Joe Clarke recorded his first ever BBL century to guide the Melbourne Stars to a comfortable victory over the Hobart Hurricanes. (Photo: @StarsBBL)

An unbeaten century from Englishman Joe Clarke propelled the Melbourne Stars to their first win of BBL|12, defeating the Hobart Hurricanes by 38 runs at the MCG on Friday evening.

On a night where the Stars paid tribute to the late great Shane Warne, it was Clarke who ensured that the special occasion was marked with a win. Blasting 101 runs off 66 deliveries, the 26-year-old was a class above the rest, combining brute strength with clever innovation to condemn the Hurricanes to a first-up defeat.

Clarke’s sublime innings was almost prevented from eventuating in the very first over of the match, with Hurricanes import Shadab Khan spilling a sharp catch at short third. However, from that point onwards, the team in purple were offered no second chances, seeing Clarke smack nine fours and four sixes on his way to a player of the match performance.

Speaking post-match, Clarke expressed his delight at performing strongly in front of home fans at the MCG.

“To get a hundred in T20 cricket is always very pleasing and to get a win as well, that’s the main thing,” Clarke said.

“You want to start competitions well. It’s a bit of a turnaround from my start last year. To get one [a hundred] here as well is even more special.”

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Clarke’s maiden BBL century came on a night dedicated to honouring the contributions of cricket legend Shane Warne, whose famous playing number 23 was officially retired by the Melbourne Stars franchise.

An appreciative crowd also partook in a standing ovation after the 23rd ball had been bowled in the first innings, a touching tribute to the champion leg-spinner.

Reflecting on the significance of Warne’s contributions to cricket, Clarke explained how difficult it is to put into words the exact magnitude of his legacy.

“This is the first time I’ve been back and obviously to have the Shane Warne Stand…it’s an honour for me to play at the MCG,” he said.

“I guess it’s extra special that we managed to get a win on a night that we’ve shown our respect to him and what an icon he was for our game.”

On a personal note, Clarke reminisced on his own memories of meeting Warne, an opportunity that arose during the Men’s Hundred in the UK.

“I managed to be in a hotel bar room with him and I had two of my friends and my brother in the same room. They were a bit gobsmacked when they saw him,” Clarke recalled.

“He ended up chatting for 20 minutes with them and giving them his time, so I’ll always remember that, and they’ll certainly always remember that.”

Having first joined the Melbourne Stars ahead of last season, Clarke has quickly become a key component of the team’s pursuit for on-field success. The opening batter recorded five 50s last time around, finishing the campaign with a total of 419 runs to his name.

Despite the Stars missing out on finals in BBL|11, Clarke was impressed by the people involved in the organisation, ultimately compelling him to return to the BBL this summer.

“I absolutely loved everything about all the people at Junction Oval who work there, everyone who’s on our staff [and] all the players,” Clarke explained.

“I said immediately that I was available for the whole [tournament]. I didn’t want to go and play in any other competition. I felt like I owed the Melbourne Stars my availability for the whole competition and hopefully contribute enough to get to finals and win a competition.

“Especially with ‘Huss’ [David Hussey] being in his last year as head coach as well. He sort of backed me in last year and brought me over, so it’d be nice to do that for him as well.”

This quest for an inaugural BBL title will continue to be a huge motivator for the Stars playing group in BBL|12. Following last season’s disappointment, Clarke feels he has some unfinished business.

“There’s been some amazing players, especially from England, who have come and represented the Stars. Amazing players who have represented the Stars locally and also overseas players,” he said.

“There’s too much talent in that dressing room to have not [won] one.

“I’ve come over again to right the wrongs of last year in a way, get to finals and then anything can happen in finals. Then hopefully we’re there at the end playing in a Final.”

The Melbourne Stars will now enjoy a week’s break before their next clash with the Perth Scorchers at Junction Oval on December 23. Meanwhile, the Hobart Hurricanes will be looking to bounce back when they also face the Perth Scorchers on December 19.

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