The 33,580 fans that flocked to the MCG on Wednesday night went to see a Stars win – but they got a lesson in “bird handling” as well.
As the Stars – with much of the thanks to Peter Handscomb, who scored a career-defining and magnificent, unbeaten 103 – powered to a three wicket win after an early struggle, the entertainment, for a time, was front and centre on a seagull.
Perth Scorchers captain Adam Voges hammered a brutal pull stroke – and the stationary bird copped it flush with just a few overs remaining in the first innings. With the seagull lying prone on the field, Rob Quiney gently took it off the field and placed it beyond the boundary. The crowd and players thought that was that.
Just one over later, the crowd roared with applause as the seagull came back from the land of the dead – and decided to bravely, or foolishly, walk straight through the path of Quiney as he went to field a ball.
Earlier, Michael Klinger and the returning Shaun Marsh gave nothing to the Stars – and proceeded to compile a 127 run opening stand in 14 overs. Neither looked shaky, and Marsh took control early, belting three boundaries off the first two overs before the Stars could shift out of second gear.
The run-rate kept climbing, and with it came less and less opportunities for the home side to send someone back to the sideline. Marsh’s timing was perfect, and the powerplay score was 0/53. Jackson Bird (0/38) missed out, with Marsh putting one straight back over his head, where it sailed several rows back into the crowd.
Michael Beer (1/38) was the best for the Stars, but his usual economical impact was packed away for a night, as Marsh and Klinger took hold, the former finally holding out in the deep for 79, but the damage had been done before then. Voges combined with Klinger for a six over, 52 run stand, leaving the Scorchers at 2/179 on a dry, flat MCG pitch.
With the Stars having to seal victory in 92 balls or less to secure a home semi-final, nine runs an over from the get go proved a little unnerving. Luke Wright’s underwhelming season continued, much to the chagrin of Stars fans, as he found the giant Ashton Agar hovering at mid off. Kevin Pietersen arrived, and then departed after hearing the death rattle of stumps and bails separating. It became 3/28 late in the powerplay when Stars skipper Cameron White spooned a cheap shot to Michael Klinger in the midwicket region.
Enter Peter Handscomb and Quiney – the duo that looked to save face. From a wobbly boat, Handscomb turned the game on its head. His five sixes were an impeccable mix of timing and power that had them flying 20 rows back into the crowd. Wherever Jason Behrendorff, Yasir Arafat or any of the Scorchers bowlers put the ball, Handscomb saw it and put it away.
Quiney (19) and John Hastings (20) only played support roles, with all eyes on Handscomb. The equation was 51 from four overs, and every ball was vital. With the first three balls of the 16th over reading 6 6 6, the Stars fans woke up to a spectacle.
It may not have secured a home semi-final, but the Stars will head interstate to either Adelaide or Perth depending on the result of the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder game. For Handscomb, his century was the talk of the MCG, with his Stars teammates rushing to congratulate him. Five wins in a row sealed the Stars season, although the game was well in the hands of the Scorchers early.
Perth look to have the home semi-final locked in, before the final in Canberra on January 28.
FINAL SCORE: Perth Scorchers 2/179 lost to the Melbourne Stars 7/182 by 3 wickets with 3 balls remaining