The Melbourne Stars celebrated the inclusion of star West Indian Andre Russell in style, while leaving the Sydney Thunder ruing ill-discipline in the field in an intriguing Big Bash League clash at the MCG on Friday night.
In the final over bowled by leg-spinner Adam Zampa, the Thunder, with Alex Ross and Ben Cutting at the crease, needed 11 to win, and were left with six from two deliveries. Ross was grassed off the penultimate ball by Glenn Maxwell but Cutting could not deliver a match-winning six off the final delivery.
In a battle between two teams expected to seriously challenge for the title, it was the rebooted Stars who opened their account, rebounding from a heavy loss to the Sydney Sixers. In response to the Stars’ 4-165, the Thunder were 5-161.
The Thunder had opened their campaign with victory over the Brisbane Heat but were left frustrated by costly no-balls and a dropped catch.
Russell, who flew into town this week after playing in the Abu Dhabi T10 title, was required to follow strict protocols, allowing Cricket Australia to sign-off on his availability. This included entering the venue through a different gate to his new teammates, using a different lift and not going near his teammates when on the field.
Complete with his “Mr T” mo-hawk, Russell (17 off 9) provided a late cameo with the bat, and finished with 0-40. He will remain isolated from his teammates until Monday.
Englishman Sam Billings (43 off 31) and Matthew Gilkes (56 off 49) shared in an 89-run stand and had the Thunder well-placed but that changed when Billings mistimed a drive off Afghanistan leg-spinner Qais Ahmad (who will also be in isolation until Monday) and was caught at long off.
Earlier, Nick Larkin (52 off 43) and Hilton Cartwright (42 off 30) shared in an 80-run stand for the Stars which turned the contest, coming after teenage leg-spinner Tanveer Sangha (2-29) had claimed the key wicket of Glenn Maxwell (16 off 16). The Stars skipper botched a reverse sweep and was bowled. He grabbed at his hamstring while fielding in the deep in the penultimate over of the night and will be monitored.