Wright ton carries Stars home in Melbourne derby
Melbourne Stars 3 for 163 (Wright 109*) beat Melbourne Renegades 7 for 161 (White 54, Hastings 4-29) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Forecasts had suggested the Melbourne derby might break the Big Bash League's record attendance (previously 52,633). But in the end, the record was veritably smashed, with 80,883 people watching Luke Wright's masterful century guide the Melbourne Stars to a crucial seven-wicket victory over cross-town rivals the Melbourne Renegades.
Earlier 12,901 people - more than have ever watched a Women's WT20 Final - had seen Renegades Women sneak home against their Stars counterparts. That game was also the first women's fixture to be shown on one of Australia's main TV channels.
Crowd-wise, this was the perfect storm, a warm Saturday evening at a family-friendly time at the back-end of the holiday season. The significance of such a crowds - particularly with regard to the BBL's relationship with Test cricket in Australia - cannot yet be known. What is for certain is the tournament has landed; the MCG is used to filling like this for the AFL's finals series and flagship days, for Ashes Test matches, or for World Cup Cricket.
Wright's innings was brutal, stalking down a Renegades total that always looked light, vindicating David Hussey's decision to invite them to bat first. Chris Gayle - the self-proclaimed biggest draw of the night - never got going; looking to heave John Hastings' second ball, Gayle contrived to find Kevin Pietersen at mid-off.
Aaron Finch shared 49 with Cameron White, but the Renegades continued to lose set batsmen at inconvenient junctures. Finch heaved Ben Hilfenhaus for a leg-side six before miscuing Marcus Stoinis to point. Every time Adam Zampa entered the attack, White seemed to find an extra, utterly brutal gear, launching the legspinner for three sixes between cow corner and long-off. White put on 58 with another former Stars player, Matthew Wade, who the ball over Stoinis' head for a beautiful four. Both batsmen, however, fell in the space of three balls just as the Renegades needed to motor. Wade attempted to ramp Hastings and edged behind, then White sent Michael Beer straight to deep backward square.
Tom Beaton nailed his first ball for a straight six but was gone an over later, caught in the deep on the leg side, then Hastings picked up two wickets in the final over to finish with 4 for 29. Tom Cooper hit a marvellous ramped six, but mistimed a pull to fine leg. An uncomfortable Dwayne Bravo innings ended in comical fashion, his bat flying towards midwicket - for the second time this competition - as he was comprehensively yorked.
Wright looked ravenous from the off. The Renegades bowling looked shy once more, and after a series of hard-run twos to get going, he pulled Nathan Rimmington for four, then bunted him over long-on for six next ball. His opening partner Stoinis was scratchy, and fell to a stunning catch by Wade off Chris Tremain, the wicketkeeper diving full-stretch, one-handed to his right to take a thick edge.
Wright continued on his merry way, briefly joined by Kevin Pietersen, who drove his first ball for a beautiful four but was caught behind playing a half-hearted pull off Cameron Gannon, the pick of the Renegades' bowlers. Wright's first half-century for the Stars in his last 15 innings came after consecutive boundaries - pulled, then straight-driven - off Gannon. Wright is seldom elegant, but is more calculated than he looks, and his strong wrists and brutal bottom-hand make him tough to bowl to when set.
Glenn Maxwell came, shone briefly, then left; a stunning swept six off Xavier Doherty followed by a horrid misjudgement to Bravo, who bowled him through the gate at the end of an over that saw Wright biff him for two more boundaries. Wright stepped up a gear to Doherty's next over. He was dropped by Beaton at long-on on 64, and punished the fielder to the tune of two consecutive sixes straight over his head. In the company of the calm Peter Handscomb, it was a cakewalk, Wright bringing up his century in the penultimate over with a pull over midwicket for six, and finishing the job off the first ball of the last, hitting Gannon down the ground.
The BBL is on the charge and so, thanks to Wright, are the Stars.