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.

Embed from Getty Images
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.

Embed from Getty Images
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.

Advertisements

Stars fail to shine as Strikers cruise home

Adelaide Strikers vs Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 151-6 (Maxwell 60, Stoinis 39) lost to Adelaide Strikers 152-2 (Carey 59*, Head 53) by 8 wickets at Adelaide Oval

Adam Zampa pitched the ball up, and Alex Carey slog swept it hard and flat. The ball just kept travelling, as it flew into the gap on the leg-side. It landed metres outside the boundary, and, just like that, it was over. The Adelaide Strikers had won with little fuss, and left the Melbourne Stars wondering what they can salvage from a campaign that is quickly becoming a smouldering wreck. In this game, they benefitted from Marcus Stoinis’ power and an excellent innings from Glenn Maxwell. They bowled well as a team. None of it mattered.

The Stars have tried everything to halt their slide. They have been berated, told to go about their business differently, and there have been plenty of players dropped. None of it has worked. Not for the first time, an early collapse was at the heart of their defeat. Their problems started before the toss, with Luke Wright absent after a late-night trip to the bathroom went wrong and he did his back. When the PowerPlay was finished with the Stars at 3/34, makeshift opener Stoinis was the last man remaining from a top order which fell down like a house of cards.

Embed from Getty Images
Big hitting: Glenn Maxwell swings hard during his 60.

Ben Dunk was the first to depart, attempting to loft one over Ben Laughlin at mid-off and failing in his efforts. Then Kevin Pietersen, fresh from announcing that this BBL season will be his last, played an innings which was short on substance but not in entertainment value. He flicked Billy Stanlake to the boundary with one leg in the air, and then survived some terrible running between the wickets only to get himself bowled for 5. His attempt to give himself room and waft at a straight ball gave the impression that Pietersen has given up. Peter Handscomb, wearing a shirt upon which his name was misspelled, faced only five balls before skying a pull shot against Ben Laughlin with the last ball of the PowerPlay.

Stoinis had been motoring along nicely at the other end, and when Stanlake returned for the seventh over he played him with ease and brutal power. He had flown to 39 out of his side’s meagre 51. Then he departed too, taking on the consistent Rashid Khan and picking out the man on the boundary perfectly. At this point Maxwell, who had entered with Handscomb’s dismissal, took over. In conjunction with Seb Gotch he played a mature innings, giving the Stars something to defend. He began his innings with an early boundary, a cut shot through backward point for four. For some reason, the Strikers never put anyone on the point boundary, as he continued to score through point and third man with alarming frequency. Michael Neser was cut through a miniscule gap in the in-field and slapped for six over cover. Peter Siddle was run down to third man. Rashid was reverse swept over the two fielders placed on the ring. Stanlake was the victim of a thick outside edge which ran unimpeded to the boundary. Maxwell brought up fifty with three more runs through third man, but didn’t last much longer. With his departure, the innings fizzled out. John Hastings hit a big six off the penultimate ball of the innings, but 6/151 was an underwhelming return.

The Strikers’ pursuit was a steady one, as the hosts never looked threatened by the Stars’ bowling attack. Early progress was slow, but Jake Weatherald and Carey had soon begun to find the boundary, with Carey’s series of drives particularly easy on the eye. Weatherald departed just after the PowerPlay as he sought to sweep Maxwell and fell victim to a sharp stumping from Handscomb. At this point Travis Head came to the crease to join Carey, and the Stars were methodically batted out of the game.

Embed from Getty Images
Balance: Travis Head hits the ball while standing on one leg during his brilliant 53.

Head’s innings was perfectly paced from start to finish, and ended any faint hopes the Stars may have had. He started slowly, and initially the boundaries dried up as Carey also struggled to find the rope. As his innings moved forward, however, he was able to find the fence with greater regularity. He took a liking to Stoinis, hitting a crisp back foot drive against his medium pace and following it up with his first six, which hit Hastings’ rock hard hands at deep mid-wicket and flew over the boundary. As the target came within striking distance, he began to accelerate rapidly. He hit Scott Boland through a tiny gap between cover and mid-off while balancing on one leg and advancing down the wicket, and proceeded to hit another flat pull shot for six over mid-wicket. Stoinis returned, and Head hit a six over long-off and an edged four through third man to bring up 50. He was out next ball, but he had batted the Stars out of the game.

The rest of the chase was completed fairly comfortably, as Carey reached his half-century and Colin Ingram came in and looked to close out the win as quickly as possible. Like Head, he used Stoinis as a punching bag with a massive six and a well-hit four, assuaging any late nerves the Strikers may have had. As the game wound down he was dropped twice, but this was more a postscript which symbolised the Stars’ many issues than a decisive moment in a contest that was reaching an inevitable end. The Strikers found things too easy against a Stars side containing too many passengers, and with this loss all but confirming the Stars’ non-presence in the finals they will have a lot of thinking to do about how they are going to take something out of their catastrophic campaign.

Top 5
1. Travis Head (Adelaide Strikers)
Head’s innings was perfectly paced and set up the chase brilliantly for the Strikers. He led from the front in compiling a half-century, and some of the boundaries he hit towards the end of his innings were ridiculous shots. He showed a maturity which bodes well for the future, and continued to show his well-honed captaincy skills.
2. Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
Maxwell played a very nice innings to give the Stars a fighting chance, and bowled well to pick up the big wicket of Weatherald. He was especially prolific through point, and while he showed some of his inventiveness he seems to have mostly shelved his unorthodox style in favour of a more determined approach. Time will tell whether it works, but the early results are promising if not as destructive.
3. Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
Carey batted through the innings and was the perfect counterpoint to Head’s aggression, keeping everything going steadily and batting very maturely as the Strikers ran down the target. His glovework was as steady as ever, and his consistent presence with both bat and gloves has allowed the Strikers to move towards the upper reaches of the table.
4. Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
Rashid’s quality is highlighted by the fact that he was the best bowler on either side despite putting in his worst performance of the season so far. For the first time this season he failed to take two wickets in the match, but his removal of Stoinis and ability to beat the in-form Maxwell on both sides of the bat meant that he was still as dangerous as ever. He barely bowls a bad ball.
5. Marcus Stoinis (Melbourne Stars)
Stoinis was the only member of the Stars’ top-order who stood up, and along with Maxwell provided the base for their total. He hit the ball well and looked completely at home while others faltered, and although he was dismissed when he looked set for a destructive half-century he can take pride in his performance. He struggled with the ball, but picked up the wicket of Head and should have had Ingram with the last ball of his spell.