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Andre Russell belts Stars to BBL victory

Melbourne Stars’ prized recruit Andre Russell has muscled his BBL side to a six-wicket win over Sydney Thunder, clattering five COVID-safe sixes at Showground Stadium.

Russell’s unbeaten 42 from 21 balls proved the difference on Sunday night as the Stars reeled in a target of 152 in 17.1 overs, with the bedazzling innings deserving a bigger crowd than 4314.

The superstar, forbidden from mingling with teammates as per stringent biosecurity protocols for the final day of his quarantine period imposed by Cricket Australia, epitomised what proved a topsy-turvy Sunday night.

Russell went within a whisker of being caught on the rope after belting the ball to Daniel Sams at the end of the 16th over, with the third umpire agonising over every angle before deeming it to be six rather than out.

“I thought I was gone,” Russell admitted after the Stars backed up Friday night’s MCG thriller in style to make it consecutive wins over the Thunder.

“When I saw the catch, I was like ‘wow, well done’ … but his body language was down (afterwards).

“As a fielder, if you’re confident and you don’t touch the rope then you’re definitely going to get up, celebrate with your mates.

“It (the biosecurity restrictions) are a bit strange and weird … but I’m not going to be too fussy about it, I’m happy to still be able to play cricket.”

Earlier, Russell had been on the end of some brutal treatment from Alex Ross, who whacked three consecutive sixes off the allrounder while helping himself to 23 runs from a single over.

“That’s the thing about being an allrounder … you go for runs, you have a chance to make up for it,” said the Jamaican.

Ross hit an unbeaten 77 to help the Thunder score 49 runs from their final three overs, fashioning a total that looked imposing when the Stars slipped to 2-32 after six overs.

Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup heroes Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell steadied then shifted momentum in a 59-run stand, seizing control with a flurry of boundaries.

But plucky legspinner Tanveer Sangha turned the match on its head yet again, removing Stoinis and Maxwell with consecutive balls in a double-wicket maiden of the highest calibre.

Sangha, who is already on the national selectors’ radar after enjoying a remarkable rise since last year’s BBL debut, could easily have ended Russell’s match-winning knock in the 15th over.

The ball bounced off Russell’s foot and onto the stumps.

The bails refused to budge, let alone fall to the ground.

“I couldn’t really believe it,” Sangha said.

“I want them to fall off every ball, if they could, but I just have to live with it.”

The unique arrangements for Russell and Afghanistan spinner Qais Ahmad created some amusing scenes, such as teammates encouraging Qais (2-17) with air high-fives and a circle of applause after a wicket.

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