Windies batsman, Andre Fletcher, has pointed to a call from legendary batsman Brian Lara as pivotal in helping to turn around his form in this season’s Big Bash League (BBL).

On Thursday, Fletcher smashed a brutal 89 for just 49 balls to underpin the Melbourne Stars massive 111 run win over Adelaide Strikers.  The knock was timely for Fletcher as he had not passed 18 in his first nine BBL encounters.

The 33-year-old had previously also performed below expectations in a low-scoring Caribbean Premier League (CPL), where he scored 211 from 12 games despite his team St Lucia Zouks making it to the final.  As it turns out, it was a call from the legendary West Indian batsman, who is on commentary duty at the BBL, which proved critical in helping Fletcher turn around that recent run of bad form.

"He called me, and I was surprised, to be honest," Fletcher said following his explosive performance.

"He was telling me that, looking from the outside, I've been striking the ball cleanly and he just told me to give myself that opportunity. Giving myself that chance and playing each ball on its merits,” he added.

"I'm an aggressive player so there's no need to go out there and look to [over] power the ball. To be honest, that's what I did today.

"I've met him before. He's a great guy. I told him over the phone, after what he told me I was like, 'So Brian, now I understand the reason you were so great'.

"He told me, feel free to call him any time I wish to, he's there, he's open for anything and willing to give me advice."

Let’s face it. Melbourne Stars batsman Andre Fletcher has not set the Big Bash League alight with his batting. The Grenadian batsman, who has been opening for the Stars, has a top score of 18 in seven outings. And, after scores of 10, 10, 18, 4, 6, 12 and 12, few would argue with the growing consensus that he should be to be dropped.

However, he showed on Sunday - with two spectacular catches against the Hobart Hurricanes - that his value extends well beyond his batting skills, as he twice helped swing the match in favour of the Stars, who eked out a close 10-run victory.

Fletcher made 10 of the Melbourne Stars’ 183 for 6 from their 20 overs, thanks mainly to Marcus Stoinis’ unbeaten 55-ball 97 that included seven fours and seven sixes; 36 from Hilton Cartwright and 26 from the in-form Nicholas Pooran.

Riley Meredith, who had Fletcher caught behind after his four-ball stay at the crease ended with 2 for 25 but it was Nathan Ellis, who dismissed Cartwright and Pooran, who was the Hurricanes’ best bowler with 3 for 31.

Daunting as the target might have seemed, Ben McDermott seemed headed to make light work of it with a blazing knock of 91 off just 58 balls and included eight fours and five sixes. It was while going for his sixth six that Fletcher intervened, changing the direction of the match in the process.

On the last ball of the 19th over, Liam Hatcher (1 for 45) served up a thigh-high full toss wide outside off McDermott, who flayed it flat over extra cover. Fletcher, known as the Spiceman, raced close to 10m to his left before taking off like Superman to hold on to a spectacular catch to have the Hurricanes at 163 for 5.

Fletcher’s blinder was his second of the match.

At the fall of the Hurricanes’ second wicket, that of Dawid Malan for 26 with the score 89, Colin Ingram and McDermott flayed the Stars’ bowling to all parts putting together a 50-run stand in just 22 balls.

It was a partnership that was threatening to take the match away from the visitors when in the 17th over, Billy Stanlake (1 for 41) bowled one full and wide. Ingram sliced it in the air over extra cover. Fletcher charged in, misread the flight of the ball and then adjusted as the ball began to tail away towards the boundary rope.

At the last minute, Fletcher dove to his right and snatched the ball inches off the ground before breaking out into a celebratory dance.

It was then 139 for 3, with the Hurricanes still in the hunt until Fletcher struck out in the field once more.

West Indies T20 opening batsman Andre Fletcher said he is excited about playing for Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League once his West Indies are completed.

Fletcher was a member of the West Indies T20 squad that lost three three-match series against New Zealand 2-0. He will replace England’s Jonny Bairstow, who is unavailable due to international duty.

"I'm really looking forward to coming over to the Melbourne Stars and being part of what should be an exciting season ahead," Fletcher said.

