Strano, Molineux lead Renegades Women to win
Melbourne Renegades Women 5 for 86 ( Molineux 30, Wyatt 23*) beat Melbourne Stars Women 9 for 85 ( du Preez 36, Strano 5-15, Ismail 3-10 ) by five wickets
This game had been identified as 'the one' for the Women's Big Bash League. It was the tournament's first fixture at the MCG, its first on Channel Ten's flagship channel - all on a Saturday afternoon at the end of the holiday season. Central to the fixture's sporting appeal was the presence of Meg Lanning, captain not only of the Melbourne Stars, but Australia's national side too, and the world's best batsman. But she was on the wrong side of the result as Sophie Molineux anchored a low-scoring chase that Melbourne Renegades won quite comfortably.
On a number of levels, things didn't start terribly well. The MCG naively decided a single general admission gate would be adequate, leaving many - perhaps 2000 - punters outside for the start of the match. Only the quickest to their seats would have seen Lanning, who fell caught behind prodding half-forward to Molly Strano's spin in the second over of the match. She had made just 2, on what was supposed to be her day.
By the second ball of Strano's next over, the Stars had lost three more wickets. Natalie Sciver was bowled off the penultimate ball Shabnim Ismail's second over. A ball later, Emma Inglis fell in almost identical fashion, castled by a full, straight, skiddy delivery from the diminutive South African - fresh off the plane and playing her first game of the competition. Then came the scalp of Katie Mack - the only Star besides Lanning with more than 100 runs in their eight WBBL matches to date - who was trapped by Strano.
In the blink of an eye, the Stars, having chosen to bat, were 4 for 8. The only saving grace was that Mignon du Preez safely defended the hat-trick ball from her compatriot Ismail. It was largely thanks to du Preez that those queuing outside got to see a game at all. \\
She nudged and hurdled her way through the middle overs, first in the company of Kelly Applebee, then Kristen Beams. The first boundary only arrived from the innings' 64th ball, a du Preez edge off Briana Binch, and only two more followed (the innings also contained 63 dots).
Having cleaned up the top order, Ismail and Strano returned to lop off the Stars' tail. Hayley Jensen was caught and bowled by Strano, then Ismail had du Preez caught at mid-on. Strano bowled the last over and got the wicket of Beams, with a tossed up delivery as she was caught well low down at mid-off, and then struck with the wicket of Gemma Triscari, who was trapped plumb in front as Stars managed just 9 for 85 in their 20 overs. Strano was rewarded for her accuracy with remarkable figures of 5 for 12.
Defending a paltry total, Lanning's Stars did just about everything right. Seamers and spinners alike bowled tight, probing lines, the team were energetic and vocal in the field, Lanning set aggressive fields and they fielded like demons, led by their wicketkeeper, Inglis, who claimed two excellent stumpings. Sciver's second ball was full and wide, and Dane van Niekerk - who had just sliced the parsimonious Triscari over point for four - advanced and was smartly stumped by Inglis.
Kris Britt never got going, and when Beams gave one some flight, she was also stumped. 17-year-old Sophie Molineux - opening, having batted No. 11 in her previous WBBL knock - stuck about and looked increasingly fluent, but after 13 overs, the Renegades were still not halfway there, and the Stars, improbably, were on top.
Then the pressure began to tell. 11 was taken from Beams' last over, including a beautiful lofted drive for four from Danielle Wyatt, while Alana King's following over cost eight, including a pair of missed run-outs. With the running increasingly suicidal, those two run-outs happened in the following overs; Molineux was carelessly caught short as she failed to pick up Wyatt's tip and run, while Sarah Elliott simply set off when there was never a run on offer.
Wyatt's stay at the crease began eventfully, when she was hit on the back of the helmet by a full-blooded Molineux drive, but she kept her composure to see the Renegades home when requiring a run-a-ball. She hit a stunning cover driven four and was joined by Ismail, who thrashed around briefly before being run-out in the final over. But Wyatt's push into the off-side off the innings' penultimate ball, and another, final scampered single saw the Renegades home.