After failing to win a game on their own deck last season, Melbourne Renegades began their 2016-17 Big Bash League campaign with a clinical home victory, defending 179 with ease to leave Sydney Thunder’s title defence in deep trouble after two heavy losses in three nights.
Finch formidable, and Hoggy’s tongue wags again
The Renegades’ foundation was laid by captain Aaron Finch, who clubbed 63 off 37 at the top of the order. Finch’s knock was defined by clean hitting on a ground where he averages 56 in this competition. It proved to be the leading contribution on the night, and highlighted the size of the hole he will leave in the side when international duty calls in January.
No shot was better than Finch’s lofted strike, described by Ricky Ponting as “absolutely magnificent” on commentary, off Clint McKay. Later, he muscled Fawad Ahmed for consecutive sixes over extra cover. He holed out off the next ball, but his job was done.
For pure enjoyment, there was no better moment than Brad Hogg’s two-wicket over that extinguished any realistic chance of a Thunder comeback. The ever-smiling chinaman bowler was playing in his first game for the Renegades after crossing over from Perth Scorchers. Across four tidy overs, he showed that at 45, he remains an estimable competitor.
Power on, power off
Finch’s night got better when a shrewd move to open the bowling with part-time offspinner Tom Cooper paid off immediately as Kurtis Patterson sliced the first ball of the Thunder’s chase to backward point.
Then, Chris Tremain reinforced why he entered this competition as a man tipped for big things by cramping up Eoin Morgan, who spooned a catch to square leg. By the end of the Powerplay, Thunder had put up just 33, which was 15 less than what the Renegades had managed, and sent the required rate into double figures. With the experienced trio of Hogg, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo not conceding boundaries easily, it was game over.
Master trumps apprentice
The notoriously slow and low Docklands Stadium surface encouraged Thunder to go in with three spinners, two of whom – Fawad Ahmed and Chris Green – got their side back after a profligate start.
But they were let down by the third cog – Arjun Nair. The debutant’s only over contained a slew of half trackers and was taken for 14. In a conversation with ESPNcricinfo earlier this year, the teenager mentioned that he learned to bowl, in part, from watching Sunil Narine on YouTube. He will have learned a bit more tonight after having faced him and given his wicket away within three balls. Thankfully, the prodigious talent has plenty of time on his side.
Cummins gives Thunder reason to believe
Thunder won’t have long to lick their wounds, with two more fixtures over the next week. While they can’t bring back the top four that had such a hand in last year’s title win – barring Shane Watson, who will be back soon from injury – they can take heart from Pat Cummins’ performance across disciplines so far.
The wunderkind bowled with serious pace, hitting 150kph in his first spell, to finish as the most frugal of the Thunder bowlers. In the field, he was all aggression. His two dives while minding the deep midwicket boundary may have left hearts in mouths given his injury history, but they underlined his athleticism.
Later, with the bat, Cummins showed his long-bombing antics from the tournament opener were no fluke. His 37 off 23 balls, which included four sixes in four overs, gave the 23,015 people in attendance something to remember.
As for the Renegades, they’re back at the Docklands on December 29 when they face Scorchers, before their crosstown blockbuster against the Stars at the MCG on New Year’s Day. If they can get through those fixtures unscathed, it may really be time to believe the hype.