A ''SHATTERED'' Melbourne Stars president Eddie McGuire says his team panicked worse than Australian tennis player Sam Stosur by spurning a clear opportunity to advance to the Big Bash League final.
''We just had a horrible last over,'' McGuire said. ''Sam Stosur went to No. 2 choker on the day.''
The Stars held a nine-run buffer going into the final over of the rain-affected match against Perth Scorchers on Wednesday night.
Recently retired Australian batting great Mike Hussey was spared twice in the last over, a catch and a run-out, yet the Scorchers still fell one run short when Adam Voges was unable to make contact with left-armer James Faulkner's final delivery - until it was revealed to be a no-ball because the visitors had one too many fielders in the outfield, with Faulkner seemingly overstepping too.
With the actual final delivery, by which stage the scores were level, Hussey lifted a low full-toss to the wide long-on boundary to pass the adjusted victory target of 139 and seal a second consecutive BBL final appearance. It also earned the Scorchers repeat qualification for the multimillion-dollar Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
''We are just absolutely gutted by it … just cannot believe it,'' McGuire said on Thursday. ''After everything that conspired against us - selections, weather - to actually win it and then see the arm go up, I just could not believe it.''
''For Faulks to come in [and overstep while the field was set incorrectly], for 'Birdy' [Jackson Bird] to drop that catch and then the keeper to miss the run-out … you just could not believe it.
''We had a Test player drop a catch, we mucked up the field placings and went over the line, and we missed a run-out. Well, how many chances can you get?''
While seething at the result, McGuire said he was not seeking recriminations among the team's players or coaches, especially given it had earlier plundered 2-183 from its 18 overs, thanks to big contributions from Cameron White (88 off 53 balls) and Brad Hodge (70 not out off 43).
''The first half of that game was just manna from heaven,'' he said.
''You can point at the last over, you can point at the fact [James] Pattinson wasn't able to come into our line-up even though we'd been decimated by Australian selection … all those things.
''Ultimately, you point out the fact that when the moment came we mucked it up. But people forget that's the cut and thrust of being involved in sport.
''We just lost key games that made us play over in Perth. The game in Brisbane [on January 3] was probably the one that was the killer for us, as well as losing twice to the Renegades.
''Today's just a day where you walk around and kick things all day … hating sport.''
McGuire also gave strong endorsement of Stars coach Greg Shipperd, rejecting industry scuttlebutt the veteran coach had been given an ultimatum that he had to at least guide the Stars to Champions League qualification to ensure a contract extension.
''I've been totally impressed by Greg Shipperd. I don't think there's any witch-hunt going on,'' he said.
''We'd won the game and achieved everything we wanted until that umpire's arm went up.''
McGuire said the public reaction to the exit of both Melbourne teams, the Renegades and Stars, in the semi-finals this week had strengthened his belief the BBL was gaining acceptance - except with regards to the sudden absence of elite players during the final due to the ODI series between Australia and Sri Lanka.
''What I think it has shown … is that people take this seriously. I had people telling me this morning that their kids were crying last night. People have grabbed hold of these two teams in Melbourne … it means a lot to them,'' he said.