Thunder don’t die wondering, but can’t keep their season alive

Sydney Thunder vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 189-6 (Harris 64, Short 28, Sandhu 37-2) def Sydney Thunder 180 (Rohrer 48, Nair 45, Richardson 22-4, Pollard 19-2, Tremain 33-2) by 9 runs at Manuka Oval

The Sydney Thunder needed to win to stay in the competition. It was as simple as that. There was no need to worry about the mysterious permutations thrown up by net run rates and the like. There was only the Melbourne Renegades, who probably needed to win to make finals but quite possibly didn’t given the murky nature of top four qualification. Either way, it was a big match, and a chance for the Thunder to steal a finals berth against a weakened Renegades side. They couldn’t manage, delivering an inconsistent effort with the bat and ball, and compounding their woes with some dismal efforts in the field. They were lucky to get as close as they did to pulling off a remarkable heist.

The Thunder were put under pressure early thanks to Marcus Harris. It was Harris’ lucky night, and he capitalised with his best knock of the season. He was lucky to keep his place, only playing the match thanks to Brad Hodge’s late scratching. He was lucky to receive a series of half-volleys and full tosses from the usually accurate Gurinder Sandhu, allowing him to pierce the off-side field twice in the first over. He was lucky when he nicked a swinging length delivery from the same bowler, only for the tough chance to rebound off the outstretched glove of Jay Lenton into the Manuka Oval turf. He was lucky when Chris Green and Shane Watson dropped too short, gave him too much room or did both, and by the end of the PowerPlay the Renegades had plundered 59 runs. He was lucky when, with his score on 61, an apparent edge to Lenton did not result in a raised finger, and he was even luckier when he hit a pull shot straight down Sandhu’s throat – only for Sandhu to drop the easy catch. His luck finally ran out the next ball, with Green slipping past his nondescript swing, but the damage was done. Beneath his good fortune there lay an innings of exceptional quality, filled with a pair of well-struck sixes and some delightful strokes off the middle of the bat. He was in brilliant touch, and he made batting look easy against the Thunder’s feeble efforts.

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Big innings: Marcus Harris pulls during his key innings of 64.

At the other end, Matthew Short also reaped the benefits of the Thunder’s particularly loose opening. He hit Watson for a pair of boundaries, and was reprieved shortly afterwards when Ahmed made a shocking error. Short’s limp paddle around the corner was a very hard catch to drop, but Ahmed managed to put it down anyway. It wouldn’t have counted due to Mitchell McClenaghan’s no-ball, although it did not bode well for the Thunder’s chances. Ahmed eventually removed the opener himself, with Short caught mid-stride, beaten, and easily stumped by Lenton. Tom Cooper was run out after slipping in the middle of the pitch, and Dwayne Bravo never really got going before presenting McClenaghan with a return catch. The innings had fallen into a slump, and when Kieron Pollard and Jack Wildermuth departed in consecutive balls the Thunder seemed to have averted the worst of the damage. Then McClenaghan had a shocker. To describe his last over as very erratic would not be doing it justice, and Beau Webster capitalised by dispatching the innings’ last four balls for 18 runs to put the Renegades firmly in the box seat.

The Thunder shouldn’t have been close. They adopted a boom-or-bust approach in pursuing the massive target, and both James Vince and Kurtis Patterson fell to skied pull shots which were well caught by the Renegades’ nerveless boundary riders. Then Watson came in and clubbed a trio of sixes over mid-wicket, with Lenton adding a pair of well-hit sixes at the other end to provide some hope. It didn’t last. Watson fell to a stunning diving catch from Pollard and Lenton holed out to Webster, and the Thunder’s decision to swing for the fences looked to have set them on the path to a big loss. Then Arjun Nair and Ben Rohrer came together, and the Thunder’s approach started to work.

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Top catch: Kieron Pollard is completely focused as he removes Shane Watson with an excellent diving catch.

