The Strikers’ thrilling two-wicket loss to the Melbourne Stars at the MCG last night has left them sixth on the ladder with just two games remaining.
Their only real chance of making the finals is to claim big victories over the Melbourne Renegades at home and the Sydney Thunder away while hoping for other results to fall their way.
A finish outside the finals would be a major disappointment for the Strikers and their 42-year-old captain.
The Strikers topped the BBL ladder in each of the past two seasons but stumbled in the finals on both occasions.
“I’m not even sure what the result is. I thought we were pretty much dust after today,” Hodge said.
“Probably, the reality is that that’s true. But look, we’ll go out and see what we can do. I guess it’s in the gods’ hands at the moment and we’ll see what happens.”
With last season’s spin hero Adil Rashid unavailable due to England Test duties, the Strikers have also been struck by injuries to strike paceman Kane Richardson (back) and spinner Jon Holland (ankle).
Allrounder Travis Head and towering quick Billy Stanlake have been called into Australia’s one-day side, while England recruit Chris Jordan’s campaign is over after he suffered a hamstring injury.
But the Strikers are likely to have been buoyed by their first look at Jordan’s replacement, New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi.
Sodhi took 2-25 in four overs against the Stars and showed some handy fielding to run out Kevin Pietersen.
And in another positive, Richardson has returned to the nets and could prove a valued contributor, especially after the Strikers’ bowlers were unable to ice the game against the Stars.
“He’s been sadly missed, I suppose,” Hodge said.
“He’s a pretty professional T20 cricket player. Probably in situations like (tonight), that’s where that experience comes in pretty important.”
Stars batsman Kevin Pietersen clashed with umpires during his side’s nailbiting win, having struggled chased down the Strikers’ modest 152-run innings.
The Stars looked in trouble on 6-107 before some late heroics from tailender Ben Hilfenhaus steered them to victory in the final over.
Hilfenhaus belted 18, including a six and two fours, off a single Wes Agar over to finish unbeaten on 32 off 24 balls.
But Pietersen became embroiled in a dispute about Adelaide allrounder Kieron Pollard’s strapped bowling hand.
The former England star demanded that Pollard remove the tape on his bruised hand before he would face a ball against him.
“I just want to get him to take that off his hand. I don’t think it’s right,” Pietersen said.
“One umpire says it’s fair and the other umpire says it’s not, so I said ‘I’m not going to bat until it’s off’.”
Pietersen eventually relented and faced up to Pollard but appeared frustrated by the umpires’ lack of action.
“I don’t think we’ve got a solution here,” he said.
“We get on with it. It’s T20 cricket. We play in the rain, we play in everything, why not.”
Pietersen made 32 off 29 balls before being run out by Sodhi.
The New Zealand legspinner impressed on debut, taking 2-25 off four overs.
The Strikers earlier made 8-152 after being sent in to bat, with Ben Dunk top-scoring with 35 off 25 balls.
Dunk, the BBL’s second-best run-scorer this season, hit five fours before David Hussey took a brilliant catch at full stretch off Liam Bowe’s bowling.
Bowe, a bespectacled 19-year-old nicknamed ‘Wizard’ for his resemblance to Harry Potter, finished with 1-21 off three overs in his BBL debut.
Hilfenhaus took 2-21 alongside his batting heroics for a clear man-of-the-match performance.
“At that (end) stage of the game, I felt my role was just to try and get Evan (Gulbis) on strike,” Hilfenhaus said.
“It just seemed to fall the way it fell, I suppose. I was lucky enough to get a couple out of the middle.”
Hodge said his bowlers had smelled blood when Pietersen’s wicket fell but were unable to finish the job.
“We actually didn’t expect Hilfy to bat that well, to be honest,” he said.
“We’ve got a few injuries and a few guys out so I thought it was a really good effort to keep the Stars to 152. We probably should have won the game. We just needed to be a little bit better.”
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