“Hopefully, I can bring my brand of batting and recent form to the Stars during the BBL."

Stars head coach David Hussey believes Fletcher’s talents will be an asset to the club.

"We're glad Andre was in a position to join us and he'll bring plenty of power and entertainment at the top of the batting order. Andre is a former T20 World Cup winner with the West Indies so he knows what it takes to succeed in major tournaments and I'm confident he'll be a great asset around our group," Hussey said.

Fletcher brings extensive experience to the Melbourne Stars having played in the Caribbean Premier League, the Bangladesh Premier League, and the Pakistan Super League.

He will join Nicholas Pooran who has also been signed with the club for the coming season.

West Indies Test captain Jason Holder has signed a three-match deal with Sydney Sixers for the upcoming Australia Big Bash League (BBL).

The 29-year-old all-rounder has seen his stock rise in cricket’s shortest format over the last couple of months, following a strong performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Sunrisers Hyderabad.  Holder was signed as a replacement but played a crucial role in the team securing a third-place finish.

The all-rounder, who is currently with the West Indies for its ongoing tour of New Zealand, will not be available for the Sixers until their December 20 clash with the Adelaide Strikers in Hobart. He is expected to then take part in a December 26 fixture against the Melbourne Stars and the December 29 matchup with the Melbourne Renegades.  For his part, Holder was excited about the move.

"I'm really excited to be coming to the BBL and in particular the Sydney Sixers. I've wanted to for a few years now and this year I have the opportunity to come in and make some appearances and hopefully do a bit for the Sixers," he said.

"BBL cricket is an interest for me and the Sixers have been successful over the past few years. Moises and I played together at Sunrisers and I really enjoyed that. It will be good to do it again."

Holder will also be joining up with former West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite at the club.

 

Guyanese all-rounder Keemo Paul has signed with the Hobart Hurricanes Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League.

After being lauded by Melbourne Stars Head Coach David Hussey, West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran says he eager to suit up for the team during this season of the Australia Big Bash League (BBL).

AB de Villiers has decided to skip the upcoming Big Bash League campaign with Brisbane Heat due to family and COVID-19 related issues.

Uncertainty around international travel restrictions as De Villiers and his wife prepare for the birth of their third child played a significant role in the former South Africa batsman pulling out.

The 36-year-old scored 146 runs in six appearances in the 2019-20 BBL – the first time he had participated in the competition – as the Heat failed to qualify for the finals for the third time in succession.

De Villiers, who is currently participating in the Indian Premier League, hopes to get another chance to play for Brisbane as he feels there is "unfinished business".

"We're expecting our latest child very soon and with a young, growing family and the uncertainty around travel conditions due to COVID-19, we reluctantly decided it wasn't going to be this season," De Villiers said.

"The Heat were great to us last season and I am very open to returning to the club in future. The team didn't get the results we were hoping for and I consider there is some unfinished business to deal with."

Heat head coach Darren Lehmann added: "We've been in regular contact with AB since last season and while things initially looked fine for him to come back, there have been a few factors emerge which have changed everyone's plans.

"The main one, aside from the challenges represented by COVID-19 and international travel, is that AB and his wife Danielle are expecting their third child very soon.

"Naturally we're very pleased for them and know that the next few months will be a very special time for all."

There was some positive news for the Heat on Tuesday, however, as they announced the return of spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the world number two T20I bowler, for the 2020-21 BBL.

The Big Bash League is due to start on December 3 with a clash between Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades.

Australia is ready to ditch the cardboard cutouts and welcome back thousands of spectators to its major sporting events, prime minister Scott Morrison has declared.

From July, venues with up to 40,000 seats will be allowed to operate at a limit of 25 per cent capacity, providing events are ticketed and seated.

Morrison confirmed the same guidelines could also apply to larger venues but said local health authorities would need to assess coronavirus risk on a case-by-case basis.

The news could mean events such as the NRL and AFL welcome back supporters next month, and it boosts the prospect of cricket's ICC Twenty20 World Cup taking place with fans in October and November.

