Michael Hussey had the last laugh in the battle of brothers at the MCG on Sunday in the big final of KFC Big Bash League 2015/16. Despite a valiant effort from star batsman Kevin Pietersen, Stars were unable to hold the fort on their home ground against a surging Thunder side. This was also Mike Hussey’s last competitive game in Australia, and he departs on a high.
Put in to bat in front of a capacity home crowd, the local team didn’t have the brightest of starts. Stoinis threw away his wicket in the second over, but KP came out all guns blazing. He was on the money right from the start and picked up a beautifully manoeuvred, wristy boundary off his first ball. He kept on smashing the Thunder bowlers all around the park throughout his 39-ball-74. It was as if KP had raised the bar in the big match and looked ‘in the zone’ before falling for soft dismissal to spinner Chris Green in the 16th over. Pietersen smartly muscled his way by picking up most of his runs in the-V thus maximizing the scoring potential at the big MCG. After KP’s dismissal, the Thunder bowlers managed to restrict the home side to 176/8. Shane Watson once again did the talking with the ball as he picked up 2 wickets for just 17 runs from his 3 overs. Captain David Hussey also chipped in with a 14-ball-21 but got cleaned up by a near-perfect yorker from Kallis in the 15th over.
Though a momentum shift took place with 3 wickets off the last three balls in the Stars’ innings, they had still piled up an above par score at the big ground considering the pressure of chasing in a final.
Chasing 177 to win, the odds were against the tourists, but thy were up to the task right from the beginning. Usman Khawaja, continuing the form of his life, scored a brisk 70 off 40 and took the Sydney Thunder to 86 for no loss in 9 overs. Khawaja and Kallis took 62 runs off the power play to set up the chase beautifully. Khwaja was in red hot form coming into this game and with a chunk of luck he made it count on the big occasion. Once Adam Zampa dismissed Kallis, wickets started to tumble, but the Thunder batsmen ensured they were going at a healthy rate of 9 to 10 runs per over. Marcus Stoinis was easily the pick of the bowlers for the hosts but had he been a bit more disciplined; he could have ended up on the winning side. Thrice in his spell he bowled a wide which ultimately ended up costing Melbourne Stars a maiden title in a game of close margins. Ben Rohrer and Aiden Blizzard, two batsmen who had contributed nothing till now in this season, managed to keep their cool and chip in with useful contributions to help their team cross the line.
The Melbourne Stars most probably missed the finishing prowess of Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner and death bowling services of Scott Boland and John Hastings, all of whom are on national duty. But for a depleted Melbourne side breaking the semi-final jinx and reaching so close to the title was a big achievement in itself.
Usman Khawaja was named the Player of the Match in the big final while Brisbane Heat’s captain Chris Lynn was adjudged Player of the Tournament thanks to his consistent power-packed performances in the BBL 05.
This thrilling run chase brought an end to what can be called as the most exciting season yet of the cricketing phenomenon down under known as the KFC Big Bash League!