The Melbourne Stars have won the bat flip and have opted to bowl in the first KFC BBL|08 semi-final against the Hobart Hurricanes at Blundstone Arena.
The winner will advance to Sunday afternoon’s final, and a Hurricanes victory will see the match again played in the Tasmanian capital. If the Melbourne Stars win, the final will be played at the venue of winner of Friday night’s second semi-final between the second-placed Melbourne Renegades and the third-placed Sydney Sixers.
Both sides have made one change to their XIs for the must win-clash, with Hobart recalling allrounder James Faulkner who had missed the past few games to manage a knee complaint.
The 2015 World Cup player of the final comes back into the side in place of pace bowler David Moody, with Riley Meredith keeping his spot in the XI despite struggling to find his rhythm in the past few matches.
The Stars have opted to drop Jackson Bird – who plays his state cricket with Tasmania and calls this venue home – in favour of Evan Gulbis, giving them extra batting depth.
The Hurricanes won both matches against the Stars in BBL|08, the first season of the competition to feature a full home-and-away schedule. The two sides met early in the competition, with the Hurricanes chasing down Melbourne’s 155 in 18.4 overs back on Christmas Eve with the competition’s leading run-scorer Matthew Wade hitting a fifty.
In the rematch at the MCG on January 14, Hobart set an imposing 2-185 with D’Arcy Short hitting an unbeaten 96 from 57 balls – with a last over boundary signalled leg byes when replays showed it came off the bat. In response, the Stars were skittled for 126 in 17.1 overs with Meredith taking 4-21.
Having battled a chronic knee problem in recent years, it was Faulkner’s “good leg” that had caused him some problems in the past fortnight.
But the World Cup-winner says he’s fit to play this week after visiting medicos in Melbourne.
“I’ve had few issues with my good leg, the so-called good leg,” he said.
“And I’ve seen medical staff over in Melbourne and I’m good to go. Once I step over the line, it is business as usual.”
Meredith has been well below his best recently after making a strong start to the season. The right-armer played the opening day of Tasmania’s Future’s League match in Canberra on Monday in order to rediscover his rhythm after he was hammered for more than 12.5 an over in his past four BBL matches.
Meredith bowled five maidens with the red ball from 13 wicketless overs on Monday, conceding 32 runs at an economy of 2.46 an over.
“(I) wouldn’t be surprised if he fronts up on Thursday and takes 3-20 and is a match-winner,” Faulkner said of Meredith’s recent form.
“We’re good as a group, and we’re good as a bowling line-up, so we’ll be fine.”
Hobart Hurricanes XI: Matthew Wade (c), D’Arcy Short, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, George Bailey, Simon Milenko, James Faulkner, Jofra Archer, Clive Rose, Qais Ahmad, Riley Meredith.
Melbourne Stars XI: Marcus Stoinis, Ben Dunk, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell (c), Nic Maddinson, Dwayne Bravo, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Adam Zampa, Dan Worrall, Sandeep Lamichhane.