Announcing the reopening of stadiums to fans, albeit with social distancing measures in place, Morrison said he was "sure that will be very welcome".

Australia's biggest venues, such as the MCG, Docklands Stadium and Stadium Australia, may also soon be back open for business.

"For the larger ones I would venture that it would be the subject of a discrete approval for each venue, that would be worked up with the chief health officer in each state or territory," Morrison said.

"So, by the time you get into July there may be that type of opportunity for the rules that apply to those under 40,000 to just carry over to those above 40,000, but that is not a decision that has been taken yet.

"These will be practical, common-sense issues, they'll be worked through by the medical expert panel over the next few weeks and I think that will give it greater instruction.

"The purpose of me flagging this today is so sporting codes, venues, state and territory governments, can engage in that appropriate discussion, know broadly what the parameters are which the national cabinet has set, so it means that people will be able to watch the games, not as cardboard cutouts, but in person, should they be fortunate enough to get one of those seats."

Australia has had over 7,200 cases of COVID-19, with 102 deaths, and there are fewer than 500 current cases in the country, the government said.

Josh Philippe's half-century lifted the Sydney Sixers to their second Big Bash League title with a 19-run win in a rain-affected final against Melbourne Stars, who finished as runners-up for the second successive season.

Heavy rainfall had threatened to wash out the game at the SCG on Saturday, but the conditions eased and there was enough time for a 12-over match in which the Sixers came out on top.

The hosts – champions in the inaugural 2011-12 campaign – were in trouble at 68-4 but Philippe smashed 52 off 29 balls to guide them to 116-5, Adam Zampa finally removing the opener with the final delivery of the innings.

Despite possessing explosive batsmen Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell in their ranks, the Stars did not get firing until Nick Larkin and Nathan Coulter-Nile put on an unbroken 43-run stand for the seventh wicket.

However, spinners Nathan Lyon (2-19) and Steve O'Keefe (2-27) took two wickets apiece, while Josh Hazlewood and Ben Dwarshuis kept the run rate down as the Stars suffered a third final defeat.

 

A STRONG START

James Vince made just two off nine deliveries before picking out mid-on off Daniel Worrall, but Steve Smith (21) ensured the Sixers stayed on track after Maxwell put the Stars in.

Smith and Philippe took the fight to the Stars and the latter claimed four fours and three maximums to score his third fifty in four BBL games.

Although captain Moises Henriques fell for seven and Maxwell removed Daniel Hughes for a golden duck, Philippe established a 48-run stand with Jordan Silk (27 not out) to set what looked to be a par score.

 

HISTORY REPEATING?

When the teams met in the qualifier, the Sixers bowled the Stars out for the lowest score in their history – just 99.

There must have been a sense of deja vu when they slumped to 25-4 after 4.1 overs, with key batsmen Stoinis and Maxwell departing early.

Stoinis was the highest-scoring player in the BBL this year and plundered a record 147 when the teams first met this season, but he made just 10 before holing out to deep midwicket off Lyon and O'Keefe snared Maxwell lbw to leave the Stars in dire straits.

 

STARS BURNT OUT

Smith run out Peter Handscomb – off O'Keefe to leave the Stars 54-6.

Despite the impressive efforts of Larkin, who hit two fours and as many sixes in an unbeaten 38, and Coulter-Nile, the visitors were unable to come back from the early setbacks and fell to a resounding defeat.

Marcus Stoinis and Nick Larkin shared a brilliant 117-run partnership to fire Melbourne Stars into the Big Bash League final with a convincing 28-run win over Sydney Thunder.

The Stars topped the regular-season table but were battered by Sydney Sixers in last week's Qualifier.

However, they will get a shot at redemption in Saturday's showpiece after winning the Challenger on home turf at the MCG with Stoinis and man of the match Larkin each hammering 83 in an imposing score of 194-2.