It was an unlikely pairing. Nair has bowled very well over the course of this season, but after receiving a 90-day suspension from delivering his mystery off-spinners it was unclear why he was still in the team. Now he was coming in at number five, and looked at least two spots too high in the batting order. At the start of this season, Rohrer was the grizzled veteran set to give the Thunder’s batting a bit of steel and some late-innings power. He had done neither. With their team’s season on the line, however, the pair found some form. Nair provided the spark, hitting very big sixes for fun despite his diminutive frame. It didn’t seem like much of a threat, not least because Nair didn’t look capable of keeping it up. Then Rohrer got in on the act, with one very big over. Wildermuth was the bowler, and his first two balls were wide and slapped to the vacant off-side boundary. The next four balls went to the fence as well, as Wildermuth showed neither the ability nor the foresight to bowl to his field and paid a heavy price. Rohrer took 28 from the over, and the Renegades were under pressure.

With his side in a bit of trouble, Kane Richardson stepped up. He had bowled two tight overs early, and he entered the attack looking to stop the flow of runs. It took him one over to remove Nair and Rohrer, with both joining their teammates in picking out men on the boundary, and he followed up with two more in his next over as Aiden Blizzard and Sandhu failed to make an impact. The Thunder weren’t completely done, and Green continued to fight with a series of lusty blows, but without Nair and Rohrer they couldn’t get the job done. It was sealed when McClenaghan was trapped in front by Pollard, and the fact that the big Kiwi was the only man who didn’t present the Renegades with a high catch spoke volumes about the Thunder’s unsuccessful approach on the night. They simply weren’t good enough.

Top 5
1. Kane Richardson (Melbourne Renegades)
Richardson came on for his second spell with the Renegades under pressure, and delivered in a big way with four crucial wickets. He made two massive breakthroughs in removing Nair and Rohrer, and put the Renegades on the brink of the finals with his accurate, miserly and match-winning efforts.
2. Marcus Harris (Melbourne Renegades)
Harris played a key role at the top of the order, making batting look very easy on a slightly two-paced wicket and putting the Thunder’s lacklustre bowling to the sword. His half-century was a welcome relief for him after he was initially dropped from the squad, and should be enough to seal his place for the remainder of the tournament.
3. Ben Rohrer (Sydney Thunder)
Rohrer started slowly as Nair looked to push the pace from the other end, but he got himself going by plundering 28 from one Wildermuth over. His clean striking gave the Renegades a very nasty scare with just a few overs to go, and he was unlucky to fall just two runs short of a half-century. He can draw some comfort from his best performance of the season.
4. Arjun Nair (Sydney Thunder)
Nair showed some previously hidden batting talents in compiling a surprisingly powerful 45 to put the Renegades under a bit of pressure. Some of his slog sweeps went an extraordinarily long way given his lack of size, and he showed that he can prove a handful even if he is unable to bowl.
5. Matthew Short (Melbourne Renegades)
Short’s contribution could be easily forgotten thanks to Harris’ fluency at the other end, but his efforts in compiling a classy 28 allowed the Renegades to compile the formidable opening partnership which ultimately proved the difference. He looked completely at ease against the Thunder’s bowling, and should be a good prospect for the Renegades.

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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.

Turner stars to take Scorchers home

Perth Scorchers vs Melbourne Renegades
Melbourne Renegades 185-3 (White 68*, Cooper 57, Harris 48, Tye 36-2) lost to Perth Scorchers 186-5 (Turner 70, Willey 55, Agar 26*) by 5 wickets at WACA Ground

For over 20 years, Brad Hogg had been a hero for crowds at the WACA, whether playing for Western Australia or the Perth Scorchers. Now, playing in the colours of the Melbourne Renegades, he was taking an emotional last bow in his final game at the ground before the Scorchers’ relocation to their flash new stadium. Things were going well for Hogg. He had removed Hilton Cartwright with an excellent delivery, and the Renegades were on top. The ageless 46-year-old proved he was still the fan favourite, signing autographs for the parochial home fans. It was amidst this backdrop of adulation and autograph opportunities that he received a chance to all but end the game.

Ashton Turner was on 16, and facing Jack Wildermuth. He slashed too hard at the ball, and it was sliced straight to Hogg at third man. He ran in, attempted to set himself, and made a meal of the straightforward catch, as the Scorchers’ most threatening batsman survived. Hogg, for perhaps the last time at the WACA, received a standing ovation and acknowledged it, arms outstretched and facing the fans with a wide grin, like the born showman he is. If only he had known how costly his gaffe would be.

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Recovery: Ashton Turner hits out during his match-winning 70.

