Warne and Samuels in ugly clash
Melbourne Renegades 1 for 147 (Finch 67*) beat Melbourne Stars 9 for 146 (Wright 29, Sheridan 3-36) by nine wickets
Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels were involved in an ugly confrontation as Melbourne Renegades secured a home semi-final in the Big Bash League in front of a record crowd for domestic cricket in Australia.
Aaron Finch's 67 off just 47 balls helped the Renegades to a nine-wicket win with seven balls to spare in front of a crowd of 46,581 which turned out for a fiery Melbourne derby.
Cricket Australia's delight at the success of the much-debated derby formula will be overshadowed by the ill discipline on the field as tempers flared between Warne, the Melbourne Stars captain, and Samuels, the enigmatic Renegades West Indies all-rounder, with several incidents likely to be looked at closely in the coming days.
CA officials are expected to announce details of a disciplinary hearing on Monday, although they will first check on the well-being of Samuels, who damaged an eye-socket after top-edging a ball from Lasith Malinga through the grill of his helmet and needed treatment at a Melbourne hospital. His tournament is assumed to be over.
Samuels angered the hosts during the Melboune Stars innings when he grabbed David Hussey as he was trying to turn for a second run - and Warne let him know all about it when he came out to bat.
In a verbal tirade picked up by Fox Sports microphones, Warne criticised Samuels for his unsporting behaviour at the end of the leg-spinner's second over, grabbing the West Indian by the shirt in illustration and jabbing his finger in his face.
Tempers reached boiling point the following over when Warne fielded a drive by Samuels and flipped the ball straight at the West Indian from close range as he stood in his crease. Samuels reacted angrily at the provocation, throwing his bat over Warne's head as the umpires rushed in to calm the situation.
It was a clear display of gamesmanship by Warne, who was trying desperately to pull his charges back into the match after they were restricted to just 146 having won the toss and electing to bat.The Renegades privately criticised Warne's behaviour as deliberately provocative and theatrical.
In what many will regard as another distasteful aspect of the stand-off, Warne was again wearing a microphone for the benefit of TV viewers and with the game going on used it to defend his actions to commentators.
"What are you meant to do when someone throws a bat at you?" he asked.
The night went from bad to worse for Samuels as he tried to hook a short ball from Malinga and top-edged it into his face. He was forced to retire hurt with blood streaming from an eye wound with only Malinga among the Stars players making obvious attempts to check on his welfare.
Warne later told the Herald Sun: Warne later tried to downplay the drama, saying he didn't expect to be disciplined by Cricket Australia. "I tried to throw the ball to Bobby Quiney and the next minute I decided to get out of the way of that bat," he said. "I'm more disappointed that we lost, that was just a heat of the moment thing. That's just the way it goes, I hope he's OK.
Samuels, acclaimed for his matchwinning display in the final of World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in Australia, has been a marked man in Australia. Darren Lehmann, the Brisbane coach, was fined for questioning the legality of his quicker ball, a theme later picked up by the Adelaide coach Darren Berry.
For Renegades, it was another impressive all-round team performance with a number of contributors with the ball leading to an easy win.
Aaron O'Brien continued his great form, conceding just 22 runs off his four overs and taking the valuable wicket of Brad Hodge. He was backed up by Darren Pattinson (2 for 12), Will Sheridan (3 for 36) and the ever-reliable Muralitharan (1 for 27) as the Stars limped to a score well below par given the pace and consistency of the pitch.
The Stars had four batsmen reach 20 but not one of them was able to convert it into a bigger score. All-rounder James Faulkner hit two massive sixes to start the final over before the Renegades took a team hat-trick to stem the flow of runs.
Finch and Alex Doolan (30 off 28) were brutal early against the Stars fast bowlers and quickly took the game away from the hosts with a 70-run partnership in just 49 balls.
The Stars will look to re-group quickly ahead of their do-or-die clash with the Sydney Thunder in Melbourne on Tuesday. The task won't be made any easier by the loss of Malinga, McKay, Hussey and Maxwell to international duty. With the Heat, Hurricanes, Strikers and Scorchers all battling for the final three spots in the semi-finals, nothing less than a win will do for the Stars.
Despite securing top place, the Renegades have problems of their own, with Finch joining the Australian team for the series against Sri Lanka and Doolan (ankle) and Samuels (face) both under injury clouds ahead of their game against the Sydney Sixers in Sydney on Wednesday.
Andrew Fuss is a freelance writer based in Adelaide