Melbourne Stars' hopes of achieving the toughest task in the Big Bash League, winning at the WACA Ground on Saturday night, have been helped by Perth losing key fast bowler Jason Behrendorff to injury.
The Stars must win to guarantee they will join Perth in the semi-finals for a fifth consecutive season. Their shock thrashing by Brisbane on Thursday night means the only way they can host a semi is if they win by at least 38 runs or reach their target within 16 overs. A win by less than either margin would force them back to "the furnace" for a knock-out final for the fourth time in five seasons.
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If the Stars lose, their qualification for next Friday's semi-final, which would be hosted by Perth, rests on the other two matches before finals. They will be tipped out of the top four if fifth-placed Sydney Thunder beat Sydney Sixers, in the preceding match on Saturday, and fourth-placed Melbourne Renegades beat Adelaide on Monday.
The withdrawal of Behrendorff, due to what the Scorchers said was soreness, means both teams are missing four key players, mostly to international duty: Behrendorff, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh and Joel Paris for Perth and Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, John Hastings and Scott Boland for the Stars.
While Behrendorff's place in the Scorchers squad had been taken by batsman Travis Birt, his place in the team is likely to go to one of their reserve pacemen - Matt Dixon and uncapped Jhye Richardson.
The Stars' main selection dilemma is whether to retain both of their right-arm swing bowlers - Ben Hilfenhaus and Daniel Worrall - who were expensive early in Thursday's home match. The alternative is to include powerfully built left-armer Jackson Coleman, a 24-year-old who has returned to cricket after flirting with an AFL career.
The only time the Stars have won at the WACA Ground came in the only time they played there in the regular season - a rain-soaked match in the BBL's second season in 2012-13.
Stars assistant coach Trent Woodhill downplayed the prospect of Thursday's shock result against last-placed Brisbane denting the team's morale ahead of Saturday's match.
"Everyone has one of those a tournament. Hurricanes had theirs first game against the Sixers, the Heat had one of theirs, we've had one, Renegades have had one. It just happens," he said.
"The beauty of 'Flem' [coach Stephen Fleming] and 'Huss' [captain David Hussey] is that everything has been consistent. We lost our first two games but you wouldn't have known in the rooms we'd lost our first two games, and then when we won our next four you wouldn't have known if we'd won or lost. It was just about getting the process right and making sure everyone is sticking together.
"We haven't had to pick anyone up off the canvas after the first two, nor have we had to drag people off the ceiling after the next four. It's just about keeping the same, simple message, that we're sticking together and keeping everyone up."
Woodhill said the Stars would treat the short turnaround as a positive.
"I think it's worked out quite well," he said. "They [Perth crowds] love that hostile nature, and the beauty of being the Stars is everywhere you go is a pretty hostile nature anyway."
SCORCHERS (from): Adam Voges (c), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Travis Birt, Michael Carberry, Matt Dixon, Marcus Harris, Brad Hogg, Michael Klinger, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, David Willey.
STARS (from): David Hussey (c), Michael Beer, Jackson Coleman, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Ben Hilfenhaus, Kevin Pietersen, Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Luke Wright, Adam Zampa.