Finals chances officially over for Melbourne Stars

It's official. The Melbourne Stars will miss the Big Bash League finals for the first time in the competition's seven-season history.

They had kept their hopes flickering faintly with a win against the Melbourne Renegades last weekend, but the end on Tuesday night at the hands of the Sydney Sixers - the only other side already eliminated from the finals race - was insipid and all too familiar.

The top order again performed terribly. The middle order couldn't accelerate when needed. The bowlers were again unable to take bundles of wickets.

The Stars again looked a team deserving of bottom place on the ladder.

The signs that the Stars had reverted to type following their breakthrough at Etihad Stadium came early. Sent in by the Sixers at the MCG, the Stars sent the opening pair of Ben Dunk and Luke Wright into the middle again.

It's been a partnership that has yielded little success this season, yet even despite the successful experiment to move Peter Handscomb to the top of the order in Wright's absence, the Stars backed in Wright and Dunk to get the job done. They didn't.

Both men were tested early by the pace of Ben Dwarshuis, and couldn't get the score ticking over. Wright - back from a bruised lung - made just 11 from 13 balls before being caught at third man off Sean Abbott.

Kevin Pietersen had returned to form against the Renegades but not for the first time this season was dismissed in ugly fashion, holing out to deep mid-wicket from Nathan Lyon's bowling. The Australian Test spinner finished with 3-18 from his four overs, and was on a hat-trick a ball later when Dunk nicked one to gloveman Peter Nevill.

Dunk's seven from 12 balls was his sixth single-digit score from seven innings this season.

Glenn Maxwell and Handscomb briefly gave hope to a revival, but after dispatching Abbott for two sixes to opposite ends of the ground in three balls, Maxwell edged behind for 28 from 16. Handscomb went for 14 from 16, becoming Lyon's third victim.

Yet again James Faulkner got in but couldn't find the boundary regularly. He was dismissed in the final over for 28 from 30 balls, the first time he'd been out during the tournament. It means he tops the BBL averages on 146.00, but his strike rate of 104 isn't good enough for a player once renowned for his late-innings striking.

Evan Gulbis, run out off the last ball of the innings for 24 from 25, had similar issues. The Sixers bowled 60 dot balls, the most in a BBL innings this season, and the Stars' score of 7-128 was never likely to be good enough.

Jackson Coleman and Daniel Worrall challenged the Sixers with pace early in the chase before Faulkner claimed the wicket of Joe Denly for nine, but Nic Maddinson (62 from 31) soon took off. He lived dangerously, almost caught on the boundary by Daniel Worrall in the seventh over, but kept finding the rope, killing the game off as a contest.

With Daniel Hughes (49 not out) settled at the other end, the Sixers made sure the end of the Stars' perfect finals run came with a minimum of fuss, by eight wickets and with 29 balls to spare.

Now that there can be no going back, the Stars must ensure they take something from their final three games of the season, beginning with Saturday night's MCG date with Sydney Thunder.

They have played youngsters like Daniel Fallins and Liam Bowe already, and it's hard to think they won't continue to do so.

What else can they do?

This story Finals chances officially over for Melbourne Stars first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.