CRICKET BBL THUNDER STARS
The Melbourne Stars have survived a dramatic late collapse to bump Sydney Thunder off the top of the BBL ladder with a final over, three-wicket win on Thursday.
Chasing 143 at Sydney Showground Stadium, the Stars were coasting at 1-123 in the 17th over, but lost 6-19 as pacemen Chris Morris, Daniel Sams and Nathan McAndrew each claimed two wickets in an over.
It was reminiscent of their fatal concession of 7-19 in last year's final with the Melbourne Renegades, though man of the match and Stars top scorer Nick Larkin was not reminded of that capitulation.
"We made it harder than we should have, but I think we were always going to find the runs that we needed,'' said Larkin, who described the mood in the Stars' dugout down the stretch as "a fraction tense".
The home team were restricted to 7-142 with Pakistan paceman Haris Rauf and spinner Glenn Maxwell doing much of the damage after Thunder skipper Callum Ferguson opted to bat first.
Rauf finished with 3-24, giving him ten wickets in three games, though he caused a commotion on social media with a throat-slitting wicket-taking celebration.
Captain Maxwell (2-17) opened the Stars bowling with his fast offspin and induced dangerous openers Alex Hales (0) and Usman Khawaja (1) to play loose shots in his first two overs.
"You can't understate how much that puts you on top of the game to knock over probably two of the better batters in the competition," Larkin said.
The Stars made an inauspicious start to their chase when Nic Maddinson was bowled for a duck by Sams, who delivered a wicket maiden.
But Marcus Stoinis (58) and Larkin (65) seemingly shut the Thunder out of the game with a second-wicket stand worth 123.
Australian T20 and ODI representative Stoinis was the more aggressive of the duo in the early stages of the partnership, smashing a couple of sixes down the ground.
Larkin, who notched his maiden T20 half century, blossomed as his innings progressed and ultimately cracked eight boundaries and a six.
Both batsmen fell to catches off Morris in the 17th over and Sams (3-25) dismissed Maxwell and Ben Dunk in the 18th.
The Stars needed two off the final over but McAndrew whipped out Nathan Coulter-Nile and Clint Hinchliffe off the second and third balls, before Adam Zampa scored the winning run off the fourth.
"We as a team didn't really feel like we were written off, even though at one stage it was under a run a ball," Sams said.
"If we were able to get a couple of new batters in there it was really hard to score from ball one, so we were able to take a couple of wickets and put it back on them. They just got over the line."
With an in-form Ferguson falling to Rauf for 13, the Thunder's top order were all back in the dugout before the end of the seventh over.
Fortunately Alex Ross and Matt Gilkes added some substance to the innings, scoring 40 and 28 respectively.