Stoinis, Pietersen ensure Stars triumph
Melbourne Stars 2 for 156 (Pietersen 67*, Handscomb 39*) beat Melbourne Renegades 6 for 155 (Bravo 59*, Stoinis 3-11) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A week (that feels like a lifetime) ago, Chris Gayle was a columnist for Fairfax Media. In his final column - he has since filed a defamation case against the company for allegations made in its pages - he claimed he and Kevin Pietersen were the Melbourne derby's big draws, but Pietersen was no match for him. This week, with all the build-up surrounding Gayle for the wrong reasons, Pietersen did as Pietersen does, and stole the show in style.
There was only ever one way Gayle could have responded to an eye-popping week with anything approaching elegance. It is now his bat that has to do his talking, as Channel Ten have ruled out any further involvement in their coverage, and he won't speak to media again during the competition, even if he scores a century. From his first ball, when he miscued a slog sweep off Michael Beer, it was clear that he knew this.
After losing his opening partner Tom Cooper early, this mis-hit caused Gayle to go into his shell (if he has one), with seven of his next eight deliveries dots. That was until Adam Zampa entered the attack. Gayle rocked back and sent his second delivery into the second tier, and three balls later, he had six more in a similar region. But the introduction of Marcus Stoinis ended Gayle's tired innings just as it looked like waking up, as he swatted a short ball to long-on. Gayle's meaningful contributions were done, and many would have been relieved to note the evening even passed without any overt "Stand by Gayle" moments among the crowd of 43,176 as there had been on Wednesday when the MCG confiscated banners.
Vocal distaste was shown towards Cameron White, who moved across town this season, not Gayle. But after a sprightly innings from White, in which he sent the first two balls from the unusually expensive John Hastings for six then four, he fell the ball after Gayle, edging behind when looking to glide Stoinis to third man. When Peter Nevill was run-out in extraordinary fashion at the non-striker's end off his own bat and Adam Zampa's nose, and Aaron Ayre was lbw first ball, the Renegades were in deep trouble at 5 for 78.
Dwayne Bravo marshalled the rebuild with some fine hitting. He shared 66 with Tom Beaton, who cut powerfully and was strong through square leg and also fell to Stoinis; a clever, looping slower ball sneaking under his bat. Bravo had gone after Hastings, taking him for 23 from 10 balls, including three fours in an over, and a six in the last over almost spectacularly saved by Stoinis at long-off, and the Renegades ended on 155 two balls later.
After the second innings of the match was delayed by lingering smoke from ill-advised fireworks involved in the half-time entertainment, the Stars flew out of the blocks. The first three overs cost 32, with Stoinis looking in sublime touch, with drives and pulls through the leg side. Luke Wright had four fours of his own by the end of the third over, and the Renegades managed just four dots in that time. Bravo, and a wonderful trickily disguised slower ball, saw Stoinis bowled behind his legs. Wright continued upon his merry way, before slapping youngster Cameron Stevenson to cover for 37.
For Stars, this was barely a speedbump, but Renegades, who are all but out of contention having only taken 22 wickets in six games, were profligate. Pietersen, who offered a tough return catch to Bravo on 7, was joined by Peter Handscomb, who timed his pull shots wonderfully from the start, and the pair ran brilliantly between the wickets. In consecutive overs, with the Renegades in the last chance saloon, Pietersen skied Bravo into the off side and substitute Ben McDermott, running in from deep cover, and White, running back, let a catch fall between them, and soon Bravo let a Handscomb swipe through his hands for six on the midwicket fence.
Much in the manner of Wright and Glenn Maxwell a week ago, the pair just calmly chipped away at their total. There were fireworks, a pair of magnificent Pietersen sixes over long-on for instance, but this was the calculated, efficient and ruthless unpicking of an inferior team. Stars are missing big names but, as they cruise towards the finals after their horror start, have plenty left in reserve.