Stoinis' knock saw him break the record for the most runs in a single BBL season and, despite Alex Ross putting on 45 and 58 with Chris Morris and Arjun Nair, the Thunder could only muster 166-8 in reply with Haris Rauf (3-17), Nathan Coulter-Nile (2-29) and Adam Zampa (2-43) doing the damage.

STOINIS AND LARKIN MAKE THUNDER TOIL

It has been a BBL season to remember for Stoinis, whose 695 runs so far betters the 637 accumulated by D'Arcy Short last term.

There were seven fours and three sixes from the Australia limited-overs international from his 54 balls, and he made the most of being dropped down the leg side by Jay Lenton.

While Stoinis was eventually bowled by Morris, Larkin was unbeaten come the end of a brutal 49-ball knock in which he clubbed three straight over the ropes and recorded another nine fours.

 

RAUF AND CO. FINISH THE JOB

The Thunder had already seen dangerman Alex Hales (8) run out and Usman Khawaja (23 off 15) bowled by Coulter-Nile after a promising start by the time Rauf tempted captain Callum Ferguson (7) into a misguided waft that sailed to wicketkeeper Seb Gotch. 

Needing partnerships, Ross – whose knock of 58 included three fours and as many sixes – was combining well with Morris before the latter was bowled by the brilliant Rauf.

The writing was on the wall even before Ross and Nair each fell to Zampa in the 17th over and Rauf claimed one more for his personal tally from the final set of six when Lenton picked out Nic Maddinson at deep midwicket.

Marcus Stoinis has been rewarded for his eye-catching Big Bash League exploits after landing the Player of the Tournament award.

The Melbourne Stars all-rounder edged out Sydney Sixers paceman Tom Curran by two votes, with the winner decided by a ballot among the umpires at the end of the 56 regular season matches.

Stoinis' 26 votes put him three clear of third-placed Alex Hales, who will be in action when Sydney Thunder face the Stars in Thursday's BBL challenger clash. The Sixers await in the final.

"I'm honoured to have been voted as the 2019-20 KFC Big Bash League Player of the Tournament," said Australia international Stoinis.

"I love playing for Melbourne Stars. This team is special to me and I love having the opportunity to run out onto the field with them.

"We've got a big match against the Sydney Thunder on Thursday night and I hope to see our Team Green fans at the MCG to help get us over the line."

Stoinis went past 600 runs this season, becoming only the second player to do so in a single campaign.

He made history with his record-breaking knock of 147 not out against the Sixers in January, when he also shared a BBL all-time best 207-run opening stand with Hilton Cartwright.

The Stars finished as runners-up in 2019, losing in the final to Melbourne Renegades.

The Sydney Thunder capitalised on a stunning Adelaide Strikers collapse to snatch an eight-run win and move within a match of the Big Bash League final.

Set a meagre 152 for victory on Saturday, the Strikers were cruising towards a comfortable victory before Daniel Sams (3-26) and Chris Morris (2-22) instigated the loss of five wickets for 24 runs.

Star batsman Alex Hales top scored with 59 for the Thunder, who finished four points behind Adelaide on the ladder but will now face the Melbourne Stars in a do-or-die challenger clash on Thursday.

The winner of that match will advance to face the Sydney Sixers in the February 8 final at the SCG.

 

HALES GIVES THUNDER HOPE

Usman Khawaja's early exit and the loss of Callum Ferguson inside six overs could have derailed the Thunder before their innings began to take shape.

Hales had other ideas and, like he has done so regularly in the tournament, gave his team crucial quick runs at the top of the order.

The destructive England opener hammered six fours and four sixes to record his fourth half-century in five innings while dominating a 51-run stand with Alex Ross (12).

Arjun Nair (18) and all-rounder Morris (21) made handy contributions lower down the order to build a competitive total, but the Thunder would surely have been bundled out if not for their key man.

 

STRIKERS SQUANDER WINNING POSITION

Phil Salt's departure in the opening over of the chase failed to prevent the Strikers from making a confident start in front of an expectant Adelaide Oval crowd.

Travis Head entered and struck a quickfire 32 before Alex Carey (28) and Jonathan Wells (34) came together and produced what looked to be a match-winning partnership worth 50 runs.

