IT’S been well-documented that this Big Bash League season brought an increase in home and away games from 40 to 56.
Well if the Melbourne Stars, featuring Nowra’s Nic Maddinson, are to qualify for the finals, they will have made use of the 56th.
The Stars needed to win just one of their last three regular-season matches to make the semi-finals for the seventh time in eight seasons.
They wasted their first chance in Perth last weekend, and their second opportunity went begging on Friday night at the Gabba as Brisbane Heat kept their own season alive with a crushing 10-wicket win over the Stars.
Marcus Stoinis again fired with the bat, but even his exceptionally broad shoulders couldn’t carry the rest of a Stars’ outfit that was brutally put to the sword by the Heat.
Set a moderate total of 157 to win, the Heat cruised to their sixth win of the season as openers Max Bryant (71 not out from 30 balls) and Ben Cutting (81 not out from 30) pounded the Stars' attack into submission.
The home crowd came to see Brendon McCullum’s Gabba farewell but neither he nor fellow “Bash Brother” Chris Lynn were needed as new-look opening pair Bryant and Cutting amassed a BBL record 94 runs in the power play to break the back of the chase.
None of the Stars’ bowlers were spared, not least Stoinis whose sole over went for 24.
Abysmal fielding only compounded the Stars’ pain, as Brisbane waltzed home with an astonishing 60 balls to spare.
The result means the Stars must beat the Sydney Sixers at the MCG on Sunday in the last home and away game of the season to finish fourth and book a semi-final date in Hobart next Thursday night.
If the Stars can’t defeat the Sixers - who will be boosted by the inclusion of Nathan Lyon - it will be either Brisbane or Sydney Thunder who finish fourth.
The Thunder, with several Test players injected into their squad, face the Hobart Hurricanes in Canberra on Saturday night, needing to win well enough to soar over Brisbane’s net run rate.
Depth has been the Stars’ issue for much of the season and again it proved to be the case after they were sent in.
Stoinis belted 81 from 51 balls with seven fours and two sixes, but he had precious little help.
Ben Dunk (14), Peter Handscomb (one) and Glenn Maxwell (five) all fell in the power play, leaving Nic Maddinson the job of picking up the pieces with Stoinis.
Alas Maddinson has been unable to strike any semblance of form since returning from the broken arm he sustained while batting for Victoria in early December.
The former Test batsman was bogged down, finishing with just 12 from 19 balls, put out of his misery when caught at extra cover off the bowling of Mitchell Swepson. Seb Gotch (11 from 14) also scratched around as Stoinis was denied crucial.
Eventually Stoinis was run out looking for a second in the 18th over. Coincidentally Stoinis had been run out in the corresponding fixture last summer, having also played a lone hand on that occasion, making 99.
Dwayne Bravo (21 from 16) upped the ante late. The Stars’ total of 8-156 was underwhelming given how well Stoinis had batted.