All-rounder James Faulkner insists it is not “panic stations” yet for the winless Melbourne Stars, as they plot a way to counter the hard-hitting Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum.
The Stars have declared they have learnt the lessons from their poor start to the Big Bash League campaign and are ready to rebound against the Brisbane Heat at the MCG on Tuesday night.
They have again begun the season slowly, this time falling to 0-2, having been beaten by the Heat in Brisbane and the Scorchers in Perth. Their latest defeat prompted coach Stephen Fleming to suggest his underperforming top-order should be nursing bruised egos.
That loss also came without Kevin Pietersen, who had returned home to England briefly to celebrate Christmas with his family. Pietersen is back, and is no doubt keen to respond to the 10 off nine balls he made in the Stars’ season-opener against the Heat when Marcus Stoinis thumped 99 runs off 51 balls to almost conjure victory.
Faulkner, who took 2-19 against the Scorchers and supplied an unbeaten 35, said on Monday the Stars had remained composed.
“We have to have a win for starters – 0-2 is not a great start. There are so many games left – it is not panic stations. We have been in this position a fair few times in most BBLs so, hopefully, 2018 can be a good start for us,” he said.
The Stars will hope free-flowing top-order batsmen Ben Dunk (0 and 6), Luke Wright (19 and 21) and Glenn Maxwell (8 and 4) can get going, particularly with the cross-town derby against the Renegades at the MCG just days away.
The Stars will be without Peter Handscomb, who remains with the Test squad in Sydney. Handscomb had been temporarily released to join the Stars in Perth, where he contributed eight and kept wicket.
“You, obviously, have to start well, whether it’s with bat or ball, whether it’s our top four batters or our opening bowlers. At the moment, we haven’t been able to do that particularly too well. We just need to get more consistency,” he said.
Left-arm bespectacled finger spinner Liam Bowe, who made a splash on debut last summer and was compared to Daniel Vettori, the former New Zealand star and now Heat coach, has also been included in the Stars’ squad and could play.
This in a sign they hope slow bowling will nullify the impact of “Bash brothers” Lynn, who has struggled against spin, and McCullum. The Stars already have Michael Beer and Adam Zampa as their frontline spinners, while Glenn Maxwell can also supply overs.
“I think we will probably take a bit of pace off it. They are both good players. They can hit anyone out of the park. I am not too sure who will start [with the ball] – whether I will do it or whether a spinner will,” Faulkner, given only one over when the teams last met, said
The 2-2 Heat have arrived in Melbourne after a shock 56-run loss to the Strikers in Adelaide on New Year’s Eve.
The visitors had appeared to have done well to restrict the Strikers to 7-147 but the Heat were bowled out for 91 in 16.2 overs. The Heat top order lost 4-7 in 14 deliveries at one stage to slip to 4-15, a position they never recovered from.
Lynn was dismissed for a third-ball duck although television replays indicated he may not have hit the ball, sparking debate as to whether the Decision Review System should be introduced into the Twenty20 competition.
McCullum could only watch on as wickets fell around him but he would contribute only 15 off 21 balls. The Stars, however, know how dangerous one of the greats of the Twenty20 format can be, for he crunched 40 off 22 balls in the opening game.
The Heat boast an improved pace attack. Left-arm seamer Josh Lalor claimed 3-40 against the Strikers, while Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah can be a match-winner. He took 2-18 off four overs against the Strikers and has the confidence to dominate in even in power plays.
Faulkner said Pietersen and Maxwell were due for a big score.
“Obviously, having him [Pietersen] in the team is fantastic for us and, hopefully, he can get the ball rolling himself,” he said.