Then, however, came the collapse. Australia international Carey was run out after gambling on a quick single and the promotion of Rashid Khan failed to pay dividends as he looped a catch out to deep square two balls later.

When Morris pinned Matt Short in front for a duck, the Strikers had lost three wickets for two runs and undone their good work.

 

TREMAIN FLAILS BUT THUNDER PREVAIL

Adelaide's implosion was only matched by that of Thunder bowler Chris Tremain, who sent down three wides in a wretched 16-run 18th over that left the door ajar.

Sams made amends, conceding five runs and removing both Michael Neser and Peter Siddle the following over.

Morris then extracted a thin edge from Wells, the Strikers' famed finisher, to all but end the contest at the beginning of the 20th.

Key contributors Sams and Hales combined to let a high ball go to ground but the damage was done as the Thunder kept alive their hopes of a second BBL title.

Sydney Sixers skittled Melbourne Stars for just 99 to punch their ticket to the Big Bash League final with a comprehensive 43-run win in Friday's Qualifier.

The Stars finished top of the table but suffered three straight defeats at the end of the regular season, while the Sixers – who will now get to host the final – won as many on the spin heading into the match.

It was a contest that followed the form book, with Steve O'Keefe (2-22), Sean Abbott (3-23) and Josh Hazlewood (2-14) impressing, while Nathan Lyon and Ben Dwarshuis each took a wicket.

Only three Stars batsmen made double figures at the MCG in a poor chase in reply to the Sixers' 142-7, which looked well under par with Josh Philippe's 34 the highest knock of a low-scoring affair.

The Stars, whose score represents their lowest in the BBL, have another chance to make the final and will meet the winners of Saturday's match between Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder.

 

STARS INITIALLY STEM SIXERS

What will disappoint the hosts the most is how they failed to build on an excellent showing in the field.

Philippe found the boundary four times before being caught-and-bowled by Haris Rauf an over after opening partner James Vince (12) fell to the impressive Adam Zampa (3-21).

Moises Henriques and Steve Smith put on 40 for the third wicket before the latter was given caught behind off Zampa despite believing he had not hit the ball.

From there the Sixers failed to build any partnerships of note. It meant a huge effort would be needed with the ball…

 

MELBOURNE LEFT SEEING STARS

Things started badly for Melbourne with Marcus Stoinis (5), Nick Larkin (4) and Peter Handscomb (4) falling inside five overs.

It did not get any better for the home side as Nic Maddinson (16) top-edged to short third man and the gleeful hands of O'Keefe, who quickly came to the fore.

O'Keefe first forced Seb Gotch to drag on before snaring the huge wicket of Glenn Maxwell (16), who was too straight with his attempt to clear long-off. 

The wickets then fell with regularity and Daniel Worrall and Rauf fell off consecutive deliveries from Abbott to wrap up the win with 12 balls to spare.

Alex Hales and Usman Khawaja blew the Hobart Hurricanes attack away before Jonathan Cook struck four times as Sydney Thunder won the Big Bash League Eliminator by 57 runs.

The Hurricanes hit form at the right time to make the play-offs, but they crashed out with a crushing defeat at Blundstone Arena on Thursday.

It will be the Thunder who face Adelaide Strikers in the Knockout clash at Adelaide Oval on Saturday after they racked up 197-5 and Hobart were all out for 140 in reply.

In-form batsman Hales, the second-highest run-scorer in the competition, blasted 60 off 37 balls and Khawaja bludgeoned a 34-ball 54 in an onslaught of 103 for the first wicket inside 10 overs.

Hobart never really looked like chasing that down with D'Arcy Short gone for 37 and Matthew Wade just 14, Cook dismissing both openers and finishing with outstanding figures of 4-21.

Chris Morris claimed 3-27 and Daniel Sams, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, 2-24 in an impressive display from Sydney in the field as they eased through to end George Bailey's career.

THUNDER OPENERS MAKE LIGHTNING START

Hales and Khawaja got the Thunder off to a dream start after Callum Ferguson won the toss, setting about Clive Rose, James Faulkner, Scott Boland and Short.

