Hales' blitz leads Renegades to win
Melbourne Renegades 5 for 178 (Hales 89, Rohrer 57) beat Sydney Sixers 149 (O'Keefe 41, Sheridan 3-28, Rimmington 3-28) by 29 runs
An astonishing innings from Alex Hales, studded with eight sixes, installed the Melbourne Renegades as firm favourites to claim the BBL crown and ended the Sydney Sixers' defence of their title. Hales, fresh off the plane from the UK having been flown in to replace the injured Marlon Samuels, smashed 89 from 52 balls to guide the Renegades to a match-winning total of 178 after they elected to bat. It was a one-sided affair as the Sixers fell 29 short.
Many wondered how the Renegades batting would fare without their dominant captain Aaron Finch, absent with international duties, but Hales answered that with a hailstorm of sixes - eight in all, along with five fours.
The Renegades started poorly when the out-of-form Daniel Harris faced nine balls for just one run, before being stumped off the Sri Lanka offspinner Sachithra Senanayake. Hales also began cautiously, managing three runs from his first 11 balls, before tearing into Josh Hazlewood. He clubbed two fours, two sixes, and was dropped by the bowler in his follow-through in a frenetic fifth over. Alex Doolan fell off the first ball of the next to leave the Renegades at 2 for 38 after the Powerplay.
It brought Ben Rohrer to the crease. The acting Renegades captain was released by the Sixers after the Champions League and has proved a brilliant acquisition for the Melbourne side. He continued his red-hot form, combining with Hales for a 112-run partnership in just 10.3 overs. Rohrer found the gaps while Hales peppered the crowd with big hits, with both gaining reprieves from a woeful Sixers fielding effort.
Steve O'Keefe felt the brunt of Hales' brutality. Twice in the 11th over, Hales slog swept O'Keefe into the Members Stand. Then in the 15th Hales clobbered O'Keefe again, clearing the fence four times. One landing on the roof of the Members Stand was measured at 111m, with the following ball travelling 109m in the same direction. Hales holed out to Moises Henriques in the next over but the damage was done.
Rohrer quietly passed fifty for the second time in the tournament, off just 33 deliveries. The Renegades scored 113 from the last ten overs, the anomaly being that Senanayake and Brett Lee each bowled their full quota of four overs for just 19 runs, with the other four bowlers getting smashed for more than 11 runs-per-over.
The Sixers' chase started horrendously, losing four for 46 inside seven overs. Three fell meekly pulling soft catches to midwicket. The exception was Nic Maddinson who nicked Nathan Rimmington to the keeper.
O'Keefe arrived, intent on erasing the 50 runs he conceded with the ball. He played some unorthodox strokes, found the rope five times and cleared it once. Hales gave him a life when he lost the ball in the lights at deep midwicket.
O'Keefe's unorthodoxy proved his undoing. He walked well outside the off stump to paddle Darren Pattinson fine, only to find the keeper's gloves, although replays suggested it might have been pad rather than bat causing the deflection. Daniel Smith holed out to Pattinson in the same over to give the seamer his third scalp.
Rimmington returned to clean up Senanayake and Hazlewood to also claim three wickets. The Renegades' 29-run win was all the more impressive, given the absences of Finch, Samuels, and Muttiah Muralitharan who was rested. Asylum-seeker Fawad Ahmed got an opportunity to play his first professional match in Australia, in Murali's place, to cap an uplifting night for the Melbourne side. They now wait to see who they will host a home semi-final next Tuesday.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Perth