The KFC Big Bash League cricket semi-finals will get underway on Tuesday, Feb. 4, when the prohibitive favourite Melbourne Stars battle the Hobart Hurricanes at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Melbourne are going to be difficult to beat, given that they've won all eight previous fixtures and have plenty of talent, headlined by captain Cameron White and prolific batsman Luke Wright.
Wednesday will see the second semi-final at Sydney Cricket Ground between the hosting Sydney Sixers and the Perth Scorchers. Those two are the only other squads in the league with records north of .500, so that figures to be a competitive showdown to determine who will advance to the final on Friday, Feb. 7.
Let's take a closer look at both semi-final matchups and what to expect from each, along with when and where to catch the action in Australia.
Note: Statistics and squad information are courtesy of ESPNCricInfo.com.
|Date||Time (GMT)/Local||Fixture||Venue||TV/Live Stream|
|Tuesday, Feb. 4||8:45 a.m./7:45 p.m.||Melbourne Stars vs. Hobart Hurricanes||Melbourne Cricket Ground||Sky Sports 2|
|Wednesday, Feb. 5||8:45 a.m./7:45 p.m.||Sydney Stars vs. Perth Scorchers||Sydney Cricket Ground||Sky Sports 2|
|Source: ESPNCricInfo.com. Live stream subscription required.|
Melbourne Stars vs. Hobart Hurricanes
If the Hurricanes are meant to have a chance in this clash, they will need yet another big performance from Ben Dunk, who has risen to the occasion and has been on a tear as a batsman.
Dunk was named the Player of the Tournament on Monday, beating out his rival Wright by one vote, according to BigBash.com's Ben Waterworth:
However, the big star needs the help of his team-mates to contribute more to the cause against such a deep and talented squad as Melbourne. Facing a bowler such as Lasith Malinga will prove to be a tall task for Hobart.
But as formidable as Melbourne are, all the pressure is on the Stars to continue their winning ways as the stakes are raised. Playing on their home ground will be beneficial, yet it may also add scrutiny if they can't secure the victory.
Expect the Hurricanes to come out aggressively and try to knock the Stars off their game early. In the end, though, Melbourne will prove too much for Hobart to handle in a close battle that gets the Stars to their first final.
Sydney Sixers vs. Perth Scorchers
If the first encounter between these two sides this season was any indication, Wednesday's semi-final should be an excellent match.
The Sixers and Scorchers were tied at 153 runs apiece in their last meeting, with Perth getting the win at home on account of the one-over eliminator. Yasir Arafat clean bowled Sydney's Smith in the decisive eliminator and helped secure the win, per Alex Malcolm of ESPNCricInfo.com.
Both sides have plenty of bats, so this should be an entertaining, competitive fight to the end.
What will give the Sixers the edge in the end is the vengeance factor of taking care of business on their home turf and overcoming their numerous injuries and absences to get the job done.
Smith will not be in action for the hosts due to Test series obligations, but neither will Arafat for Perth, eliminating the rematch intrigue of their last duel that went Arafat's way.
It's critical for Sydney to compensate for the losses on the roster, but a source of inspiration could be Stephen O'Keefe, who is attempting a return from a dislocated right shoulder to bolster the Sixers' bowling line-up, per Ben Horne of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Some of the star power from the previous showdown won't be on display, but that only makes way for more players to step up on both sides. In what should be a tight one, Sydney will prevail and meet Melbourne in a final pitting the two squads atop the points table.