Big Bash League: Ben Hilfenhaus redeems himself as hero for Melbourne Stars against Adelaide Strikers

Six nights after conceding 16 runs off the final over in his side's loss to the Sydney Thunder, Ben Hilfenhaus redeemed himself at the MCG. This time though, it was with the bat.

His Melbourne Stars had made heavy work pursuing Adelaide's total of 8-152 from their 20 overs, and were in danger of being displaced in the top four by the Strikers after linchpin Kevin Pietersen was run out at the end of the 14th over.

But coming in at No. 8, Hilfenhaus played one of the best innings of his career, taking 18 from the 18th over of debutant Strikers bowler Wes Agar on his way to 32 not out, a knock that guided the Stars to a two-wicket victory with three balls to spare. It was their third win of the season, moved them to third place on the Big Bash League ladder, and left the Strikers in trouble with two wins and four defeats.

Three first over wides from paceman Agar - younger brother of fringe Australian international Ashton - were complemented with three Rob Quiney boundaries, with the Stars appearing set for a comfortable run chase.

A pedestrian-looking Strikers attack struggled to make inroads, allowing to Stars to hastily close in on the target as the hosts reached 0-44 in the fifth over. That's when it all started to go wrong for the Stars, who had lost James Faulkner, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell to international duties.

The first man to depart was Luke Wright, who sent it straight down the throat of long on for nine, giving part-timer Ben Dunk a wicket in the fifth over. Quiney was next to go, removed for a flashy 31, the first of Ben Laughlin's three victims for the night.

In his first BBL appearance since returning from an excellent first stint with the Australian Test side, Peter Handscomb failed to make an impact with the bat, bowled for two attempting to sweet new Strikers leg-spinning import Ish Sodhi of New Zealand.

Then Marcus Stoinis rashly pulled Michael Neser to be caught and bowled for one, and the Stars had lost 4-18 in just over four overs.

That brought captain David Hussey to the crease, and while he and Pietersen briefly looked like they would steady the ship, Hussey became Sodhi's second victim when he pulled straight to mid-wicket for 15.

The Stars needed Pietersen to anchor their rocky journey home, but an outstanding piece of fielding from Sodhi in which he chased down a ball trickled to midwicket off his own bowling found Pietersen caught short on 32 looking for a second with the score on 107.

Hilfenhaus and Evan Gulbis set about rescuing the situation. They were successful, although the late dismissals of Gulbis for 22 and Scott Boland for a duck caused further flutters for most of the 40,254 on hand.

The Strikers - themselves depleted by the selections of Travis Head and Billy Stanlake in the Australian squad for the upcoming series against Pakistan - were sent in after Hussey won the toss.

The visitors made a strong start. While opener Jake Weatherald made just 11 after mis-timing a pull and off a Scott Boland short ball, Ben Dunk and Tim Ludeman scored briskly in the PowerPlay. They were 1-60 approaching the end of the seventh over when debutant spinner Liam Bowe combined with a man 20 years his senior - Hussey - who hauled in a difficult overhead chance at mid on off the last ball to remove Dunk for 35 from 25 balls. That proved to be the turning point of the innings.

Brad Hodge - playing at his home ground of nearly two decades - was bowled by Boland for a frustrating 17.

Two balls later Ludeman mis-timed a shot to long on and was caught on 26. Jono Dean and Kieron Pollard both teased, but having just had enough to beat Quiney in the deep two balls earlier, Dean couldn't make it the distance, caught hooking at deep-midwicket by Marcus Stoinis, handing Boland his fourth scalp.

The wickets kept falling late, with Hilfenhaus on a hat trick in the 19th over after dismissing Kieron Pollard and Kelvin Smith in consecutive balls, and the Stars had kept the Strikers to what looked like a very manageable total.

The story Big Bash League: Ben Hilfenhaus redeems himself as hero for Melbourne Stars against Adelaide Strikers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop