Shakib Al Hasan is set to play his second game in this year's BBL tonight

Shakib Al Hasan is set to play his second game in this year's BBL tonight

We’re right into the season-defining part of BBL|03 now, with the still unbeaten Melbourne Stars hosting the Adelaide Strikers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Firm tournament favourites already, the Stars can all but lock up a Big Semi Final berth with a fifth win of the season, and already BBL talk is not so much whether they can take out BBL|03, but who can possibly stop them. They were simply brutal in their disposal of the Melbourne Renegades last Saturday night in front of a record Etihad Stadium crowd, and another bumper crowd is set to grace the MCG to see them do it all again at home.

The Strikers shape as looming tournament smokeys, and can jump from fourth to second on the competition table with a win in Melbourne, which would also take them to three wins from five games. That point they gained from the no-result opening match in Hobart could yet prove crucial, too.

In BBL|02, three teams (including Adelaide) finished on 8 competition points, from four wins each, and if the Strikers could get to four wins again this season, that one no-result point could quite likely keep them ahead of the chasing pack. To win, they simply need more for their batting, which Michael Klinger aside, hasn’t quite been firing on all cylinders in recent games.

Key Battle: Stars’ batsmen v Strikers bowlers
The oldest, simplest battle on a cricket field will decide this one. The star-studded Melbourne Stars have smashed the most sixes in the tournament (37), while the Strikers have been the most economical bowling team, with three bowlers – Shakib Al Hasan, the injured Johan Botha, and Michael Neser – operating with an economy rate of less than a run-a-ball. However, that can quickly change if they give the likes of White, Hodge, and Wright room to free their arms. If the Strikers are to win at the ‘G, they have to have their most miserly night with the ball yet.

Dark Horse: Cameron White
With the Stars set to lose Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, and Clint McKay to the Australian ODI team following this match, White’s presence takes on even more importance. His class was there for all to see in the return Big Melbourne Derby last Saturday night, where White finished unbeaten on 84 from just 49 balls, after being dropped on 22 and 37. Maxwell’s late-innings power game might have even cost White a hundred, and the Strikers simply cannot let White get away from them as the Renegades did.

Last Time
December 27, 2012 @ Adelaide Oval: A vintage Brad Hodge 88 helped push the Stars to 175 after they won the toss, even though the three wickets in the last eight balls might have pulled that target back lower than where it was heading.

Adelaide had the partnerships along the way, but with two overs to go, looked like they’d finish well short of the mark. West Indian allrounder Kieron Pollard hit 38 off 13 balls to finish 65no, amazingly taking the Strikers to within 8 runs, after they needed 41 from the last 12 balls.

Stars: Cameron White (c), Jackson Bird, James Faulkner, John Hastings, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Lasith Malinga, Clive Rose, Clint McKay, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade and Luke Wright.

Strikers: Phillip Hughes (c), Shakib Al Hasan, Callum Ferguson, Alex Hales, Jon Holland, Michael Klinger, Tim Ludeman, Michael Neser, Gary Putland, Nathan Reardon, Kane Richardson, Shaun Tait, Adam Zampa.

Facts and Figures
Jackson Bird continues to be the BBL’s most destructive bowler this season. His nine wickets are the most of any bowler so far in the tournament, and include the three wickets he took in one over against the Renegades last Saturday night.

Shakib Al Hasan showed why he’s ranked as the world’s fourth best all-rounder in his debut match for the Strikers against the Sixers last Sunday. Al Hasan was the Strikers’ top wicket-taker and run scorer, picking up 2/21 at an economy of 5.25 and 46 runs from 30 balls.

The Stars are the only undefeated team this season, but they have yet to win one thing – the toss. And it doesn’t seem to matter what they’re asked to do first, winning their first two matches batting first, and their next two by bowling first.

The Strikers have yet to record a BBL win against the Stars. The last clash, in BBL|02, was as close as they have come to victory, too, after David Hussey and George Bailey led the Stars to a comfortable six wicket in their only other match back in BBL|01.

Broadcast: from 7:40pm AEDT on Channel Ten, and on Fairfax Radio Network.

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