Melbourne Renegades v Perth Scorchers, BBL, Melbourne December 22, 2011

Shaun Marsh crafts Scorchers' win

The Report by Alex Malcolm

Perth Scorchers 192 for 2 (Shaun Marsh 99*, Gibbs 57) beat Melbourne Renegades 188 for 3 (McDonald 50, Finch 49*) by eight wickets

Shaun Marsh showed little signs of his back trouble as he smashed an unbeaten 99 off 52 balls in Perth Scorchers' emphatic eight-wicket win, in pursuit of Melbourne Renegades' imposing total of 3 for 188. The innings should state his case for a Test return against India on Boxing Day.

Marsh hit nine fours and five sixes to help the visitors home with four balls to spare, in the tightest game of the tournament so far.

The attention was on Marsh to prove he was Test ready, though he was playing a Twenty20 game. He spent all 39.2 overs in the field, fielding without any trouble, before playing one of the best innings of the tournament to date.

At times, he was starved of the strike as Herschelle Gibbs peeled off a majestic 57 in their opening stand of 95. Marsh sprinted between the wickets with purpose. His running with his younger brother Mitchell stood out. But most importantly, he handled the raw pace of both Shaun Tait and Shane Harwood, and the penetrative leg-spin of Shahid Afridi, with equal aplomb. Marsh ended the night with a straight six off Abdul Razzaq to seal the match.

The Renegades did not help their cause with some sloppy fielding and strange tactics in their defence of what seemed a winning total.

The captain Andrew McDonald dropped Gibbs on 14 in the third over, and substitute Meyrick Buchanan spilled Marsh on 39. Buchanan made matters worse by parrying the ball over the rope for six. McDonald's field settings were questionable though. Gibbs' strong off-side play is well known, but the Renegades strangely played to his strengths as he hit 18 off a Razzaq over.

McDonald got a lucky break when Gibbs holed out to the only man at the cover rope when the South African was in total command. Mitchell Marsh joined his brother and the pair took on the fielders with some audacious running. The younger Marsh should have been run out in the twelfth over but Graham Manou failed to handle a strong return from long-on cleanly.

McDonald also neglected to bowl the left-arm spinner Aaron Heal. The decision was strange enough given Heal's impressive record in this format, but even stranger given the Scorchers' two most successful bowlers in the match were the left-arm duo of Michael Beer, and Brad Hogg. The pair collected 3 for 50 from their combined eight overs when their team-mates all conceded more than nine-an-over.

The Renegades would have thought they were in a strong position after winning the toss and setting 188. The openers, McDonald and Aaron Finch blasted 91 from 64 balls. Finch was sent to hospital with a suspected broken rib after being struck by Ben Edmondson, but he still managed 49 from 40. McDonald's 50 from 33 was an innings of great class. Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Reardon, and Razzaq clubbed six sixes between them to progress to an imposing total. Maxwell launched three in a row off Marcus North's offspinners.

But in the end Shaun Marsh stole the show, proving why he is regarded in some circles as Australia's best batsman in all formats.