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Hit for six

Lasith Malinga (third left) was impossible to get off the square.

MELBOURNE – West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine (0-31) went wicketless and fluffed a run-out today as solid batting from Australian internationals Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell, led the Melbourne Stars to a 21-run win against his Sydney Sixers in the KFC Big Bash at the MCG. It left the defending champions contemplating two successive defeats.

Brad Haddin’s decision to field first was proving to be an inspired choice when the Sixers reduced their opponents to 17 for 2, but the darkness made way for the light of Hodge and Maxwell.

They are two players of contrasting styles, at contrasting borders of their careers, but they combined for an exhilarating partnership. Hodge kick-started the carnage in the fifth over. Luke Feldman bowled short and wide to Hodge and the soon-to-be 38 year-old cashed in with two boundaries either side of point.

Maxwell watched mystery spinner Narine cautiously in the sixth over, but an inexplicable front-foot no-ball allowed a free swing, which Maxwell duly put over the fence. Thereafter, Maxwell let loose his power hitting, and Hodge indulged in timing and placement.

Maxwell reached his 50 first, from just 31 balls, having at one stage clubbed 30 runs in just 12 deliveries with the help of four fours and a six. The crowd had to wait another three overs for Hodge to raise his bat, but it was only then that they realised he, too, had reached the mark in just 31 balls. The pair had amassed 118 runs from just 69 deliveries when Hodge departed.

The Sixers could, however, could have prevented the damage as both men could have been run out at the beginning of their knocks. Feldman dropped the ball as he broke the stumps when Maxwell, who had scored just two at the time, was well short of his ground. Narine went one better than Feldman, when he collected an accurate throw cleanly but missed the stumps with ball in hand to allow Hodge to reach safe ground for his 21st run.

The normally impregnable hands of Steve Smith also missed a Maxwell sky-ball in the deep, but he holed out shortly after for 82 off 50 balls. It was pivotal to the imposing Stars total of 6 for 177.

Positive start

The Sixers started positively with the makeshift opening pairing of Daniel Smith and Steve O’Keefe. They combined for 74 before Smith slog-swept Shane Warne into the safe hands of David Hussey, to end the ninth over, which cost 15. Brad Haddin entered as the biggest threat to the Stars and their fears compounded when Henry dropped a simple chance at deep point.

But Warne manipulated his bowlers well to create breakthroughs at the other end. O’Keefe was stumped off Cameron White, who bowled impressively. Warne, the gambler, predicted Moises Henriques’ dismissal on commentary again. He foretold Henriques’ penchant for the slog-sweep over midwicket, and prescribed a well-flighted, big-spinning legbreak wide of off stump. When Henriques swung and missed the first,

Warne went double-or-nothing and Henriques top edged to cover. It was yet another brilliant display of tactical nous, and surgical execution.

Warne then turned to Lasith Malinga, who is a surgeon of finishes in this tournament. He ripped the heart out of the Sixers along with the roots of Haddin’s middle stump in the 17th over. The 144kph-inswinging yorker was precise, and it left the Sixers with far too much to do. The Stars recorded their third-straight win.

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