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Stars dampen Hurricanes' finals hopes

By Chris Pike
21 January 2014 10:54PM EST

THE Melbourne Stars remain unbeaten and have made the Hobart Hurricanes' chance of making the Big Bash League finals harder after a comfortable five-wicket victory at the MCG on Tuesday.

The Stars have now won all seven of their BBL matches in the 2013/14 campaign to be guaranteed of top spot and a home semi-final at the MCG following the comfortable win over the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

Hobart can still finish fourth and book in a semi-final clash with the Stars, but the Hurricanes will need to beat the Brisbane Heat at Blundstone Arena on Thursday in what is now a virtual do-or-die contest with the two teams over that fourth position.

In a day that saw paceman Lasith Malinga recalled to Sri Lanka to work on his fitness ahead of upcoming national duties ruling him out of the rest of the BBL and then with key batsman Rob Quiney injuring his shoulder in the field, the Stars simply just don’t know how to lose.

Batting first, the Hurricanes set a decent 9-131 at the MCG with Travis Birt top-scoring with 31 and Ben Dunk with 30.

However, the Stars had little trouble chasing it down finishing on 5-132 after 19.1 overs with English all-rounder Luke Wright again top-scoring with 52.

The Hurricanes got off to the worst possible start when captain Tim Paine was gone first ball of the match with the Stars' decision to bowl David Hussey again paying off handsomely.

Jonathan Wells then tried to get the Hurricanes innings going with three quick boundaries after coming in to replace Paine before he was out for eight caught by James Muirhead off the bowling of John Hastings.

Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik was then run out without facing a ball to leave the Hurricanes struggling at 3-41.

Opener Dunk was able to combine with Birt for a handy 43-run partnership after that in 39 balls before both batsmen fell in successive deliveries from the bowling of Marcus Stoinis.

Birt was the first to go for 31 from 23 balls with his knock including two fours and two sixes before Dunk fell next ball for 30 from as many deliveries with three boundaries.

That left the Hurricanes 5-84 at the end of 12 overs with plenty of work to do to set the Stars a challenging run chase at the MCG.

Despite Aiden Blizzard's best efforts, that didn’t really eventuate with him receiving precious little help from Dimitri Mascarenhas (8), Ben Laughlin (1), Ben Hilfenhaus (0) and Cameron Boyce (8).

Blizzard remained 31 not out from 23 balls with two fours and two sixes as the Hurricanes finished the 20 overs on 9-131.

Hastings took 2-15 from four overs for the Stars with Stoinis adding 2-12 from two, Hussey 1-19 from four and Jackson Bird 1-33 from four.

Like the Hurricanes, the Stars didn’t get off to an ideal start with captain Cameron White out for just four in the second-over to Mascarenhas.

Quiney then courageously came to the crease for Melbourne despite his shoulder injury but he made just 13 before being bowled by Malik when attempting a charge down the wicket.

The Stars were then 2-31 in the fifth over but English all-rounder was just starting to warm up even though veteran Brad Hodge was struggling.

Hodge was also given a life on nine when dropped by Malik off his own bowling, but he didn’t last much longer falling for 12 from 26 balls to an outstanding full stretch diving catch from Dunk off the bowling of Hilfenhaus.

A Stars' batsman was again given a life with Malik dropping a catch in the deep with Hussey on strike from the bowling of Laughlin.

It looked like this one could make the Hurricanes pay as well even though Wright fell shortly after for 52 from 36 balls with five fours and two sixes.

The Stars were then 4-101 and soon after 5-117 with Stoinis gone for 10, but Peter Handscomb then joined Hussey at the crease as they guided the home team towards the victory total.

And the pair comfortably got there in the end with five balls remaining in the innings with Hussey 19 not out from 18 balls and Handscomb 10 from nine.

Laughlin finished with the figures of 2-28 from four overs for Hobart with Hilfenhaus adding 1-35, Mascarenhas 1-27, Malik 1-20 and Doug Bollinger 0-20.

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