Sixers sweat on Starc to solve wicket-taking woes
Mitchell Starc is set to decide early this week if he will return to the Sydney Sixers for the KFC BBL Finals campaign, with the defending champions missing new-ball strike power
Louis Cameron at the MCG
25 January 2021, 07:19 AM AEST
The Sydney Sixers will soon learn whether white-ball maestro Mitchell Starc will feature in their KFC BBL title defence, with the stumbling title-holders admitting they badly need to take more early wickets.
The second-placed Sixers are set to find out early this week whether Starc, one of the greatest limited-overs bowlers this country has ever produced, will make himself available for his first Big Bash games in six years.
Jordan Silk conceded the Sixers' recent impotence with the new ball is a concern after the tournament's standout side lost their grip on top spot following a second consecutive defeat on Sunday evening at the MCG.
Rivals Sydney Thunder hammered the Sixers for 5-232, the biggest total in BBL history, on Friday and their bowlers' nightmare continued two days later when Matthew Wade and D'Arcy Short went at 10-runs-an-over for nearly three quarters of their innings.
The Sixers pegged them back to 8-188 but that too proved out of reach, with only a wild final over from Riley Meredith able to narrow the margin.
There are few bowlers in the world more equipped to solve the Sixers' early wicket-taking woes than Starc, whose T20 strike-rate of 14.8 is the best mark by an Australian in T20 history and who has traditionally swung the new white ball viciously.
"We've really struggled to take early wickets in our last couple of games and we know how crucial they are to winning games of cricket," said Silk, whose valiant hand of 78 from just 49 balls against the Hurricanes went in vain.
"Two or three wickets in that early Powerplay is vital. We haven't been to do that lately.
"We'll have a look back through and see what sort of match-ups we run with next game.
"It certainly helps when you can get yourself into the game with a couple of early wickets and we haven't been able to do that in our last two (games).
"It probably has gone a long way to determining the results of both games, with two massive partnerships (being scored)."
Despite being one of the format's most dangerous weapons, Starc has played just 13 T20 games in nearly four-and-a-half years.
It is a mark of how irregular the opportunities are for Australia's elite players to feature in Australia's showpiece T20 league that the left-armer has played more career games in the now defunct Champions League (11) than he has in the BBL (10).
Starc had been cleared fit by Cricket Australia's medical staff to play in the BBL after playing all four Tests against India.
Steve Smith, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood all returned to provide an enormous boost to the Sixers' second BBL crown last year, but the trio are understandably sitting out this season given how long they have been in bio-secure bubbles in recent months.
Stephen O'Keefe missed the Hobart clash with a calf issue but the club is hopeful he could return for their final regular-season match on Tuesday against the Melbourne Stars.
Sean Abbott and Moises Henriques, non-playing members of Australia's Test squad over the summer, have both made important contributions since returning to the Sixers.
Sean Abbott becomes the second man to take 100 @BBL wickets, after Ben Laughlin! #BBL10 pic.twitter.com/6E3ZMoHbDT— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 24, 2021
Abbott became the second bowler to reach 100 BBL wickets when he removed Wade after a devastating 44-ball 86, before grabbing the equally important scalp of his sidekick Short for 72 off 52 balls.
The Sixers took 8-43 from the final 33 balls of the Hurricanes innings and, while that total still proved too much, it at least prevented them conceding another total over 200.
"It was an incredible fightback. We were able to drag it back," the 28-year-old Silk said.
"It was looking like we were probably going to be chasing a total not too dissimilar to last game tonight.
"It was good to have pegged that back to a total and in the end we didn't fall that far short, it was a pretty reachable target.
"Full credit to our bowlers for being able to stay in the contest when they were coming pretty hard at us."