Renegades march home against lacklustre Stars

Melbourne Stars vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Stars 157-4 (Dunk 47, Pietersen 40, Maxwell 33) lost to Melbourne Renegades 159-4 (Nabi 52, Finch 43, White 35*, Hastings 24-2) by 6 wickets at the MCG

Glenn Maxwell collected the ball cleanly at the stumps, as Mohammad Nabi and Cameron White pushed yet another sneaky two into the vast expanses of the MCG. His over had been completed with little fanfare, as the much-hyped derby between the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades lulled towards an inevitable conclusion. Maybe Maxwell was frustrated with his recent omission from the Australian ODI squad. Maybe he was just annoyed with the way his side had played with their season on the line. Either way, his decision to drill a throw at the keeper’s end stumps, only occupied by the out of position and unprepared Peter Handscomb, was a stupid one. The ball missed and ran away for four byes, in one moment summing up the malaise which has plagued the Stars’ fruitless campaign.

From the moment the BBL came into fruition, the Stars have always been Melbourne’s glamour team. They got Victoria’s best players, and attracted the rest of them shortly afterwards. They got the colosseum that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, while the Renegades were forced into the unspectacular Etihad Stadium. They even got the better name (and the better mascot, as the difficulty in pinning down what a Renegade looks like is highlighted by their nondescript effort at depicting one). On this night, however, they were comprehensively outplayed by the team that has always come off second best, and always been left out of the finals while the Stars contended for titles that always threatened but never came. On this night, in front of a massive MCG crowd, that balance of power seemed to have shifted. For the first time the Stars were so monumentally outplayed they no longer felt like the glamour team.

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Despair: The Melbourne Stars trudge off after their humiliating defeat at the hands of their cross-city rivals.

The Stars started slowly as they fell to 1/18 off 3 overs, but recovered through the work of two of their most under-pressure players. Ben Dunk was suffering from a mix of poor form and the expectations attached to his status as the marquee player, and Kevin Pietersen had never quite found his destructive best, if that best was still there in the twilight of his career. They came together after Luke Wright holed out against Dwayne Bravo, and both immediately showed intent and found form. Dunk drove the ball fluently and hit it with confidence, all while putting away anything short with ease and power, and hitting what would be the only six of the innings in the process. Pietersen came out with plenty of aggression, flicking the ball past mid-on for an exquisitely timed four to get off the mark. A pair of fours came from the last two balls of the PowerPlay as Pietersen swung hard, and soon both players looked like bringing up fluent half-centuries.

It was not to be, as the enigma that is Pietersen showed the infuriating side of his batting. He had looked in top form and seemed set for a big score before he holed out, playing a shot which was flawed in conception and execution. Nabi tossed it up, and Pietersen’s toed slog couldn’t have picked out Tom Cooper any better. When Dunk fell victim to a slight edge and a contentious Tim Ludeman catch, the Stars had fallen away a bit and needed someone to provide a spark for a big late innings finish. No one stepped up, and the run rate began to slide as Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis worked hard but could only deal in singles and twos.

Maxwell came into this match as the talk of the town thanks to his controversial omission from Australia’s one-day squad and subsequent questions about his preparation. This was his opportunity to send a message, and his opening efforts felt very deliberate, as if he was determined to shelve the unorthodox batting which made him such a destructive but frustrating presence in the first place. His first boundary was a beautifully placed cut shot off Bravo, but it didn’t get him going. He showed glimpses, but a hard-hit reverse sweep for four from the penultimate ball of the innings was just not enough. Next ball, Kane Richardson bowled him, a suitably unsatisfying end to an unsatisfying innings.

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Out of sorts: Marcus Stoinis (left) watches the ball bounce harmlessly in the air as the Stars struggle to close out the innings.

Meanwhile, Stoinis was working similarly hard but going nowhere. His first ball had been clipped to the rope, as Brad Hogg and Marcus Harris converged upon the ball at the same time with catastrophic results. He didn’t time anything that well for the rest of his innings, and frustration seeped in. With the last ball of the nineteenth over, he drilled one straight to the man at point, before standing out of his crease and tiptoeing on the spot like a prospective base stealer daring the pitcher to throw him out. It didn’t work. The Stars limped to 4/157 off their 20 overs, and it just didn’t look like enough.

