29/05/2024

The Sixers somehow found a way to beat the Stars again last night, but not without a memorable finish. (Photo: Cricket Australia)

The Stars and Sixers last night showed how the BBL can return to former glory, and it was two exhilarating knocks that did it.

It’s no secret that BBL|11 hasn’t particularly captured the hearts of fans so far this summer. But exhilarating knocks from Glenn Maxwell and Josh Philippe last night lit up the MCG and raised a critical way to bring people back to the league – rivalries.

With Mitch Marsh also whacking a century in the Perth Scorchers’ clash with the Hurricanes the other night, brutal innings are beginning to light up contests that could otherwise turn dull. But two game-changing knocks from Maxwell and Philippe in the one match set up a grandstand finish that brought back reminders of how good the BBL can be.

It all started with Maxwell, who launched many boundaries into the sweeping MCG stands on the way to his maiden Big Bash century. Coming in with his Stars in a precarious position at 2/6 in the third over, Maxwell has been brilliant many times at digging Team Green out of holes with quick half-centuries.

But for the first time he went one better, continuing to launch sixes and flick fours to all parts of the wide MCG expanses as it took a slower ball from Chris Jordan in the penultimate over to undo him.

Before that, Maxwell took apart the established Sydney Sixers bowling line up; an evolving group that has been key to the past two BBL titles.

He singlehandedly took English import Tom Curran out of the game, swiping him for two consecutive boundaries and ended his night with one over for 11 runs. The next best Stars batter only managed 23 in a total of 5/177 – an above-par contribution at the big MCG.

Going at a strike rate of 180, Maxwell lit up the contest and gave a Sixers side who have rarely been troubled something difficult to chase.

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Since they met in a rain-interrupted Big Bash final two years ago, where the Sixers started their successful run, the two sides have always had intriguing clashes.

They’re two of the bigger franchises in the league, and they proved last night that their emerging rivalry is key to adding substance to the BBL.

With the Stars looking ahead of the game after capitulating against the Sixers just a week ago, it was Josh Philippe who had a major say on proceedings.

Despite more superb efforts from marquee bowler Adam Zampa (1-28 off four tidy overs), Philippe played a similar role to Maxwell, looking a step above any of his teammates. Moises Henriques (29) was the next highest scorer for the Sixers, as Philippe’s blistering hits over mid-wicket and through the straight boundaries kept the magenta in touch.

Coming down to the final over, Philippe finished it with one hit, clearing the rope for a miraculous six that took his total to 99 not out and defeated the Stars once again.

With a louder crowd at the ‘G than witnessed in recent times so far in BBL|11, the noise when both Maxwell and Philippe reached significant milestones in the game showed the renewed energy that last night inserted into the competition.

It might be a hard ask, but if big game players like Maxwell and Philippe can stoke intense rivalries like the growing one between the Stars and Sixers, then the BBL might develop a new element that’ll draw crowds back to the league en masse.

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