Melbourne Stars batter Hilton Cartwright was the miracle man his side needed on Monday night.
In eerily similar circumstances to their opening night demolition at the hands of the Sydney Sixers, the Stars found themselves three wickets down after just three overs against the Brisbane Heat.
Marcus Stoinis was the first to fall after just the second ball he faced, with the lightest of edges enough for Jimmy Peirson to hold onto by his fingertips.
Joe Burns nearly faced the same fate from Mark Steketee in the same over, swinging wildly and barely missing an edge before the third ball he faced fell just short of the fielder at third man.
It wouldn’t be too many more deliveries before left arm quick Liam Guthrie found the wicket with a beautiful length ball flush into middle stump.
Six balls later, Glenn Maxwell was bowled by Steketee, caught by Guthrie. The T20 World Cup champion was gone for single figures for the second time this month.
But it gave Cartwright the time he needed to assess the conditions on the Gabba pitch, and scope out the fast bowler one-two punch.
He came to life in the sixth over, hitting his first six for the match off a Mujeeb Ur Rahman length delivery that soared high and long into the stands.
It was the first of a huge eight sixes for the West Australian, as he whacked his way to 79 before eventually being caught by Ben Duckett off a Guthrie ball.
“I was quite fortunate, I got to see how the guys got dismissed before I went out,” Cartwright told Seven Cricket after his dismissal.
“Joe Clarke said the width was really nice, so I just went out there with a bit of positive intent which was good for me.”
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Clarke was one part of a dangerous partnership that set the Stars back on track for their massive 207 total, getting it started before Cartwright came to the crease.
The Englishman went back to the rooms after hitting 85 off 44 balls, while Cartwright made 79 off 44 balls. The pair combined for over 79 per cent of the Stars’ runs on the night.
Clarke’s knock was arguably more deadly than Cartwright’s, hitting 12 boundaries total. 58 of his runs were made over the rope.
They left the wicket with the Stars sitting at 6/179, the important runs all made and the bottom of the order left to tack on the finishing touches.
“It wasn’t ideal being three down so early,” Clarke admitted.
“To get the score we did from where we were, we were very pleased. I felt like we had the momentum. The Power Surge is a very talked about subject… we wanted to take it after the break at 10 and it came in our favour.”
Qais Ahmad, to his credit, took proper advantage of his first real opportunity to wield the bat in BBL|11. The Afghan international hit two fours and a six off his six balls for 16 runs.
Ahmad’s night was capped off by claiming the wicket of Heat batting dynamo Chris Lynn and James Bazley barely more an over later.
Cartwright became an unlikely hero in the bowling innings, running out Heat captain Jimmy Peirson after he failed to make contact to the ground with his bat, despite being well over the crease.
Batting issues persist
Despite what Cartwright and Clarke were able to do to salvage and set up the Stars’ batting innings, the top order woes of Team Green can’t be ignored.
Outside of Maxwell’s drop for four against the Sixers, that result could largely be forgiven as they were missing multiple first choice batters.
The T20 veteran has also been dismissed for 16 against the Sydney Thunder and 12 against the Hobart Hurricanes, falling for single digits tonight.
Stoinis hasn’t yet put up a knock of over 31 in BBL|11 so far, now averaging just 13 across his five games. Before tonight, Clarke had exited for two ducks, but is growing in consistency with two half-centuries back-to-back.
However, he had to leave the game early after the batting innings due to a hamstring issue, unable to take his place behind the stumps and being replaced by Peter Nevill.
“I was running with Hilton, and he’s got to be one of the fittest blokes I’ve played with,” Clarke laughed.
“Hopefully nothing too serious and I’ll be alright to go next time.”
With their now most consistent opening batter potentially sidelined, the Stars have to take on the challenge of back-to-back matches against the top of the table Perth Scorchers on either side of the New Year.
The Scorchers have been the envy of the league, currently undefeated on 21 points.
Playing against the Melbourne Renegades, Mackenzie Harvey and Sam Harper were able to put up solid totals against the Scorchers in their most recent match, while Aaron Finch and Nic Maddinson both finished over 60 runs apiece.
Perth has been relentless with the bat as well however, putting up totals of 206, 195 and 182 so far.
The optimism from what Clarke and Cartwright were able to achieve could very quickly disappear come Thursday night.
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