Recent Match Report – Stars vs Thunder 1st Match 2022/23

Sydney Thunder 9 for 123 (Ross 28, Sandhu 20*, Coulter-Nile 3-19) beat Melbourne Stars 8 for 122 (Larkin 25, Farooqi 2-20, Sams 2-21) by one wicket

Gurinder Sandhu held his nerve as Sydney Thunder produced a frantic one-wicket victory over Melbourne Stars on the last ball in a low-scoring thriller to launch the BBL season. Chasing a modest 123, Thunder’s chase imploded due to reckless batting, and they appeared down and out several times against a pumped-up Stars attack on a tricky Manuka Oval surface.

But they clawed back through the late heroics of Sandhu, who hit a six when Thunder needed seven off the last three balls. They achieved the tense victory off the final delivery through a bye in a major relief for Thunder.

Stars were left heartbroken, especially new captain Adam Zampa, who had claimed his 100th BBL wicket as he appeared on course to celebrate his first match in charge in style until the dramatic late turn of events.

Amazing last over kick-starts new season
There is a lot riding on this new BBL season after a couple of tough Covid-19 affected years. But tournament organisers couldn’t have scripted a better opening first night, with this nerve-jangling match capped by an incredible last over.

Needing eight runs for victory, Stars appeared in the box seat after substitute fielder Brody Couch took a spectacular high-flying catch at long-off in what might just be the catch of the summer across formats. It was the second gem from Couch, who had earlier juggled a catch low to the ground, reviving memories of Mark Taylor’s classic snare against West Indies at the SCG.

But the twists kept coming, with a calm Sandhu nailing a six before it came down to the last ball delivered by Beau Webster, who beat the batter only for wicketkeeper Joe Clarke to completely miss the ball after he had taken his glove off in anticipation of a run-out.
Boult makes immediate impact
Stars’ pace attack had been pinpointed as their weak point during a couple of indifferent seasons, and Trent Boult‘s signing – albeit for half a season – was hoped to make a major difference.
He started the fightback in Thunder’s opening over with consecutive wickets of Matthew Gilkes and Rilee Rossouw. Boult was supported by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile, who snared three wickets, and looked fit and firing after a strong pre-season.

The injury-prone Coulter-Nile had only played 13 BBL games over the past two seasons, but if he can stay fit, Stars’ chances of ending their title drought improve immensely.

Stars rue Burns continuing after hamstring injury
Heading into the match, there was uncertainty over the availability of Stars’ batters Joe Burns and Marcus Stoinis after they contracted Covid-19. Both felt well enough to play, although they travelled to the ground separately from their team-mates and sat in a different dressing room.

Burns came to the crease after the early wicket of Clarke, but in the sixth over, suffered a hamstring injury while running between the wickets. Even though clearly hampered and looking disconsolate, a hobbling Burns decided to stay at the crease, and tried to stand and deliver.

But it didn’t work, with Burns struggling to connect. He laboured between the wickets with anything other than singles out of the question. After three fruitless overs, Burns finally decided to retire hurt, with Stars desperately needing to lift the tempo through incoming batter Stoinis. But Stoinis, held back from his customary opener’s role, fell first ball, and Stars never recovered.

Burns is expected to miss a month, according to coach David Hussey, while Stoinis was unable to take the field in Thunder’s innings after feeling unwell.

Farooqi’s fast and furious debut
In a bid for a much-needed spark, Stars took the two-over Power Surge – an innovation the tournament has stuck with this season – in the 13th over.

But Thunder countered by bringing back left-arm paceman Fazalhaq Farooqi, who was up to the challenge by bowling Hilton Cartwright around the wicket, and then dismissing top-scorer Nick Larkin two balls later.

The double strike highlighted an impressive BBL debut for Farooqi, who bowled consistently around 140kph, laced with several menacing full-pitched deliveries.

After eye-catching performances for Afghanistan at the recent T20 World Cup, Farooqi joined Thunder as a replacement for David Willey, who withdrew from the tournament. It looms as an inspired selection after Farooqi finished with 2 for 20 from four overs.

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