Aaron Finch came out as if on a mission to get the runs as quickly as possible. Jackson Coleman concluded the first over with a limp ball on Finch’s hip which was duly tucked away, and when Michael Beer came on for the second over chaos ensued. The Renegades captain drilled the first two through the offside, and when he launched Beer over mid-on for six and followed up with a pair of fours, he had picked up 26 runs off six balls and looked in irresistible touch. When Stoinis entered the attack, Finch immediately scattered the seagulls that had congregated near the mid-wicket boundary with another four. Harris departed to Coleman shortly afterwards as Stars captain John Hastings dived forward, scooped up a good catch and celebrated with plenty of zeal. Finch didn’t care, and in conjunction with Cameron White the Renegades kept pushing. Finch stroked Stoinis through point in the last over of PowerPlay, and when Hastings strayed down leg he was clipped for four. Then the captain was gone, looking to take Adam Zampa on but only succeeding in seeing his leg stump pegged back.

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Pinch hitter: Mohammad Nabi swings hard at a wide one from Jackson Coleman.

It could have been a turning point in the match for the Stars. Instead, the Renegades seized the initiative, promoting Nabi to number four with orders to attack. While White just marched on at the other end, maintaining the veneer of indestructability that has cloaked him every time he has batted this season, Nabi carried out his instructions to the letter. Zampa tossed the ball up to test him out, and the experienced Afghan lofted him over the off-side for two sixes. He never looked back. Shapeless swings against Coleman and Stoinis flew high into the hot Melbourne night, but they didn’t go to hand. With White’s metronomic accumulation and Nabi’s series of streaky slogs, the Renegades were cruising to an easy win.

It was wrapped up fairly painlessly. James Faulkner was only introduced in the thirteenth over, and White advanced down the pitch to crash his first delivery through the covers. Nabi brought up his half-century with a perfect cover drive and a hat-trick of well-run twos, and by the time he departed to Hastings the game was well and truly over. Hastings picked up the wicket of Brad Hodge as the game drew to a close, but the Stars showed a distinct lack of urgency as White and Bravo saw the Renegades home, the latter closing out the game with an imperious six down the ground as the Stars’ dominance of Melbourne was ended in a fittingly emphatic manner. They remain winless after an uninspired start to the year, and look set to miss the finals for the first time. Their dominance of Melbourne is well-and-truly over.

Top 5
1. Mohammad Nabi (Melbourne Renegades)
Nabi was one of the Renegades’ best bowlers, but it was his batting that set him apart. He came in with a licence to swing and made the most of it, and the Stars had no answer as he threw his bat and it came off. His two sixes off the bowling of Zampa were top-quality cricket shots, and he showed excellent awareness in the form of his brilliant running between the wickets.
2. Aaron Finch (Melbourne Renegades)
Nabi and White may have done the bulk of the work with the bat, but Finch completely shattered the Stars’ early plans and gave them no chance to put his side under pressure. His hitting was calculated and powerful, and his six boundaries in his first six balls completely destroyed any hopes the hosts had of a tight PowerPlay. He appears to have tapped into a very rich vein of form.
3. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White just doesn’t look like he’s going to get out at the moment. He scored at a touch below a run a ball, and never tore the Stars apart like Finch and Nabi, but his steady presence at the crease contributed to the Renegades’ dominance. He played a pair of crushing cover drives, but was otherwise content to knock the ball around and keep everything ticking over with remarkable consistency.
4. Jackson Coleman (Melbourne Stars)
On BBL debut, Coleman was a rare shining light for the Stars. The only member of their eleven who had never played international cricket, he was better than any of his teammates and built plenty of pressure to stall the Renegades’ lightning start. He finished with a well-deserved wicket, and played with the smarts which were so sorely lacking from his team’s performance.
5. Ben Dunk (Melbourne Stars)
Dunk was in top form throughout, and looked a trifle unlucky to be given out after a questionable looking catch from Ludeman. He drove the ball well and put away the bad balls with ease, and finished off the night with a pair of solid-looking catches as the game drew to a close. After a string of low scores, he will be relieved to have delivered.


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