Turner gave some indication a few balls later, effortlessly launching Wildermuth for six over long-on. Soon he was in unstoppable touch. Wildermuth was ramped twice in successive balls, and carved clinically through point. At the other end, Hogg came on to repair the damage, and David Willey hit him for a pair of boundaries to bring up a fairly slow but important half-century. Kane Richardson was edged down to third man for four. Even the departure of Willey, who looked to go big against Richardson but could only find the man, could not halt the Scorchers’ momentum.

The time had come for Hogg to bowl his last ball at the WACA. Ashton Agar had joined Turner in finding the fence to put the Renegades under pressure, but Hogg had proved up to the test. Three runs had come off his first five balls, and the Scorchers needed a boundary. Turner, now on 58 after his reprieve on 16, received a high full toss, and couldn’t have put it away any better. To add insult to injury, a no-ball was called, and the free hit received similar treatment. Hogg had smiled all day, even when dropping a key catch and getting hit around. He had looked like he was having fun. Now, having been hit for 13 off his last legitimate delivery at his old home ground, the anguish was writ large on his face even as he sought to continue his bubbly charade. The rest of the chase was far from smooth, with Turner and Adam Voges run out before Agar took the Scorchers over the line, but the Renegades were just not good enough as the massive target was run down.

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Innovation: Tom Cooper plays one of his ramp shots during his crafty half-century.

The Scorchers only had themselves to blame for needing so many runs in the first place. Aaron Finch was dropped second ball, and although he was dismissed with the next delivery he faced, from the in-form Mitchell Johnson, it was a sign of what was to come. Marcus Harris played some nice shots, but gave plenty of chances the Scorchers could not take, and they allowed him to move to 48 before he finally picked out Turner at point. At this point, the Scorchers began to tighten the net. Tom Cooper couldn’t get going, even after being given a life by Josh Inglis’ terrible effort at a high catch. He was on one at the time.

With four overs to go, the Renegades were 2/122. Then Cooper, who had been subdued for his whole innings, got going against some very poor death bowling from Jhye Richardson. Richardson’s bowling has gone downhill ever since his selection for the Australian ODI team, and he bowled with no plan as Cooper used his pace against him expertly. The Dutch international hit the ball all around the field and toyed with the bowlers, and the run rate skyrocketed. At the other end, Cameron White was at his dependable best, and as the Scorchers fell apart he capitalised as well. Both brought up half-centuries, and the tally of 63 runs from the last four overs was an indictment on the Scorchers’ death bowlers. When Klinger was dismissed by Mohammad Nabi for a golden duck and Willey struggled to get going, the hosts looked set for a second straight loss. But for Turner’s intervention and Hogg’s costly drop, a second straight loss would have come to pass, in a game which perfectly summed up the contradictory feelings of fragility and invincibility which have surrounded the Scorchers’ performances this season.

Top 5
1. Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
Turner took the game by the scruff of the neck with a dominant innings, launching plenty of sixes and running brilliantly to score 70 at over two runs a ball. He batted deep into the innings and ensured that by the time he was dismissed the Scorchers were firmly in the box seat. He looks to be in excellent form, and ready for the rest of the tournament.
2. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White anchored the Renegades’ innings with another big contribution, batting as if he was never going to get out and keeping his coolness even when the Scorchers piled on the pressure in the middle overs. He began to find the boundary towards the end of the innings, and allowed the Renegades to set a formidable target.
3. Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper accelerated rapidly to raise a lightning half-century following a slow start, and closed the innings out with power and innovation. He benefitted from a horrendous missed catch from Inglis, but he looks to have found good touch following a pair of games in which he was not called upon to bat.
4. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey bowled lucklessly as a couple of catches went down off his bowling, but he excelled with bat in hand in compiling a solid half-century. He hit some nice shots, and his form improved greatly as the innings progressed. His ability to hang around following the early departure of Klinger gave the Scorchers the platform they needed to win the game.
5. Ashton Agar (Perth Scorchers)
Agar was not as tight as he has been in previous games, but he was still fairly solid with ball in hand and closed out the game well with the bat. He hit some very nice sixes to alleviate any late pressure, and sealed the win with a very well struck cover drive. He showed excellent composure, and looks to have found some good form with the bat.

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.

