the spin pair of Sandeep Lamichhane and Adam Zampa.
Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques sent the Stars in to bat and, after a shaky opening over by Lloyd Pope, of which Marcus Stoinis took full advantage, the visitors appeared to have much the measure of their hosts on a pitch that offered some variable pace to the bowlers. Merely 1 for 39 from the Powerplay, 2 for 63 from 10 overs and 3 for 91 from 15 overs, the Stars were battling to put up a score that looked capable of being defended even if the surface offered some encouragement to spin.
Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe both delivered economical spells, aided also by Sean Abbott. Maxwell, meanwhile, had fashioned his way to 17 from 20 without quite looking at ease. As captain he had witnessed Peter Handscomb depart after building a similar platform, and could not afford to do likewise. The cogs of Maxwell's brain could be seen almost visibly to be ticking over as he pondered ways of lifting the Stars to higher ground. First, he sized up his erstwhile Test match team-mate Lyon, bowler of the 17th over.
Jumping down the track to Lyon's second ball of the over, Maxwell found sweet contact and the crowd beyond long-on. When Lyon adjusted his length, Maxwell hung back to pull wide of long-on for four more. Sixteen from that over, despite the run out of Dwayne Bravo, had Maxwell and the Stars looking up, and they did not look back. Two fours and a six meant Abbott's 18th over reaped 15 runs; a six and a four meant 15 more from Tom Curran's 19th.
But the best was saved for last, as Maxwell leapt three times into Ben Dwarshuis in the 20th, taking full advantage of the left-armer missing his ideal yorker length on both full and short sides. At the death, Maxwell had piled up 65 from 22 balls before falling, while the Stars' tally of 77 between overs 16-20 was the most ever in the closing five overs of a BBL innings. At the end of a summer of some frustrations for Maxwell, he had delivered the kind of innings to underline the rare nature of his talent.
Stars win through to semis
Left with a far steeper chase than anticipated, the Sixers were soon losing wickets. Bravo pouched a couple of early catches from miscues, before Maxwell chimed in once more to coax a top edged pull shot from his opposite number Henriques and claim wicket No. 3.
Daniel Worrall's bouncer/short of length combo had accounted for James Vince, and he then offered up an offcutter slower ball to have Daniel Hughes pushing tamely to shortish cover. At 4 for 34 inside five overs the Sixers' chances of winning the game were all but gone, leaving swift recalculations by the visitors as to what they needed to do to retain a home semi-final against Melbourne Renegades. The magic number? 108.
Sixers hand Renegades a home semi
Maxwell had kept his spin bowlers Zampa and Lamichhane in reserve, and they were to apply the final touches to an enormous Stars victory - enough to in turn ensure their rivals the Renegades found themselves hosting rather than travelling to face the Sixers in the knockouts. Both Zampa and Lamichhane found useful skid, bounce and spin off the surface, the better to flummox a Sixers lower order already one batsman short due to the balance of the selected side.
Jordan Silk was stumped artfully by Handscomb off Zampa, Curran was lbw to Lamichhane's googly, and the allrounder Abbott's cut at Zampa resulted in a superb reflex catch by Maxwell at slip - this was a day on which he could truly do no wrong. By contrast, the bouncing bat of Lyon precisely at the moment the bails were whipped off by Handscomb for a run-out rather summed up the Sixers' dirty day. They will now be back in Melbourne for the semis.