Smiles better: the 2013/14 Big Bash League has now reached the semi-finals stage, but which two sides will reach the final next Friday?
With the group stage of the 2013-14 Big Bash League having finally been set, the identity of next week’s four semifinalists are now known, with the Melbourne Stars taking on the Hobart Hurricanes, while the Sydney Sixers will compete against the Perth Scorchers.
To give you some idea of just which two outfits may make it all the way through to the final on Feb. 7, here is our Big Bash League team-by-team guide, complete with grades from A to D and predictions for the upcoming finals week.
Mike Hussey’s under-performing side has just one victory in the entire group phase. It came when the Sydney Thunder thrashed the equally disappointing Melbourne Renegades by nine wickets on Jan. 14 in a dead rubber at the Melbourne Docklands.
Other than that, though, it has been a tournament to forget for the Thunder.
Not Recorded: 1
It has all gone horribly wrong after a brilliant start to proceedings for the Strikers, who were unbeaten in their opening three fixtures and seemingly well on course for a place in the semifinals at that early stage.
Five straight losses to finish their league campaign, however, have resulted in Johan Botha’s men just missing out on a top-four finish by only two points.
It's been an up-and-down group phase for the Renegades, who tended to follow two good displays with two poor showings. Ultimately, their agonising two-run home defeat to the Sydney Sixers on Jan. 18 cost them a place in next week’s semifinals.
In the end—after five weeks of Twenty20 cricket—it came down to a winner-takes-all showdown for James Hopes and Co.
In their final group encounter against the Hobart Hurricanes at the Bellerive Oval on Jan. 23, the hosts emerged as 40-run winners to seal the last semifinal berth.
Not Recorded: 1
Grade: B +
Ultimately, the Hurricanes’ no result against the Strikers in their very first group-stage contest on Dec. 22 in Hobart proved decisive for Tim Paine’s team.
The one point gained from that rain-affected contest saw them through to the knockout phase as the final qualifier at the expense of both the Heat and Renegades.
Grade: A -
Simon Katich’s well-drilled unit has been consistent and hard to beat throughout the season.
The highlight of their five victories in the group phase was the final-over eliminator that saw them triumph over the second-placed Sydney Sixers at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Jan. 10.
There were just two losses in their eight league contests. One came via a final-over eliminator with the Scorchers, while the other was against the undefeated first-placed Melbourne Stars.
Grade: A +
The Stars kicked off the 2013-14 Big Bash League with a comfortable win against the Renegades on Dec. 20.
They ended their highly successful unbeaten campaign with their eighth straight group victory against the Scorchers five weeks later to top the table going into next week’s semifinals.
Feb. 4: Melbourne Stars v Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Cricket Ground
When these two sides met last week at the same venue, the Stars won by five wickets, thanks to a man-of-the-match display by England all-rounder Luke Wright, with the winning runs coming in the final over of what was an absorbing contest.
It is hard to see much past another win for Cameron White’s powerful-looking outfit when they come face-to-face again next Tuesday in a day-night affair at what is sure to be a raucous and packed Ground.
Feb. 5: Sydney Sixers v Perth Scorchers, Sydney Cricket Ground
If the two teams manage to serve up anywhere near as much excitement and drama in seven days’ time as they did when they clashed in the group phase in Sydney on Jan. 10, then we will be in for a real cracker.
That nail-bitter was the only contest from the entire league stage that ended in a tie after 40 overs, resulting in the thrill (from the neutrals’ viewpoint, that is) of a final-over eliminator that ultimately saw the Scorchers emerge victorious.
Expect the Sixers, however, to reverse the tables next Wednesday and gain revenge in front of their home fans.