Bowlers dominate as Scorchers limp home

Melbourne Renegades vs Perth Scorchers
Melbourne Renegades 130-9 (Cooper 34, Harris 32, Johnson 13-3, Tye 37-3) lost to Perth Scorchers 133-7 (Klinger 37, Willey 31, Hogg 16-2) by 3 wickets at Etihad Stadium

Andrew Tye stood at the top of his mark to bowl the last ball of his second over, having already conceded 15 runs thanks to a monstrous pull shot from Marcus Harris and a big hit over mid-wicket from Tom Cooper. The third wicket partnership had added 63, and both looked set for big scores. Cooper looked to take Tye on again, saw the ball slip through onto his stumps and sparked a collapse that ultimately sealed the Melbourne Renegades’ fate. They failed to defend their meagre total despite some excellent bowling, as the Perth Scorchers kept their perfect record intact with a masterful bowling performance.

Cooper and Harris had dragged the Renegades out of a Mitchell Johnson-induced hole. Johnson bowled with plenty of pace and was too good for Aaron Finch and Cameron White. The Renegades captain failed again, dismissed in the first over after fending at one and getting a fine edge, and White never looked settled before helping the ball around the corner into the waiting hands of Jhye Richardson. The Scorchers couldn’t make further inroads, with Cooper continuing his good form and Harris playing one of his typically classy knocks.

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Very high catch: Adam Voges completes the catch after Nabi’s remarkable skied ball nearly hits the Etihad Stadium roof.

When Harris was incorrectly adjudged leg before the over after Cooper departed, the Scorchers smelled blood, and did what they do best. Adam Voges reintroduced Johnson and was rewarded as his premier quick made a mockery of Brad Hodge’s defence, and Jack Wildermuth never looked comfortable before he fell trying to hit out against Richardson. Dwayne Bravo found some early momentum with boundaries off his second and third balls, but that had stalled by the time he fell, with David Willey nabbing a return catch. Tim Ludeman played an ill-advised ramp shot against Tye and was bowled, and Mohammad Nabi was caught after hitting the ball so high it nearly grazed the roof before coming down for Voges to take a remarkable catch. The Renegades had lost 7/53, and looked absolutely gone.

The Scorchers started their chase in cruise control, as calm knocks from Michael Klinger and Willey got them off to a perfect start. They were 0/49 after the PowerPlay, with Willey starting to find his power and Klinger showing unflappable temperament. Even when the Benjamin Button-esque Brad Hogg bowled masterfully to remove Willey and Ashton Agar, it only seemed to delay the inevitable. Klinger and Voges got the Scorchers back on track, and when Klinger departed a couple of overs later Hilton Cartwright smoothly filled the void. The Scorchers were still cruising towards an inevitable victory.

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Chaos: Kane Richardson (right) runs out a desperate Jhye Richardson in the closing overs of the match.

The Scorchers were nearing their target when Cartwright was dismissed, holing out to Cooper on the boundary. Suddenly, the Scorchers’ aura of calm seemed to shatter, and with just 18 runs needed they began to fall apart. Voges was run out in freakish circumstances, his bat caught in the Etihad Stadium turf as Ludeman ripped out the off stump. Then Josh Inglis, much like Ludeman in the first innings, played an addle-brained ramp shot and was bowled by Bravo. Jhye Richardson dived half the pitch in a vain attempt to make his ground, but Kane Richardson was just too quick in getting the ball onto the stumps. Suddenly, there was action every ball, and the game seemed to have descended into madness as there were run out chances every other ball.

Then, just like that, it was all over. Ashton Turner had come in with the wicket of Cartwright, and had been a spectator as Voges got unlucky, Inglis had his brain explosion and Richardson fell well short with his dramatic dive. Now, he was the last recognised batsman, and it was up to him to score the requisite 6 runs in 8 balls. He did it in two, with a six over the cover boundary sealing a nervy win with one over to spare. It was as if the Scorchers had blown out an engine and crawled over the finish line in a tailspin, but the Renegades could not pull off a remarkable comeback even with a brilliant bowling effort. They had dug themselves too deep a hole, and the Scorchers were too good to let them win.

