It only took four games for the KFC BBL to produce its first centurion after Englishman Joe Clarke struck a magnificent 101 not out to lead the Melbourne Stars to a memorable victory at the MCG. On a night when the Stars honored the late great Shane Warne for his contributions to the club and retired his playing number, the host team put on one of its better all-around performances in recent seasons, romping home by 38 runs. With the fans and players rising for a standing ovation after the spinner’s 23rd delivery of the first innings, it was a fitting tribute to the spin king and his contributions in green.
Melbourne Stars Beat Hobart Hurricanes in Big Bash
The opener atoned for a heartbreaking one-wicket loss to the Sydney Thunder in the season opener on Tuesday, when Clarke gave up four byes on the final ball despite an outstanding effort. Clarke, who had a whirlwind BBL|11 with scores of 1, 13, 0, and 0 to start his career before scoring four half-centuries in the following four games, earned the Stars’ confidence in selecting him again in the first round earlier this year with his superb tonne. The 26-year-old scored his fourth T20 century, something he couldn’t do in his previous year’s 419-run season.
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When highly sought-after Hurricanes recruit Shadab Khan dropped what would have been a miraculous catch on the fifth ball of the game, the wicketkeeper-batter could have been out in one. The Star’s innings began with a third over that yielded 15 runs, and Clarke hit a magnificent reverse ramp for four runs, reminding the Hurricanes of his inventive stroke play from last season when he scored 52 and 35 runs against them. Rogers and partner Tom Rogers got off to a strong start, recording their second half-century opening stand in three games after scoring 78 in Rogers’ debut for a Covid-hit Stars team last season.
They wouldn’t quite reach those heights this time, as Shadab took his first wicket for the Hurricanes when Rogers (20) holed out to long-off with the score at 54. Beau Webster was then called to the field, and while he struggled to get started at first, he made up for it after the drink break. The Stars‘ number three bowler dismissed Canes quick Riley Meredith for 10 off two balls in the 12th over, including a huge six that went straight into the Shane Warne stand’s third tier. Meredith got his revenge the next ball thanks to Webster’s boundary-bound shot down Paddy Dooley’s throat, but Dooley’s greatest moment wouldn’t come for a while.
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The unpredictability of the Hurricanes’ left-arm leggie, who had previously faced them as a replacement player for the Brisbane Heat in BBL|11, perplexed Marcus Stoinis and crashed through his stumps. The Australian all-campaign rounder had his second consecutive duck after missing a golden opportunity against the Thunder on Tuesday night. Clarke, on the other hand, continued on his merry way, particularly well behind the wicket and down the ground as he entered the 90s with one over remaining. After hitting a six-over cow-corner on the fourth final delivery of the innings, he only needed one more run to reach his first BBL century. He eased the next ball into the off-side to secure the milestone.
With his team’s next-highest scorer, Webster, scoring 24, he stood out with 13 fours and four sixes. Ben McDermott, the previous season’s winner, hit 17 in the Hurricanes’ charge, giving English recruit Luke Wood his first Stars wicket. D’Arcy Short (15) was bowled out shortly after by Adam Zampa, and Clarke made a fine catch behind the stumps. Shadab (7 off 10) struggled to get going in his innings at number four. The Canes needed something special to keep the run rate from increasing, but skipper Matthew Wade couldn’t deliver.
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Wade skied one off Nathan Coulter-Nile and left for a run-a-ball 35, effectively putting an end to his team’s chances. The Stars’ first win of the season was completed by Wood, Zampa, and Coulter-Nile, who each took three wickets. When the Hurricanes return home for their next game, also against the Scorchers, on Monday, they will be looking for their first victory of the season. The Perth Scorchers will visit Junction Oval in a week for their next game.