Shah helps Hurricanes secure home semi-final
Hobart Hurricanes 3 for 175 (Wells 72, Shah 49*) beat Melbourne Renegades 4 for 173 (Finch 67, Hodge 63, Krejza 3-39) by seven wickets
Extraordinary. Thrilling. Bizarre. That summed up Hobart Hurricanes' last gasp victory over Melbourne Renegades at Bellerive Oval, which secured Xavier Doherty's side a Big Bash League semi-final at home.
Chasing 174, it came down to the last over. Renegades captain Andrew McDonald gambled by entrusting Shahid Afridi with the job. Hurricanes needed 10 to win from Afridi's six balls.
Before that climax, Renegades had been in control. Hurricanes needed 52 off 30 balls with Owais Shah on 26 and Jonathon Wells on 62. Afridi conceded 18 from the 16th over, including one delivery that cost five wides, as he was unable to combat the pre-delivery movement and unusual hitting of Shah.
Shah was still there at the start of the final over but he was stuck at the non-striker's end. Phil Jaques had moved down the order to five to accommodate Mark Cosgrove's inclusion. With 8 from 4 balls faced, Jaques top-edged a reverse-sweep over short third man for three runs. The equation was seven off five. Shah cut the next to point for one. Six off four. Afidi fired a quicker full toss that struck Jaques on the pad. No run. Jaques squeezed a single from the next, leaving Shah five to win from two balls. Afridi was on the verge of being the hero.
Then the twist. Shah backed away, Afridi fired full and wide, Shah managed to edge it fine to third man for four. Hobart needed one off the last ball to avoid a super over. Afridi obliged with a wide. Shah was not required to play a shot to win his side the game. He was named Man of the Match for his unbeaten 49 from 30 balls.
Earlier in the game, Renegades looked like they had saved their best performance of the tournament for their last appearance. After winning the toss, Brad Hodge and Aaron Finch rollicked along in the Hobart sun. They thumped an opening stand of 126 from just 13.3 overs. Finch made 67, Hodge 63, as the pair struck four sixes and thirteen boundaries between them. The coup de grace was Finch's three consecutive sixes against Jason Krejza. The offspinner had the last laugh, though, having Finch caught at long-off. Despite being expensive, Krejza picked up three important wickets.
Renegades were unable to capitalise on the incredible foundation that was laid. After Hodge departed in the 14th over, they managed just 43 from the last 36 deliveries of the innings.
It made the chase an enticing one for the inform Hobart top-order. Jonathan Wells made his highest score of the tournament - a well-compiled 72 from 61 balls. He was ably supported by the Big Bash League's leading run-scorer, Travis Birt, who clubbed 25 from 16 balls, including three sixes in the space of six balls.
When Afridi trapped Birt lbw, Renegades regained the ascendancy before Shah entered to do what he does best. He controlled the chased with clever placement and superb timing. He did leave it to the last ball to seal victory, but he got the result he required and secured his team a home semi-final in the process.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth