Perth Scorchers v Melbourne Stars | Tuesday, January 24, 7.40pm (AEDT), WACA, Perth
These sides meet at the semi-final stage for the second consecutive year with Perth looking to make home advantage count after they were comprehensively outplayed at the MCG 12 months ago.
As in past seasons, the Scorchers have relied heavily on their bowling and conceded more than 100 runs less than any other side with the ball through the group stage.
Mitchell Johnson’s (pictured above) decision to come out of retirement and play in this tournament has been fully vindicated with the left-arm quick taking 2/15 to set the Hurricanes back on their heels last Saturday.
With the hosts not completely adapting to life without Brad Hogg, expect them to target the Stars with pace with the likes of AJ Tye and Tim Bresnan set to offer support to ‘Midge’.
Batting-wise, Michael Klinger has been steady as always while the westerners would have also been happy to see Shaun Marsh crack 57 in Hobart to play himself into some semblance of form.
The Stars have limped into the finals on the back of two straight losses.
International commitments have deprived them of the all-round talents of Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner in the back-end of the preliminaries, which has really made a difference.
They received a boost ahead of this match though, with news that Marcus Stoinis was released from the Australian ODI squad to bolster his side’s depth.
The Stars can also draw on a strong recent record in Perth and won the group match comfortably after restricting the Scorchers to just 134.
Kevin Pietersen (pictured above) top scored in the visitor’s routine chase and, along with Luke Wright, has a big job to do at the top of the order here.
Unibet Odds: Perth Scorchers 1.67 Melbourne Stars 2.20
Tip: Perth Scorchers
Brisbane Heat v Sydney Sixers | Wednesday, January 25, 7.40pm (AEDT), Gabba, Brisbane
Brisbane’s regular season ended in almost comical fashion with the loss of three wickets in the final over causing them to fall slightly short of the Renegades’ healthy target of 200.
The Heat had done enough earlier in the event to nab a home final though and should be primed to produce their best after a three-year absence from the playoffs.
With Chris Lynn sidelined, skipper Brendon McCullum (pictured above) surely holds the key to their chances with his ability to dominate all forms of bowling.
The likeable Kiwi boasts an outstanding strike rate of 170 and will go hard after Jackson Bird from ball one. Will the Sixers persist with the tactic of opening the bowling with Johan Botha?
The bowling remains a concern though, with the Heat conceding the second-most amount of runs of any side through the eight group games.
Mark Steketee led the attack with 13 scalps to his name thus far but he copped some tap against the Renegades and the Heat arguably lack a death bowler they can truly rely upon.
The Sixers confirmed their spot in the finals with a backs-to-the-wall victory over the Stars on Saturday, thanks largely to Botha and the impressive Sean Abbott. (pictured above)
The tournament’s leading wicket-taker, Abbott proved his worth with the bat as well to rescue an ailing chase and he must be included in the national side for next month’s series against Sri Lanka.
The visitors will also derive confidence from their ability to chase down 186 here earlier in the tournament and their 5-1 career head-to-head record against the Heat.
Opener Daniel Hughes top scored with a hard-hitting 85 on that occasion and figures to enjoy the extra pace and bounce in this pitch again.
Unibet Odds: Brisbane Heat 1.81 Sydney Sixers 2.00
Tip: Sydney Sixers
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