15/04/2024

Glenn Maxwell after being dismissed for The Melbourne Stars vs The Sydney Sixers at the MCG. Image Source: cricket.com.au

The Melbourne Stars continually got themselves into winning positions and kept blowing it. After missing finals, they need to address two glaring issues that cost them this season.

The fact the Melbourne Stars were in control of their own finals destiny in their final home and away match summed up their season. 

Their failure to get over the line in a must-win game summed up their decade. 

It hasn’t been a lack of contributors or glaring overreliance on too few in BBL|10 as has been the case in previous seasons. 

The star Aussie trio of Adam Zampa, Marcus Stoinis, and Glenn Maxwell was solid overall and well supported by Domestic stars Hilton Cartwright, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, and Liam Hatcher. 

Yet when they’ve got themselves into positions to win, the green team haven’t seized. 

The Sydney Sixers needed 49 off 19 and won. 

The Renegades needed 62 off 27 and won. 

Brisbane Heat got 42 off their last two overs in a rain-affected match which proved the difference. 

The Hobart Hurricanes needed 75 off 30 and looked likely to win if not for two Andre Fletcher screamers. 

And in their return match against the men in magenta, they conceded 34 off the last 16 to lose the match. 

It highlights a glaring recurring issue: the lack of quality death bowling.

Nathan Coulter-Nile was recruited to fill that void ahead of BBL|09 and while his injury didn’t help, his return didn’t rectify the problem. 

Worse still, skipper Glenn Maxwell talked several times on the player mic’ about consciously ‘back-ending’ his more renowned bowlers, meaning the culpability lies firmly with them. 

In fact, it was the Stars part-time bowlers and lesser names that actually kept it tight upfront with the Stars conceding on average 7.21 runs per over off the first ten overs, claiming seven Bash Boost points. 

Given there was no recruitment of death bowlers ahead of this season, perhaps it is an issue that’s only been exposed now because last year’s death bowling sensation Haris Rauf was only available for three games.

The Stars batting is often the place where they’ve put themselves under undue pressure by failing to turn the strike over. 

It’s a curious issue given the Star’s home ground requires so much running, but the dot ball issue starts at the top. 

On average 12.4 of the 24 legal PowerPlay deliveries, the Stars face are dot balls. 

Marcus Stoinis is explosive when he gets going but can be a slow starter with the bat.

That’s where overseas player Andre Fletcher’s failures hurt them, and likely why they promoted the busy Seb Gotch into partner Stoinis following his departure. 

It meant they averaged just 28 from their first four overs, seeing them have to catch their run rate up later in their innings, putting pressure on skipper Glenn Maxwell to lead that onslaught. 

While his 379 runs at a strike rate of 143 read well, the pub test would suggest Maxwell wasn’t quite at his fluent best. His need to go so hard may have hindered his output. 

Regardless, facing eight more dot balls per innings on average than their opponents is where the batsmen could’ve improved, especially given the tightness of many of their losses. 

Their batting order was also debatable and raised eyebrows. 

Fletcher may be a calypso opening batter but he was never going to be available for finals. 

Should they, therefore, have stuck with the increasingly powerful Cartwright who formed an excellent partnership with Stoinis last season, rather than messing with their opening combination late in the season? 

Could Gotch have played an anchor role among the middle-order power hitters? 

Their average score of 147 in completed 20 over matches is well under par given their true explosiveness and embarrassment of riches on the playing roster.

One area they did shine at, though, was the Power Surge: the Stars had the greatest positive differential of points scored and points conceded of all clubs.

But sport is judged on results. Particularly wins and losses. 

The fact they finished seventh after coming runner up last two seasons is an enormous disappointment.

Compounded with the Renegades’ failures, it again raises questions over whether Cricket Victoria was correct in assuming control of the boards. 

The Stars have been talent-laden for years and this most recent failure is just the latest in a long list of disappointments in must-win games.

Only this year it was worse; as Mark Howard pointed out in commentary for Fox Cricket, they had their international-quality Australians available for the full tournament. 

Have the Stars blown their best chance at finally winning their first title? 

One thing is for sure: fans are growing weary of saying ‘maybe next year’ to defend Melbourne’s glamour club. 

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