Top 5
1. Mitchell Johnson (Perth Scorchers)
Johnson took 3/13 from his four over spell with a brilliant display of fast bowling. He removed Finch, White and Hodge with his intimidating pace and unerring accuracy, and showed why he is still one of the most feared bowlers in the league. He looks set for another big season.
2. Brad Hogg (Melbourne Renegades)
At 46 years of age, Hogg appeared to be losing some of his touch with some inconsistent early performances. There can be no doubt that the old magic is still there after a miserly and very dangerous bowling effort which gave the Renegades some hope of pulling off the comeback. He threatened with almost every ball he bowled, and looked as good as ever in bagging 2/16.
3. Mohammad Nabi (Melbourne Renegades)
Nabi showed that he is a very wily customer with an effective spell of accurate off spin bowling. He took the big wicket of Klinger and mixed things up well to keep the runs down and build plenty of pressure. He looked composed rather than spectacular with the bat, but hung around for longer than most in compiling 13.
4. Michael Klinger (Perth Scorchers)
Klinger looked set to finish the game off when his calm 37 ended with an untimely edge behind, but he gave the Scorchers the foundation they needed to survive their late collapse. He looked better the longer he spent at the crease, a fact which bodes well for the rest of the season.
5. David Willey (Perth Scorchers)
Willey’s role in the Scorchers’ attack seems a little unclear, but he bowled well anyway and picked up the wicket of Bravo as the Scorchers tightened the screws. He was very effective with bat in hand, opening the door for him to become a more permanent fixture at the top of the order.

No contest as Renegades breeze past Heat

Melbourne Renegades vs Brisbane Heat
Brisbane Heat 132-8 (Ross 48, Wildermuth 16-3, Hogg 25-2, Bravo 27-2) lost to Melbourne Renegades 137-3 (Cooper 52*, White 51, Shadab 17-2) by 7 wickets at Etihad Stadium

Brendon McCullum is 36, and has entered the twilight of his career. He is the Brisbane Heat’s oldest player, but, if the events of their clash with the Melbourne Renegades are anything to go by, he is still the biggest fish in the Heat’s pond. 8 balls into the match, Tom Cooper, with his flat, non-turning off-breaks, made the breakthrough, and the Heat never recovered. McCullum attacked Cooper with his usual aggression, but the ball slipped through his sweep shot and knocked into his stumps. Cooper raised his arms, as much a gesture of surprise as triumph, and the Renegades marched to a comfortable and satisfying win in front of their home fans.

Jack Wildermuth’s introduction in the fourth over completely killed off the Heat’s innings. Sam Heazlett attempted to follow up a lofted four with another big shot, and the resultant chance hung in the air long enough for Aaron Finch to send him on his way. The run rate ground to a halt, and Jimmy Peirson’s poor decision to go for a slog resulted in the off stump being uprooted as the Heat fell to 3/29 at the conclusion of the PowerPlay. Alex Ross looked in nice form as the Heat looked to mount their recovery, and Marnus Labuschagne had luck on his side, but neither could push the pace enough to threaten the Renegades. When Wildermuth returned to light up Labuschagne’s stumps with a very nice delivery, and the game was all but over.

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Swing-and-a-miss: Alex Ross loses his off stump at the hands of Dwayne Bravo.

Ross went on to make 48 before being bowled by Dwayne Bravo, and Ben Cutting hit some lusty blows before holing out to a Brad Hogg full toss. Hogg then removed Shadab Khan two balls later with an excellent wrong-un, and the Heat limped over the finish line to reach 132 with a bottom-edged four from the last ball. It was never going to be enough. Shadab gave his side a glimmer of hope with an excellent spell of PowerPlay bowling which saw Finch edge one through to Peirson and Marcus Harris, so fluent in the Renegades’ opener against the Hurricanes, clean bowled. His wicket brought Cooper to the wicket to join Cameron White.

White had been dominant in the first game of the season, and showed no sign of letting up here. He was such a soothing presence at this crease it felt as if he could bat days without being dismissed, and he was never overawed even as the Heat built some pressure with their tight bowling. He started to find form with a pair of crisp flicks against the bowling of Mark Steketee, and hit a nice four when Brendan Doggett bowled him a short, slow delivery on a free hit. Later in the over he hit a beautiful square drive, and looked like he would get the runs on his own. He slowed, and for the next few overs he only found the boundary sparingly, hitting a couple of big sixes against the otherwise economical Mitchell Swepson but mainly dealing in singles. He was in complete control as the Renegades marched clinically towards their target.

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Men in form: Cameron White (left) and Tom Cooper meet in the middle of the pitch during their 89-run stand.

