Melbourne Stars are finally on the cusp of living up to their lofty expectations, earning hosting rights for Sunday's Big Bash League final by ending the dominant run of Perth.
While the Scorchers have long been renowned for their stifling bowling it was the Stars who set the standard in Friday's semi-final by keeping the visitors to 7-139. Swing bowler Daniel Worrall (3-25) led the way with the ball against Perth for the second time in a week.
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Stars into BBL final
Melbourne Stars defeated the Perth Scorchers by seven wickets to enter the Big Bash League grand final.
The Stars' hoodoo of having lost all four of their preceding semi-finals, three of them against the Scorchers, lingered as they crawled to 1-15 off their first four overs. The turning point was when the visitors' best bowlers, Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye, conceded 31 runs from the next two overs.
The player most responsible for the successful chase was Kevin Pietersen (62 off 36 balls). It was far from his most spectacular innings for the Stars but his class and experience shone through as he scored from all but two of his first 21 deliveries, and was a calming influence on first Marcus Stoinis (44 off 41) and then Peter Handscomb, and showed why he has just earned a two-year contract extension.
Perth's bid for a third consecutive title was ended with seven wickets and 11 balls to spare. The result, in front of a rain-affected crowd of 30,174, set up a duel between the Stars and Sydney Thunder at the MCG for what will be the maiden title for one of them.
Even though the Scorchers are adept at defending targets the Stars chose to field first, perhaps influenced by the lingering threat of rain and the trait of adjusted targets typically favouring the chasing team.
Worrall's new-ball wickets were pivotal to the Stars last weekend in them earning a home final. He did not swing the ball as much this time around but was just as effective, taking 2-13 in the powerplay on the way to claiming 3-25 from his four overs.
The early loss of Marcus Harris and Michael Carberry made the Scorchers content to score at just a run a ball in the powerplay, as long as they did not concede any more wickets.
Given the Scorchers' eventually total you would not expect that their two best batsmen, captain Adam Voges (52 off 40 deliveries) and Michael Klinger (44 off 45) were at the crease together for more than half of the innings.
Voges looked in fine fettle but his fellow veteran Klinger was never able to accelerate like he typically would. Given the Scorchers had eight wickets in hand after 15 overs it was not disastrous that Klinger departed and someone else joined Voges.
The problem was two-fold for the Scorchers: not only could neither David Willey and Ashton Agar hit big like they are capable, they also lost Voges in the 18th over.
Poor batting was less of a factor than relentless bowling, with spinners Adam Zampa and Michael Beer (both 1-22) and swing-bowler Ben Hilfenhaus (1-28) also able to hold their heads high.
The only boundary the Stars conceded after the 13th over was when Rob Quiney caught Tye on the boundary while standing on the rope, which gave the Scorchers a badly needed six.
Stoinis and Luke Wright made a very restrained start to their chase. The arrival of Pietersen in the fourth over, after Wright fell, was the start of the Stars snaring control.
Because Stoinis relies so much on boundaries to maintain a high scoring rate it was not a huge blow when he fell in the 12th over, finally paying for his inability to read the leff-arm wrist spin of Brad Hogg, because Handscomb rotated the strike far better.
The task of a run a ball for the last four overs was made made easier by Pietersen thumping a four and then six off Joel Paris in the 17th over.
While he fell in that over, bowled by a yorker attempting a reverse sweep with 12 runs left to get, he had already done the heavy lifting.