Joe Clarke’s fourth consecutive half-century and some quality spin bowling helped Melbourne Stars claim a vital BBL victory on Monday night.
Playing against Adelaide Strikers at the MCG, the Stars won the toss and bowled and held their opponent to a middling 9-139 before tracking it down with five balls to spare.
Wickets fell regularly throughout the chase but Clarke stuck strong and made 83, whacking four huge sixes in the pivotal knock, including a huge late bomb just when the Strikers looked back in the game.
Fill-in Stars’ captain Adam Zampa said Clarke’s knock was “unbelievable”.
“Obviously you’ve seen the class now. He struggled early in the tournament, but we knew he had it in him,” he told Channel Seven.
“We’ve seen it in the nets and his record is unbelievable. I think he strikes at 160 in T20 cricket opening the batting, so he’s class.”
The Stars copped early setbacks with Clint Hinchcliffe and Nick Larkin dismissed cheaply and were 2-25, but Clarke got things rolling by pulling Harry Conway for six and four in the one over.
Superstar spinner Rashid Khan produced some of his regular brilliance by going for just three runs off his first two overs and also claiming the huge wicket of Joe Burns for nine to put the Stars in a degree of trouble at 3-44 off eight overs.
Clarke, though, took charge by hitting Ahmed back over his head for six twice in the 10th over to leave the side 3-69 at halfway.
Hilton Cartwright top-edged Siddle soon after though and went for 17 but Clarke just pushed on, bringing up his 50 off 36 balls.
The Stars went 28 deliveries without a boundary and they needed 31 off the last three overs, but a huge Clarke six over square-leg swung the momentum.
Clarke holed out for 83 and the Stars still needed seven off the last over, but Qais Ahmad hoisted his first ball for six.
Khan was comfortably the pick of the bowlers with 1-16 off his four overs.
Having won the toss and bowled, the Stars’ spinners did the job through Zampa (2-24) and Ahmad (2-22), while quick Haris Rauf found two late wickets.
Adelaide had Jon Wells to thank for posting even a vaguely respectable total, five fours and a six helping him make 68 off 58 balls to drag them from 3-34 to the 9-139 total.
The Strikers would be kicking themselves for the lamentable batting effort, particularly the soft dismissals of important batters Matt Short and Jake Weatherald who both chipped shots straight to fielders.
With a number of Stars only exiting COVID quarantine in the past 48 hours after battling the virus, Zampa said the win was a special one.
“It’s been a long time coming for us. Obviously it’s been a very interesting couple of weeks … it’s great to be back out here though and obviously great to finish the night with the win,” he said.