Solid Heat overcome Stoinis blitz

Brisbane Heat vs Melbourne Stars
Brisbane Heat 206-7 (Ross 51, Burns 50, McCullum 40, Cutting 35, Stoinis 38-3, Beer 21-2) def Melbourne Stars 191-6 (Stoinis 99, Faulkner 47*, Shadab 41-2) by 15 runs at the Gabba

18 runs required off three balls. At this point, the Melbourne Stars still had a mathematical chance of scoring a remarkable win over the Brisbane Heat. Mathematical chance, however, is code for no chance at all. When Marcus Stoinis hit the next ball from Mark Steketee, it wasn’t a six. Instead, it was dropped on the fence by sub fielder Marnus Labuschagne, who proceeded to run Stoinis out as he attempted a second. Stoinis was on 99. On another day, given different circumstances, he would have made a deserved century. Instead, he was inches short. The Stars, chasing the Heat’s formidable 206, were not so close.

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So close: Marcus Stoinis walks off after being run out for 99.

Stoinis had come to the crease following the fall of Glenn Maxwell, who missed out on selection for the Test team and proceeded to score a destructive 278 in his next outing. He looked like a man in form, but holed out to a half-tracker from Shadab Khan before he could prove it. Ben Dunk, the club’s marquee recruit, had been out for a duck, his innings over so quickly that anyone a little late in returning to the action following the innings break would have missed it. Kevin Pietersen had looked good, but drilled a catch straight to Brendon McCullum straight after hitting a big six. Stoinis hit his second ball for six, off Shadab. The ball barely appeared to have travelled off the bat, and Stoinis didn’t seem to swing hard at it, but it just kept travelling. It was then that the Heat should have been worried.

All of his shots looked like that as he continued to make headway against some very good bowling, with young leggie Mitchell Swepson showing his impressive credentials by turning the ball both ways and staying calm under pressure. By this time Luke Wright, who had survived the collapse, was also out, bowled by a beautiful change-up from Shadab. The score was 4/53. Stoinis hit two more nonchalant sixes off Shadab, and continued to turn the strike over with precision and confidence when the boundaries weren’t coming. When Ben Cutting entered the attack, he finally exploded. At the start of the over, he was 42, and fours over mid-on and mid-off brought up 50. A six over mid-wicket was followed with an attempted uppercut, with Stoinis’ annoyed utterance of ‘knew it’ into the stump mic showing how in tune he was with the game. The next one went over the rope too, making 22 off the over and 64 in total. Stoinis looked set to go.

Yet he continued to be patient, waiting for his ball and showing a rare piece of touch by reverse sweeping Shadab through a vacant third man. James Faulkner, his partner, had begun to get going, and the formidable target was no longer completely out of reach. The next two overs passed without incident, however, and it was done long before they needed 24 off the last over, a target required despite a boundary-laden 19th over. Stoinis was on 92, but couldn’t find the rope. The Heat were deserved winners, and Stoinis a deserved man of the match. The Stars just had too many passengers.

Brendon McCullum had given the Heat’s innings the kick they were after. He hit his first ball for four, and capitalised when Scott Boland bowled right into the Heat captain’s zone – three balls in a row – on his way to conceding 24 off his first over. John Hastings, the new captain of the Stars, did not fare much better, his second ball plastered over mid-wicket on what was, admittedly a great batting wicket. While the quicks struggled, Michael Beer bowled as well as ever, tying the Heat down and limiting their PowerPlay score to 57 while bagging two wickets. Jimmy Peirson gave John Hastings catching practice with a shot that can best be described as a soft aerial bunt, and Sam Heazlett’s frustration got to him as he slogged and found the same fielder with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

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Joe Burns hits to the leg side during his 50.

Stoinis bagged McCullum for 40 three balls after Heazlett, and at 3/61 the Heat were in trouble, especially without their star man. With Chris Lynn tantalisingly close to the action but so far away, Joe Burns and Alex Ross set about their recovery mission against some solid bowling. Eventually it was Burns who got away, hitting Stoinis for a big six and giving the innings a further boost by slapping Hastings to all corners of the Gabba. He was out (to Stoinis, again) the ball after bringing up his half-century with a six, and Ben Cutting continued the assault while Ross just kept on batting.

Showing off the hitting that once elevated him into the Australian team, Cutting sent the ball flying off the middle of the bat, with Ross providing steady company. Boland and Hastings were plundered yet again, both finishing 48 off their three overs. Boland received some gratification with the wicket of Ross, but their costly full tosses in the closing overs proved too much for the Stars to overcome, and the Heat’s steady performance was more than enough to see them over the line. The Heat were a cut above in every respect, and showed a level of depth which should send a strong message to the rest of the league.

Top 5
1. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was on the losing side, but he was a cut above the rest, scoring more runs and taking more wickets than anyone else and batting with brutal power and perfect timing. He was unlucky not to get a century, and his bowling was more effective than most on a Gabba pitch which was perfect for batting. Needed a lot more support from his teammates.
2. Joe Burns (Brisbane Heat)
Burns ensured the non-presence of Lynn was not an issue with a composed but powerful half-century, finding the boundary well when he got going and suggesting that he could be in for a big season. He picked up an injury along the way, and the Heat will hope that it’s not too serious.
3. Brendon McCullum (Brisbane Heat)
McCullum kickstarted the innings in his trademark style, hitting plenty of boundaries and getting his side off to flying start. His captaincy was as bold and brash as his batting and allowed the Heat to put the Stars under the pump, and his fielding was as athletic as ever in a great all round showing.
4. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
While Burns and Cutting provided the power, Ross was the steadying presence through the middle overs, hitting some nice boundaries but mostly turning the strike over. He came in under pressure and delivered, and his running between the wickets was first rate.
5. James Faulkner (Melbourne Stars)
After only bowling one over in the Heat’s innings, Faulkner played an effective second fiddle to Stoinis during their 137-run partnership. He finished three runs short of a half-century, and never looked in top form, but he became more fluent as the innings progressed and hit the ball with good power towards the end.

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