Perth: Kevin Pietersen kept things ticking along for the Melbourne Stars, but that was only on the club's Twitter account. With their batting linchpin more than 14,000 kilometres away in London, the Stars' top order, including Pietersen's replacement at No. 3 Peter Handscomb, collapsed, leaving the supposed glamour club squarely on the back foot after a second straight loss to begin season seven of the Big Bash League.
Again bowling first after winning the toss, the Stars were much improved in the field at the WACA Ground on Tuesday, restricting the Perth Scorchers to an underwhelming 6-142 from their 20 overs.
But as happened in last summer's semi-final at the same venue, and six days ago against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba, the Stars fell into an early hole with the bat, and couldn't climb out, falling to a 13 run loss.
Playing his first match since being dropped from Australia's Test XI, Handscomb kept wicket even though Ben Dunk had been named designated wicketkeeper on the Stars' team sheet. But while his 'keeping was tidy, his stint at the crease was brief, out for eight from as many balls after Will Bosisto completed a juggling catch in the deep from the bowling of Andrew Tye.
Handscomb had at least managed to survive five testing balls from the still-dangerous Mitchell Johnson, even driving the Australian fast bowling great to the cover boundary.
Johnson had already removed Dunk for six, continuing the much-vaunted recruit's poor start to the campaign. Pietersen could only watch and tweet on from his annual Christmas return home as a theoretically loaded top six including Luke Wright (21), Glenn Maxwell (four) and local favourite Marcus Stoinis (13) all fell inside the first 10 overs of the chase, with Tye - fresh off a hat-trick against the Sydney Sixers on the weekend - taking three of the early wickets en route to figures of 5-23 from four overs.
Recalled to the XI at the expense of all-rounder Evan Gulbis, Rob Quiney produced 25 from 27 balls in a 38-run stand with James Faulkner, but a direct hit from Adam Voges caught Quiney well short of his ground, and left the Stars with 45 to get from the final four overs. Even without Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Marsh, the Scorchers' quicks were well and truly equal to the task of tying down Faulkner and John Hastings. There is a reason Perth have been the BBL's benchmark.
It had looked much more promising for the Stars two hours earlier as they charged through their overs in under 80 minutes, a far cry from the lumbering Gabba display that led to the entire team being fined and captain John Hastings handed a strike. This time their fielding had purpose, highlighted by a diving effort from Quiney at mid on to remove Michael Klinger - playing for the first time since revealing his wife's cancer battle - for one. Hastings used his bowlers much better too. Faulkner had bowled the first over in Brisbane but was not used thereafter. Again he took the new ball, but this time sent down three overs, claiming the scalps of Klinger and fellow opener Bosisto, who edged to Dunk at slip.
Michael Beer was typically stingy, going for just 14 from his four overs as well as bowling Ashton Turner for a duck, while Scott Boland recovered from his Gabba nightmare, keeping his economy rate to an even six from three overs. From 3-10 in the fourth over, the Scorchers recovered courtesy of an 83-run stand from Hilton Cartwright (58 from 53) and Adam Voges (35 from 31), although even a late flurry from Ashton Agar (33 not out from 21) could only help the Scorchers to a seemingly mediocre total. Ultimately it was more than enough.
The Stars need to turn things around, and next face the Heat at the MCG on January 2.