Melbourne glided effortlessly through the Big Bash League group stages and remain heavy favourites to progress further against a Hobart outfit that made the last four despite losing more games than they won.
But in a format where a game can be decided in the blink of an eye, the Hurricanes' confidence will be sky-high after their dramatic late qualification and they will be keen to shock the much-fancied Stars. Let's take a closer look at the teams ahead of this crunch clash.
Venue: MCG, Melbourne, Australia.
Date: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Start time: 8:45 a.m. GMT, 7:45 p.m. local time
Weather: A perfect evening is predicted by bbc.co.uk/weather for this one.
TV Info: Sky Sports 2 in the UK
Quite simply, Melbourne have blitzed the competition so far, winning eight consecutive games, which takes some doing in T20 cricket.
Led by skipper Cameron White, whose form has seen him return successfully to the international fold, the Victorians have found a perfect blend of players that seemingly have all bases covered.
England's Luke Wright, who has scored 275 rapid runs, has combined with White to form an explosive opening partnership, while the middle order mixes the experience of Brad Hodge and David Hussey with the destructive Glenn Maxwell and current T20 international wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
But perhaps it's with the ball that the Stars have most impressed. Established internationals like Maxwell, James Faulkner and Lasith Malinga have each played a bit-part but it's the unheralded one-Ashes Test wonder Jackson Bird and bowling all-rounder John Hastings that have done most of the damage, taking 25 wickets between them at a miserly economy rate.
Despite Hobart's mild record in the group stages—they only qualified through beating Brisbane by a significant amount of runs and the Strikers helpfully losing to the Renegades—they possess some hefty if understated firepower themselves.
In fact, in Ben Dunk they have the official player of the tournament. The signing from Queensland has proved a shrewd acquisition in registering three fifties at the top of the order and being the only player to score over 300 runs.
Bolstering the batting line-up are T20 internationals Travis Birt and Tim Paine, who have each contributed over 160 runs each. An experienced bowling attack, that may lack an out-and-out statistical leader, have all chipped in at times, such as Ben Laughlin, who has claimed 12 scalps that includes two three-wicket hauls.
The sides faced each other on January 21 at the MCG with Melbourne running out five-wicket winners. Hobart's under par innings of 131 contained three ducks and the Stars, although reaching the target with just five balls to spare, never really had to get out of second gear.
Sri Lankan pace merchant Lasith Malinga has been allowed to play in this game despite being ordered home by his country's cricket board to work on his fitness. He joins White, Maxwell, James Muirhead and Matthew Wade, who all return from international duty.
Melbourne (from): Cameron White (c), John Hastings, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Alex Keath, Lasith Malinga, Clint McKay, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Daniel Worrall, Luke Wright.
George Bailey returns for the Hurricanes along with spin bowler Xavier Doherty.
Hobart (from): George Bailey (c), Tim Paine, Travis Birt, Doug Bollinger, Cameron Boyce, Xavier Doherty Ben Dunk, Evan Gulbis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ben Laughlin, Shoaib Malik, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Jon Wells.
Players to watch
England's Luke Wright was short-listed for player of the tournament but will be eager to make up for his disappointing international performances where he scored just 17 runs in three knocks. If the 28-year-old helps get his side off to a flying start on one of T20 cricket's biggest stages it will set him up nicely for the forthcoming World Cup and 2014 IPL.
Hobart have been without George Bailey, arguably their best player for the majority of this tournament, but the Australian T20 captain is set to figure in this game. A destructive batsman who boasts a strike rate of 146.68 as well as bags of experience at the top level, it would be no surprise if Bailey played a key innings.
As we've seen time and time again in sport, the team under no pressure can spring a surprise and the return of George Bailey adds another dimension to Hobart's side. However, it's hard to find a reason to oppose Melbourne here as they seem like an unstoppable force with no injury or form worries. So, I'm going for a Stars win, but closer than expected.
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