Cooper’s innings was completely different but just as important. Unlike White, who came out looking as if he was starting on 100, Cooper scratched around and looked out of form. He crawled to two off ten balls, and was barely getting the ball off the square. He found some timing as the innings went on, but his progress was still painfully slow. It was a well-played ramp shot which gave his innings the boost it needed, the ball running away to the fine leg boundary to give him his first four. It was the twelfth over. From that point, Cooper began to find the middle with almost every shot. He smacked Doggett for six over mid-wicket, and took three runs with a lofted drive after McCullum attempted to flick the ball back and missed it completely. He used all of his power and all of his touch as he began to accelerate, hitting some beautiful drives when Cutting entered the attack to all but seal the deal.

White departed at the end of Cutting’s seventeenth over, but by that point the pursuit of 133 had become a formality. Brad Hodge hit Steketee for six with his third ball, and Cooper closed it out with a pull shot over the fence two balls later, bringing up a well-deserved fifty and closing out a comprehensive victory for a Renegades side who are on the top of their game. The Heat, minus Chris Lynn and Joe Burns, looked fragile, and need to work to ensure that this does not undermine their season.

Top 5
1. Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper was nowhere near his best at the start of his innings, but he battled through it admirably and finished with a very nice fifty to guide his team home. By the end he was hitting everything out of the middle in an innings which bodes well for the season ahead. He did well to claim the big wicket of McCullum with his darts.
2. Jack Wildermuth (Melbourne Renegades)
Wildermuth was at his best against his old team, bowling with pace and control to put the Heat under pressure and run through the top order. He showed plenty of skill and deserved to come out of it with three big wickets in a strong bowling performance.
3. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White is in brilliant form at the moment and it showed once again, as he settled any nerves the Renegades might have had with his reassuring presence at the crease. He marshalled his side through the chase with excellent technique and even better temperament, and would have been disappointed to depart so close to the target.
4. Alex Ross (Brisbane Heat)
Ross was the sole reason that the Heat lodged anything resembling a defendable target. He came in with the innings in turmoil, and he didn’t panic while playing a mature innings with plenty of self-control. He showed that he can be the perfect counterpoint to the aggression of his teammates, but needs some support to play this role.
5. Shadab Khan (Brisbane Heat)
The best of the Heat’s bowlers, he kept the runs down with his flat, darting leg-spinners and manage to claim the scalps of both openers. His spell gave the Heat something of a chance, but they couldn’t capitalise. If he can bowl like that regularly he will be very difficult to get away.

Sydney: The Sydney Sixers collapsed at the hands of a top-class bowling effort from the Perth Scorchers, who were shaky throughout the chase but came out on top thanks to a 27-ball 52 from Ashton Turner.

Bravo and White star against lacklustre Hurricanes

Hobart Hurricanes vs Melbourne Renegades
Hobart Hurricanes 164-8 (Short 34, McDermott 34, Doolan 26, Bailey 25, Bravo 28-5) lost to Melbourne Renegades 165-3 (White 79*, Harris 50, Archer 17-2) by 7 wickets at Blundstone Arena

In the corresponding fixture last season, the Melbourne Renegades managed to throw away a near-certain victory, failing to defend a mammoth 222. This time around, they were in cruise control, never looking like losing from the moment the Hobart Hurricanes posted a below-par 164, attaining the target with 9 balls to spare and cruising home on the back of Cameron White’s composed 79 and Dwayne Bravo’s brilliant five-wicket haul. For the Hurricanes, it was a day of missed opportunities, as the Renegades were just a cut above.

It was hard to tell which aspect of the Hurricanes’ play was more disappointing. Their innings was one of opportunities squandered, a fast start giving way to a mediocre finish. D’Arcy Short and Alex Doolan came out of the blocks quickly, hitting Tom Cooper with an impunity that few managed last season and playing some lovely shots. Short had soon found his timing, and the ball was flying off the middle of the bat. A short one from Jack Wildermuth was helped over fine-leg, and he was smashed through the covers when he pitched up. Another excellent cover drive, this time off a Kane Richardson full toss, allowed the Hurricanes to keep building. Then Aaron Finch threw Bravo the ball.

Bravo was the undisputed star of the show. He entered the attack with the Hurricanes cruising on 0/48 from 5, and immediately slowed the scoring rate with his probing slower balls. He gained his first wicket when Doolan slashed at a wide one, providing an easy catch for Brad Hogg. When he returned, in the 14th over, Ben McDermott’s innings came to an end, as the build up of pressure proved too much for a player who had smashed Hogg for three consecutive boundaries just overs before. Bravo’s use of slower balls befitted his vast experience on the T20 stage, and when the Hurricanes needed runs desperately, they just couldn’t get him away. Instead, he got them out, removing Jofra Archer, Cameron Boyce and Matthew Wade in the last over.