Back-to-back overs from Rose and Boland cost 17 runs apiece, the latter put onto the roof at deep square leg by Hales after Khawaja was the first to a half-century from only 30 balls.

Faulkner struck Khawaja bang in front with a slower ball in the 10th over before Hales also moved to 50 off 30 deliveries, the English opener going on to blast Qais Ahmad for his third six before falling to Boland.

 

ELLIS BRINGS SOME CALM AFTER THE STORM

Ferguson ought to have been run out when he was well set after dispatching Short for two boundaries in as many balls before Alex Ross took a liking to the spin of Rose.

Short held on when Ferguson slapped a Rose full toss to him at deep midwicket as the Thunder lost the momentum somewhat before taking 16 off the penultimate over from Faulkner

Nathan Ellis finished off his excellent spell by going for just six off the last over to record figures of 1-18 from four, but Hales and Khawaja's stand left the Hurricanes facing a huge challenge to stay in the tournament.

 

COOK COMES TO THE BOIL, BAILEY BOWS OUT

Much was resting on the shoulders of Wade and the big-hitting Short, but Cook had the captain caught behind and also saw the back of his fellow opener.

There was no explosive swansong for Bailey, retiring to become an Australia national selector, as he was sent on his way by Morris to leave Hobart with a mountain to climb at 74-4 in the ninth over.

The excellent Cook also removed Simon Milenko and cleaned up Rose in what was an emphatic win for the Thunder.

The Brisbane Heat missed out on a place in the Big Bash League finals after a seven-wicket defeat to the Melbourne Renegades on Monday.

Aaron Finch led a cool and commanding chase, his 63 not out leading the Renegades to 155-3 after the Heat had set a target of 155 at Docklands.

Only a win would have been enough to secure a play-off place for Darren Lehmann's side, but they failed to make the most of chances in the field, meaning the Sydney Thunder take the fifth and final spot.

With AB de Villiers (six) failing to fire after another top-order collapse, questions will likely be asked about Lehmann's future after a disappointing end to a hugely underwhelming season.

RENSHAW LEADS RESISTANCE AFTER HEAT GO OFF THE BOIL 

The Heat were 1-35 after just 21 balls as they endured another miserable start after winning the bat flip. 

Sam Heazlett's wild slice gave Finch an easy catch, and Ben Cutting, perhaps over-confident after four early boundaries that included two sixes off Will Sutherland (3-30), was lost lbw when teeing up for another big swing. 

De Villiers went to sweep Samit Patel (1-23) only for the ball to cannon off the back leg and into the stumps, and when Chris Lynn was bowled by Nabi (1-23) for the loss of just 14, the Heat's troubles were mounting. 

Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne began the rebuilding job, the latter digging deep for 28 off 26 deliveries before Jack Wildermuth caught him trying to clear the ropes from Cameron Boyce (1-29). 

Renshaw remained a beacon of resistance, his unbeaten 65 helping the Heat amass a respectable target before he was run out in the final over.

FINCH KEEPS COOL AFTER COOPER TANTRUM

Tom Cooper and Finch made an encouraging start to the chase before the former sent a delivery from Cutting (2-35) to the grateful grasp of Jack Prestwidge at deep midwicket, leaving Cooper visibly fuming as he headed back to the dugout.

The Renegades were 2-44 when Daniel Christian was caught superbly by Renshaw and, when Beau Webster was bowled full and straight by Cutting after making 14, Heat hopes were beginning to rise. 

Finch, though, refused to panic. Australia's Twenty20 and ODI captain showed few signs of wilting in the Heat onslaught, with Nabi's four boundaries helping to keep the pressure off his skipper. 

Prestwidge allowed a Finch drive to slide through his fingers as the Heat found their season slipping away, another mistake on the rope helping Finch bring up his half-century. 

Six more over deep backward square and a drive wide of cover signalled the death knell to the Heat's play-off ambitions and gave the Renegades something to smile about at the end of a difficult season.

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