The Melbourne Stars are feeling the heat once again after a narrow loss to the Sydney Thunder on Wednesday ensured they would finish the Big Bash season with the wooden spoon.
And when they held Melbourne to a paltry 7/119, they looked like they booked their spot in the finals.
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Instead, they fell to 5/60 in the 12th over to turn a seemingly straightforward run chase into a nail biting task.
When Ben Cutting was run out by Luke Wood in the 15th over, the visitors fell to 6/80 and their fate looked sealed five balls later when Chris Green floated Nathan Coulter-Nile to short fine leg where Adam Zampa was waiting underneath it.
However the Stars captain dropped an absolute sitter to give Green a life on one instead of reducing Sydney to 7/85.
“Oh wow,” Adam Gilchrist said on Fox Cricket.
“That’s not the feeling Adam Zampa would have wanted. That has just gone straight through. “It hasn’t hit, it hasn’t bounced out, hasn’t clipped the edge of the fingers. That’s extraordinary.”
Ricky Ponting, head of strategy for the Hobart Hurricanes — who needed the Stars to win for the Hurricanes to make finals — was more scathing than Zampa, arguing it never looked like he was going to take the catch.
“Do you know what? I was going to call that,” Ponting said on Channel 7.
“As soon as it went up in the air I was going to call that. It is unbelievable how many catches Adam Zampa puts down. It doesn’t get any easier than that. That is an absolute sitter.
“That’s the fourth catch that Adam Zampa has put down in this tournament. I remember quite a few as well in the green and gold, in the T20 World Cup there were a few went down there.
“I understand it is the worst feeling in the game. No one means to put them down. But if you look at the best teams in the comp, the Sixers and the Scorchers, they don’t put so many down.”
Coulter-Nile was filthy at the dropped catch, and Daniel Sams added insult to injury when he cracked a pair of fours and a six in the next six balls to propel the Thunder to 6-104 in the 17th over.
Zampa bowled Sams for 28 (off 18 balls), meaning Sydney needed 16 off 21 for victory with three wickets in hand, and Green (six not out) and Nathan McAndrew (12 not out) guided the Thunder to 7-120 to send the Hurricanes back outside the top five right to death.
The loss brought an end to another underwhelming Big Bash season for the Stars, that did nothing to change their reputation as the competition’s notorious underachievers.
The Stars and the Hobart Hurricanes are the only two teams yet to win a Big Bash title.
The Stars have lost the three Grand Finals they have contested and will now head back to the drawing board after claiming the wooden spoon with just three wins this season.
The result means the Thunder have finished the season in fourth spot, and will host Brisbane on Friday night in the ‘Eliminator’ final, the winner of which will face the Melbourne Renegades in the ‘Knockout’ final at Marvel Stadium on Sunday night.
Top teams Perth and the Sydney Sixers will face off in the ‘Qualifier’ final at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
BBL|12 FINALS FIXTURES
Friday January 27, The Eliminator: Sydney Thunder vs Brisbane Heat
Saturday January 28, The Qualifier: Perth Scorchers vs Sydney Sixers
Sunday January 29, The Knockout: Melbourne Renegades vs winner of the Eliminator
Thursday February 2, The Challenger: Loser of The Qualifier vs winner of The Knockout
Saturday February 4, The Final: Winner of The Qualifier vs winner of The Challenger
—With NCA NewsWire