A brilliant innings at the top of the Melbourne Stars order from Marcus Stoinis was matched by an equally astonishing effort from Ben McDermott, but Stoinis’ 55-ball 97* did the job for the Stars in a high-scoring victory over the Hobart Hurricanes.
Stoinis batted through the innings for his near-century, while McDermott looked set to also bat through and take the Hurricanes to a barnstorming victory, until he was out for 91 off 58 with six balls to go in the chase. McDermott’s innings ended only because of a superlative catch by Andre Fletcher on the boundary, his second such effort of the evening. Fletcher’s defying of gravity while flying to his right and left was as crucial to securing victory for the Stars as Stoinis’ innings.The two opposing openers’ efforts mirrored each other. Both began slowly, and then exploded in a cascade of boundaries in the second half of their innings. Both were the lynchpins of their teams’ totals, outscoring all the rest combined. Their pace was the tone-setter for their teams, too, with both sides going sedately at the start and clattering boundaries at the finish.
Stoinis moved from 32 off 31 to 97 off 55, hitting 65 runs in the last ten overs from just 24 balls after having gone at just about a run-a-ball before that. McDermott’s acceleration was equally stark: he was on just 26 off 28 after eight overs, and went on to smash 65 off his next 30 balls.
A wobbly start for the Stars
It began with a frenetic first over from the pacy Riley Meredith. The first and third balls went to the boundary off outside and inside edges, the second ball was a yorker that almost had Fletcher falling over, and the batsman was given out caught behind off the fourth legal ball. He was driving away from body and the ball was an outswinger that curved away, but on replays it appeared more bat hitting ground than ball.
The Hurricanes’ bowlers, led by Meredith, chipped away and the Stars were 49 for 3 in the eighth over, the in-form captain Glenn Maxwell the last wicket to fall at that stage.
Stoinis takes charge
The first ball Stoinis faced was in the second over, and he disdainfully slog-swept Johan Botha for six, hitting it so well that the ball had to be replaced. The wickets at the top and tight bowling early on meant he became more watchful than aggressive, but that was only till he was well set. Stoinis’ step-up was remarkable for how smoothly it was done. He brought out the big shots, punishing seam and spin with an equal hand.
The Stars were well served by successive partnerships for the fourth and fifth wickets. Nicholas Pooran joined Stoinis to add 60 runs in six overs, jump-starting the innings after the sedate start. Hilton Cartwright then ensured the momentum wasn’t lost with a sparkling cameo of 36 off 24 balls, taking the lead in a 56-run stand that came off just 5.3 overs.
The Hurricanes might have entertained hopes of finishing well when Nathan Ellis got Cartwright and Seb Gotch off successive balls to end the penultimate over, but Stoinis finished with a flourish, hitting four boundaries in the final over as Scott Boland conceded 18.
Stoinis had begun the final over needing 21 to get to a century, and his clean hitting almost took him there.
No Bash Boost for the Hurricanes
The Hurricanes looked to follow the template the Stars had set, relying on a conservative start and wickets in hand to aim for a big finish. However, they were even more sedate than the Stars had been with fewer wickets lost. They couldn’t get the Bash Boost point either, being 60 for 1 in ten overs: the Stars had been 63 for 3.
McDermott turns on the heat
McDermott hadn’t been exactly fluent at the start, a lot of his forcing shots not finding either the middle or the gaps, or both. The floodgates burst in the 12th over, bowled by Cartwright, which yielded 17 runs. In Colin Ingram, McDermott had a partner who could score quickly at the other end and the steeply climbing asking rate – it was over 12 after 11 overs – meant both had to hit out. They did, and started connecting sweetly too. The stand was broken by the first of Fletcher’s superman efforts. Ingram had carved the ball powerfully over extra cover, and Fletcher ran in a bit too hard but then adjusted and pivoted to dive to his right, horizontal to the ground, to pluck the ball.
McDermott still threatened to take the game away, while captain Peter Handscomb also began with a rush of boundaries, until Fletcher’s second effort ended McDermott’s stay. He had thumped a full toss over cover and this time Fletcher ran to his left and dived full length, once again emerging with the ball clutched in his hands.
McDermott fell on the last ball of the 19th over, and without him, 21 off the last over was too much to get for the Hurricanes.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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