The Australian Big Bash T20 season began at the Adelaide Oval as the star-studded Melbourne Stars, including Kevin Pietersen, visited the Adelaide Strikers.
However, despite some heroics from Pietersen, it was the Strikers who emerged with a comfortable eight-wicket victory as Tim Ludeman excelled for the home side with a fantastic unbeaten innings of 92.
Having won the toss the Melbourne Stars elected to bat first, clearly eager to stamp their authority on the match with their high-profile batting line-up which included the likes of Pietersen, Glenn Maxwell, Luke Wright, Cameron White and David Hussey.
Despite losing the early wicket of White Pietersen, batting at number three, lived up to the pre-match hype as he bludgeoned 66 runs from just 46 balls, his highest score in his last 38 T20 innings. He looked to be back to his best as he struck four sixes and two fours during his time at the crease.
Fellow Englishman Luke Wright was also in fine form as he ably supported with 45 from just 37 balls, hitting seven fours along the way. The English pair added 57 in quick time for the second wicket as they gave the Stars the perfect start to the match.
Despite the efforts of the English duo the Melbourne Stars lost a number of wickets towards the end of their innings as they tried to post an imposing total. Their eventual total of 148-7 from 20 overs, with 4 sixes and 13 fours, without being formidable, will have given the Stars a chance of victory.
Adelaide will have been relatively pleased with their bowling attack as Kane Richardson produced figures of 2-20 from his three overs and Shaun Tait bowled very lively during his economical spell, despite not taking a wicket.
In reply the Strikers began the chase with confidence and started their innings in express fashion thanks to some wonderful hitting from wicketkeeper Tim Ludeman. He and Craig Simmons (30 from 15 balls) hit 83 for the first wicket in only five and a half overs to give the home side the perfect foundation for their run chase.
From this point onwards Melbourne’s innings looked to be well short of what was required. Ludeman and Simmons’ initial onslaught had ensured the Strikers were firmly in the driving seat and ensured that they did not need to take too many risks in order to reach their victory target.
Ludeman was joined by Travis Head (22 from 15 balls) as the pair added a further 61 runs for the second wicket before Head departed with just one run required for victory. It was left to new batsmen Brad Hodge to hit the winning run but it was Ludeman who was the star of the show as the home side reached their victory target in only the thirteenth over, with 45 balls remaining. In T20 terms this was a crushing defeat for Pietersen and his Melbourne team-mates.
Ludeman was particularly brutal in his unbeaten innings of 92 from just 44 balls. His strike rate of 209.09 was highly impressive, hitting nine fours and five sixes in the process.
On this form the Adelaide Strikers will be a force in this year’s BBL, particularly considering West Indian Kieron Pollard did not even bat in this game, whilst the Stars will need to regroup quickly and hopefully build on the encouraging signs that Pietersen and Wright showed.
Will the England hierarchy be looking on with a tinge of regret having watched Pietersen returning to something like his very best form? I know England supporters will be.