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Job well done: Dwayne Bravo celebrates after collecting his fifth wicket.

The rest of the bowlers backed him up well. Hogg, the 46-year-old who came out of retirement when the Big Bash began and had too much fun to stop, removed Short, breaking through his defences and leaving him so plumb that Hogg was celebrating with his trademark boyish enthusiasm before the finger was raised. That was as good as it got for Hogg, but some accurate bowling from Wildermuth and Mohammad Nabi stalled the momentum of McDermott and George Bailey, with Nabi leaving the Hurricanes skipper stranded halfway up the pitch as Tim Ludeman completed an easy stumping. Dan Christian and Wade couldn’t pick up the run rate either, and the Hurricanes were limited to a below par score they never really looked like defending.

Whereas the batting was a disappointment given the strong start, the bowling was just bad. Things started well enough, with Renegades captain Finch falling to Clive Rose with the second ball of the innings, Rose tossing the ball up and taking a top edge which soared into the Hobart sky. Matthew Wade took the catch, setting himself in the middle of the pitch, and the Hurricanes appeared to have a chance. Then White and Marcus Harris ran away with it against some questionable bowling. Tymal Mills, billed as one of the quickest bowlers in the world despite a congenital back condition, managed to land the nine balls of his first over all over the pitch, going for 13 runs. As White steadied the ship with brutal efficiency, Harris provided a touch of class, his crisp cover drive off Rose a particularly neat shot.

White and Harris continued to march along purposefully against the inconsistent Hurricanes attack. Mills was erratic, and while he gradually improved he was not at his best. Aaron Summers, drafted in for his raw pace, bowled like Mitchell Johnson or Shaun Tait on a bad day, routinely hitting speeds around 150 kph but failing to show any consistency or control. Rose was expensive after his perfect start, with White using his feet well to hit him around. Boyce was barely given a chance, making it unclear why they had bothered to pick him in the first place. Short was slapped, and Christian couldn’t find a good area either. The Hurricanes showed few positive signs as White and Harris clinically batted them out of the game.

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Big wicket: Jofra Archer celebrates after picking up the wicket of Tom Cooper.

Archer appeared the only Hurricanes bowler capable of having an impact, and raised faint hopes with a double wicket maiden which saw Harris depart for 50. Archer bowled with poise and control, with a graceful and economical action which makes it look like he is only giving 50%. He was the Hurricanes’ best by a long way, but could not save his side as White and Brad Hodge knocked off the last 48 runs without breaking a sweat. White picked up a deserved not out following a composed and powerful innings and Hodge showed some great form in hitting his second delivery for six and finding the middle with ease. As the game meandered to its eventual conclusion, it was hard to escape the thought that this could be a very long season for the Hurricanes.

Top 5
1. Dwayne Bravo (Melbourne Renegades)
Bravo used his slower balls to devastating effect, compensating for his drop in pace by out-thinking the batsmen and building pressure every time he entered the attack. He took the big wickets of Doolan and McDermott, and concluded the innings with a well-delivered last over that closed out a top-quality spell.
2. Cameron White (Melbourne Renegades)
White was in brilliant form, displaying exemplary patience and excellent power. Combined beautifully with Harris in a partnership of 113, and batted through to the end to keep his wicket intact. His composure under pressure bodes well for the season ahead.
3. Marcus Harris (Melbourne Renegades)
Harris looked more fluent than White, and was in top form as he compiled a very nice 50. His driving was particularly strong, and he looks to be in excellent form. If Finch can get going their opening partnerships could be very damaging.
4. Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
Archer bowls with remarkable ease, and deservedly picked up a pair of wickets. Had perfect control over his bowling and was able to extract plenty of bounce from the pitch with his upright bowling action. If he keeps this up, both England and the West Indies will be looking ruefully at his progress.
5. D’Arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
The less that is said about Short’s bowling the better, but he found plenty of form with the bat and looked set for a big score before his untimely dismissal. Hit some very powerful shots on both sides of the wicket, and had the ball flying off the bat.