Melbourne Stars will host Sunday’s Big Bash League decider after Kevin Pietersen helped them finally shed the tag of semi-final flops.
The Stars recorded a seven-wicket win over Perth at the MCG on Friday night, hauling in a target of 140 with 11 deliveries remaining.
The franchise qualified for the finals in all four previous editions of the BBL, only to lose all four of their semis.
Daniel Worrall gave them hope of ending that streak, grabbing figures of 3-25 to restrict the Scorchers to a total of 7-139.
The experience of Pietersen then came to the fore.
Pietersen’s composed 62 came off 36 balls and ensured his side would be back at the MCG on Sunday for a home final against Sydney Thunder.
“Kevin Pietersen took the pressure right off,” Stars skipper David Hussey told Network Ten.
The crowd of 30,174 may have feared a repeat of past failures after the Stars managed eight runs off their opening three overs.
If so, a 69-run stand from Pietersen and Marcus Stoinis allayed them.
Brad Hogg trapped Stoinis lbw in the 12th over but at that point the Stars’ victory equation was 58 runs off 51 balls.
Pietersen stepped up again – verbally and physically.
The 35-year-old swapped barbs with fellow Englishman David Willey as he cracked 12 runs off the Perth paceman’s third over.
Pietersen finished the over with a lofted six – one of only four in the match – to leave the Stars chasing 30 runs from the final five overs.
Further powerful blows followed before an ungainly dismissal proved an unfitting end to the knock.
Pietersen was bowled through his legs after yorking himself in an attempt to play a reverse-sweep off Joel Paris.
It mattered little, with Peter Handscomb bringing up the winning runs when he and Hussey scampered through for a single.
Perth, bidding for a third straight BBL title, were sent in by Stars skipper Hussey.
Worrall dismissed Marcus Harris and Michael Carberry in a three-over opening spell that cost just 13 runs.
Veterans Adam Voges and Michael Klinger steadied the Scorchers with a 79-run partnership.
The dismissal of Klinger for 44 prompted a collapse of 3-7 that dashed the visitors’ hopes of a 150-plus total.
Voges scored 52 off 40 balls in a commendable captain’s knock.
It could easily have been an even lower total.
The hosts missed two chances to dismiss Voges on 23 in the 11th over.