Ingram blitz proves too much for Renegades

Melbourne Renegades vs Adelaide Strikers
Adelaide Strikers 173-5 (Ingram 68, Head 58, Carey 32, Bravo 30-2) def Melbourne Renegades 147-7 (Hodge 30*, Harris 25, Laughlin 18-2, Stanlake 22-2, Rashid 26-2) by 26 runs at Etihad Stadium

Ben Laughlin had few options available to him as he caught Dwayne Bravo’s ungainly lofted cover drive. He was in mid-air, at the top of a big jump, and the boundary line was getting very close, very quickly. All his momentum was carrying him towards the rope, and he was travelling too fast to throw the ball to himself and catch it back in-bounds. It was unfortunate, but he would just have to settle for saving the six. As expected, he flung the ball back into the field of play as he flew, full-length, over the rope. It seemed like an unnecessarily long throw, but he had saved six runs anyway. Then Jake Weatherald took the catch, and realisation at what Laughlin had just pulled off morphed into disbelief. It was hard to estimate how far he had thrown the pass, but his accuracy was perfect. The Melbourne Renegades were already on the ropes in their critical clash with the Adelaide Strikers. Laughlin’s miraculous effort all but snuffed out the chance of an unlikely comeback.

The Strikers started their innings slowly, with Weatherald’s poor season continuing as he chopped Chris Tremain onto his stumps and Travis Head never really getting going against the Renegades’ disciplined bowling attack. Alex Carey provided a momentary break in the Renegades’ control with a pair of perfectly-timed straight drives off the bowling of Kane Richardson, but by the end of the PowerPlay the hosts were well on top. Then, as they have done so often this season, Carey and Head did something about it. Head provided the spark, greeting Tremain’s return to the attack with a clean six over mid-wicket and a crisply hit cut shot for four. Soon Carey began to join in, hitting a pair of slog sweeps which picked the gap on the leg-side boundary and showing plenty of intent. Suddenly he was gone. All too soon, his entertaining innings was over, cut short by a lofted cover drive which didn’t quite go the distance and found the safe hands of Marcus Harris on the boundary. The Strikers still hadn’t put their opposition under enough pressure, and their chances of posting an imposing total looked slim even as Head moved to a steady half-century.

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Powerful: Colin Ingram is in full flight during his important 68.

Then Colin Ingram stepped up. His season has been marked by a series of false starts and innings which never got off the ground, but this game was different as he showcased his immense ball-striking ability to devastating effect. He showed some early glimpses, hitting Brad Hogg for a pair of powerful boundaries and flicking Dwayne Bravo to the fine-leg fence with contemptuous ease, but he really picked up the pace when Richardson came on for the eighteenth over. The newly-selected member of Australia’s T20 team was deposited into the stands with a pair of effortless bottom-hand swats which threatened to land in the second tier of Etihad Stadium. Kieron Pollard came on and dismissed Head, but before he could quell the Strikers’ momentum Ingram had belted his last two balls for another two sixes. He fell with the second-last ball of the innings, but not before a Bravo full toss had joined the steady procession of balls flying into the stands and the game had been placed firmly in the Strikers’ control. Ingram’s cameo set up the game, and his teammates went out and won it.

The Renegades never found enough momentum against the Strikers’ diverse attack. Harris and Tim Ludeman were able to find some runs against the pace of Michael Neser and Billy Stanlake, but the innings was derailed when Peter Siddle made the breakthrough. Ludeman departed, picking up a fine edge and allowing Carey to take a comfortable catch. The dismissal of their former teammate allowed the visitors to tighten the screws, with Ben Laughlin, Siddle and Rashid Khan keeping things tight and allowing the batsmen no breathing room. Harris and Cameron White, the latter very fresh from international duty, couldn’t score at more than a run a ball, and the game was beginning to slip away.

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Miracle worker: Ben Laughlin prepares to make his extraordinary backhand pass to Jake Weatherald.

As the Renegades felt the pressure, the Strikers began to pick them off. If the roof was on, Harris’ skied slog off the bowling of Stanlake may well have hit it. As it happened, all it found was the exposed Melbourne night sky, and the gloves of Carey as the keeper took a remarkably composed catch given the difficulty of the chance. Eventually White looked to break his pattern of slow-scoring by slog sweeping Rashid Khan. He missed, and was clean-bowled by the Afghan’s devastating googly. Tom Cooper had a crack, and hit some nice shots, but a top-edge off Stanlake allowed Carey to take another very high catch.

By now, the Renegades were hanging their hopes on the explosiveness of Kieron Pollard and Bravo. It was a long shot. Both men were early members of the cult of the freelance cricketer, but their single-handed match-winning ability has since diminished, replaced by experience and smarter, less powerful cricket. Then Laughlin, or, rather, Weatherald, took that catch, and their faint hopes were all but gone. Pollard, in his first BBL outing, had walked to the crease wearing a cap and a gold watch. It was a brash entrance, and the innings never quite lived up to it. He departed against the bowling of Laughlin, holing out in the deep, and the last remnants of life were sucked from the game by the ruthless Strikers attack. They needed 44 from the last over, and a series of boundaries from Brad Hodge in the dying embers of the game could only lessen the inevitable damage to the Renegades’ net run rate. They still have a good shot of making the finals, but their performance against a top side leaves plenty to be desired.

Top 5
1. Colin Ingram (Adelaide Strikers)
Ingram finally hit his stride with a series of crushing sixes as the innings came to a close, and his bulldozing 68 allowed the Strikers to post a total that was always too good for the Renegades. He made a mockery of the Renegades’ death bowling with his ridiculous power, and he seems to have found form at the right time.
2. Ben Laughlin (Adelaide Strikers)
Laughlin played an excellent game, keeping things tight with the ball and pulling off one of the all-time great catches to remove Bravo and seal the win for the Strikers. His variation and unerring accuracy proved too much for the Renegades, and he picked up a couple of big wickets along the way to seal the win for his side.
3. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head was in solid touch on return from Australian duty, and he played a mature innings on a tough pitch to get the Strikers to a winning score. His steady half-century included some very nice shots, but it was combination with Ingram which laid the foundation for the Strikers’ key victory. As ever, his shrewd captaincy allowed the bowling attack to thrive.
4. Billy Stanlake (Adelaide Strikers)
Stanlake bowled with plenty of pace, routinely hitting the high-140s and early-150s and making the Renegades uncomfortable as a result. He used his combination of speed and accuracy to great effect, and bagged a pair of key wickets along the way. He has been one of the Strikers’ biggest weapons, and showed all of his skills.
5. Brad Hodge (Melbourne Renegades)
Most of Hodge’s runs came in the last four balls of the innings when the match was already decided, but he deserves credit for a powerful innings which may well prove crucial if the last finals spot comes down to net run rate. He struck the ball very cleanly, and hit one six which landed in the top tier of Etihad Stadium. He is one of the few Renegades who can hold their head high.

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