With Steyn having departed, and Englishman Pat Brown struck down by injury, Rauf is poised to play the rest of the season for the Stars, and that could mean he ends up breaking several competition records, not to mention clocking more than 150 kilometres/hour.
His three consecutive wickets in the final over of Sydney Thunder’s innings at the ‘G on Wednesday night catapulted him to 13 scalps for the season, behind only Thunder’s Daniel Sams, but from half as many matches as the Thunder all-rounder.
The Stars had already been in the box seat heading into the 20th over, but Rauf’s strikes ensured the Thunder were restricted to 5-145 from their 20 overs.
Rauf had Matthew Gilkes (41) caught at fine leg before bowling Calum Ferguson (35). That brought Sams to the wicket, and Rauf duly delivered, blasting one into Sams’ back leg and triggering the raising of the finger. Rauf – having abandoned his controversial throat-slitting celebration shown earlier in summer – took off into the off-side in exultation before being mobbed by teammates.
He finished with 3-23 with four overs, leaving him with a season bowling average of 7.23 and economy rate of 5.87.
Just as they had done four nights earlier against the Melbourne Renegades, the Stars coasted to victory, winning by six wickets with 13 balls in hand to return to the top of the BBL ladder after being dislodged by the Sydney Sixers earlier in the day.
The chase was largely straightforward. Playing his first match since being fined for directing a homophobic slur at the Renegades’ Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis at first ceded the golden cap as the tournament’s leading run-scorer to Ferguson before winning it back. Stoinis posted a third straight half-century before holing out to Jono Cook’s leg-spin for 50 from 44 balls.
After Nic Maddinson was run out for 13 from 12, Nathan Coulter-Nile was elevated to No. 3. He survived a juggled chance on the boundary – when gravity got the better of Nathan McAndrew – only to fall the following ball.
Nick Larkin was then bowled by Arjun Nair for six, giving the Thunder – who had been rocked pre-game by the chucking suspension handed down to Chris Green – a sniff. But that only brought Glenn Maxwell (59 not out from 37) to the middle, with the Stars skipper displaying an unusually open stance while replicating his usual array of strokes as he and Peter Handscomb guided the hosts to a comfortable win.
Earlier, Adam Zampa (1-22 from four) bogged down another side in what was his final game before heading away with the Australian one-day team to India. He will be a hard man to replace.
The Thunder’s defeat left them with seven points from eight matches and stuck in a mid-table logjam.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter