Stars fluff lines again as Sixers and SCG put on a show

The Melbourne Stars' reputation as one of Australian sports' biggest chokers went to a new level on Saturday night, as they collapsed under the weight of a Sydney Sixers juggernaut that powered to their second BBL title.

Marcus Stoinis produced the biggest Big Bash season of all time only to go missing against the Sixers when it mattered, after Nathan Lyon lured him into a booby trap with just the fourth ball of Melbourne's disastrous chase.

When Sixers spin twin Steve O'Keefe nailed T20 destroyer Glenn Maxwell to the crease just two overs later, Maxwell's blood curdling scream as he trudged from the field said it all.

 

On a night when hosting a swimming meet seemed more likely than getting the final complete, the Sixers broke their championship drought in emphatic style to spark a magenta party at the SCG.

It's the Sixers' first championship since BBL 01 - with the formula of Josh Philippe's half century, a lesson in execution from a brilliant bowling attack, and the class of Moises Henriques captaincy producing a memorable 19-run triumph.

Josh Philippe's half century was the bedrock of the Sixers' innings.
Josh Philippe's half century was the bedrock of the Sixers' innings.

Stoinis hammered Lyon for two boundaries to get the pursuit of 117 off to a flyer in the 12-over shootout, but the composure of Lyon and Henriques to hold their ground and immediately strike back with the knockout blow was the final in a nutshell.   

The Stars looked like bunnies in the headlights and the BBL's glamour club are now 0-3 in BBL deciders.

Last year they lost 7-19 against the Melbourne Renegades to lose the unlosable final, but this summer's choke is worse in the context of just how far ahead they were of all teams, until bottling five of their last six games, including their first final against the Sixers where they capitulated for 99 to gift home ground advantage to the Sydneysiders.

Two-wicket hero O'Keefe - one of the Sixers also involved in their first triumph many moons ago - admitted the home side were praying for a washout.

"The feet are tired from rain dancing for a day and a half straight," said O'Keefe on Fox Cricket.

"It's elation, all sorts of emotion. Guys like Shippy (coach Greg Shipperd) who has been in so many finals and missed out, guys who have played in a few finals before, and miss out … we're so excited.

"This is right up there with anything I've done in cricket.

Steve O'Keefe was a member of the Sixers' title winning side in the inaugural BBL season.
Steve O'Keefe was a member of the Sixers' title winning side in the inaugural BBL season.

"I want to pay tribute to Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon coming back in wanting to play and contribute. They've been amazing. It's a special group and special feeling right now."

Lyon is a lauded international star but said the performance was one to remember.

"Bloody oath, that's something pretty special," said Lyon on Fox.

On his first over triumphant plan against Stoinis, Lyon said he wasn't rocked by the boundaries he gave up early.

The Sixers were brilliantly led throughout the season by Moises Henriques.
The Sixers were brilliantly led throughout the season by Moises Henriques.

"I was trying to get Maddo on strike tried to get Marcus off strike. Marcus is a world class player and his tournament has been unbelievable. I always want to challenge myself," said Lyon, who paid tribute to his skipper Henriques.

"He's been brilliant since he's taken over the captaincy at the Sixers. Not just this year. His cricket brain and how well he played is fantastic and rubbed off on all our young fellas as well."

The Stars won the toss and possessed all the heavy artillery in the kind of rain-shortened lucky dip the Sixers had been fearing, but the Melbournians were dead in the water before the three-over power play was even done - and it's now eight finals series out of nine for no trophy.

 

PHILIPPE FOR AUS?

Test great Mark Waugh revealed on Saturday night that in one of his first meetings as an Australian selector - he put forward the name of a very young, Josh Philippe.

The West Australian just looks like a player, but this season he has added substance to the style - smashing five half centuries for the tournament and finishing the Sixers leading run-scorer.

Philippe's match-winning 52 off 29 balls in the pressure-cooker of a BBL Final was one of the signature moments of his young career, and in a World Cup year - his name can now not be discounted from coming up in future selection meetings as a serious proposition.

Despite the wickets of superstars Steve Smith and Moises Henriques falling around him, the 22-year-old rising star maintained his composure and along with Jordan Silk (27 not out off 15) - who played a gem of a knock that cannot be underestimated - set the final up for Sixers fearsome bowling attack to ice.

Josh Hazlewood hoodwinked Stars opener Nic Maddinson for a duck to back-up the work of Lyon and O'Keefe.

 

Glenn Maxwell performed better with the ball than he did with the bat.
Glenn Maxwell performed better with the ball than he did with the bat.

GUTSY CAPTAINCY FROM MAXWELL

Maxwell is known as a gambler with the bat, but on Saturday night he showed as captain just how bold he is.

The Big Show bowled himself for not one but two overs, and picked up the key wickets of the world's best Steve Smith and Daniel Hughes for a golden duck.

The greatest leg-spinner of all time Shane Warne declared in commentary he wouldn't be brave enough to bowl fellow leggie Adam Zampa in the last over.

Australian T20 captain Aaron Finch agreed.

But Maxwell threw Zampa the ball.

 

EPIC EFFORT

Debate is still raging over whether Cricket Australia should have moved the Final, but full credit has to go to the SCG Ground staff for miraculously getting an outstanding surface ready after two days of straight rain.

The SCG Trust has copped a bit this season for failing to stage some domestic matches earlier in the season, but to put on last night's showpiece event was a huge effort.



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