Glenn Maxwell says he had been looking forward to returning to topflight cricket to lead his Melbourne Stars after smashing a stunning 83 off 39 balls to set up a 22-run Big Bash victory against the Brisbane Heat.
Playing his first match since taking a mental health break in October the skipper belted seven fours and five sixes in his knock to lift the Stars to 7-167 off their 20 overs after being asked to bat first by Heat skipper Chris Lynn.
“It was so exciting,” Maxwell said on Channel Seven after the match. “To come out and play like that, especially where we
bowled at the end, was outstanding. To get through that was great.
[I’ve] felt really good all summer … as far as crickewise, feeling really good.”
Peter Handscomb (20 off 15) was the next highest scorer for the visitors, emphasising the importance of Maxwell’s innings.
Ben Laughlin nearly had Maxwell caught on the boundary when the allrounder was on just 12, but couldn’t hold on to the catch despite an amazing flying effort.
Laughlin got some measure of revenge, bowling Maxwell in the final over to finish with 1-35 off his four overs.
The Heat were given a great start in their run chase thanks to English young gun Tom Banton, who smashed his first BBL half-century.
Banton belted 64 off just 35 deliveries, including four big sixes, but his departure midway through the innings left the Heat struggling.
The 21-year-old was the second batsman caught in the deep by Ben Dunk off the bowling of Adam Zampa (3-30) after the pair earlier combined to remove the dangerous Chris Lynn for just eight.
Matt Renshaw, who was one of six Heat bowlers to claim a single wicket each, did his best to keep the Heat in the contest with a well-made 39 off 29 balls but when he fell to Daniel Worrall (2-21) in the penultimate over, the home team’s hopes were extinguished.
Pakistan quick Haris Rauf, plucked from Tasmanian club cricket as a replacement for injured South African great Dale Steyn, made an instant impact on his BBL debut.
The slingy right-armer dismissed Max Bryant (six) with his first delivery and ended the match with tidy figures of 2-20 off four overs.
Earlier in the day, ball dominated bat on a day when the nation sweltered.
Hobart Hurricanes’ Afghani import Qais Ahmad took 4-12 to lead his side to a stunning 25-run win over the Sydney Sixers.
The 19-year-old also produced a run-out – followed by a front-flip celebration.
Chasing just 130 for victory in Alice Springs, the Sixers lost a staggering 7-13 in 21 balls as Ahmad wreaked havoc before they folded for 104 in the penultimate over.
Three of Ahmad’s scalps came within four balls in a dramatic 10th over.
He bowled Sam Curran with a perfectly pitched leg-break, had Sean Abbott stumped and then bowled leftie Ben Dwarshuis through the gate
Ahmad earlier ran out opener Daniel Hughes in the opening over to spark a sensational solo performance.
Ahmad, who speaks limited English, now has 11 wickets in his four games for the Hurricanes after joining the team as an overseas import at the back-end of last season.
“That was probably his wicket to a tee and he made the most of it,” Hobart skipper Ben McDermott told reporters, adding he urged his teammate to pull out the flip celebration.
“He did it once at training. I was yelling out ‘do it, do it’ when he got the wicket.
“He’s a very wily character, always buzzing around. He doesn’t talk too much but he makes up for it with his energy.”
The Sixers had a bright start in pursuit of the Hurricanes 9-129, reaching 1-48 in the seventh over.
But it all turned pear-shaped on a slow-and-low pitch at Traeger Park where nearly all batsmen struggled.
“We may have got ahead of ourselves a little bit in that chase,” Sixers’ captain Moises Henriques conceded.
“It’s something to learn from, especially considering we’ve been a very confident chasing team in the past. It was very manageable.”
Young talent Josh Philippe hit 24 but couldn’t replicate his efforts from the Sixers’ opening-game win over Perth.