White, Bravo keep Renegades' campaign alive
Melbourne Renegades 5 for 176 (White 61, Bravo 47) beat Sydney Thunder 5 for 173 (Khawaja 62, Watson 62, Bravo 2-26) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Melbourne Renegades fought back brilliantly to keep their Big Bash League season alive after Sydney Thunder made a flying start at the Sydney Showground Stadium. This was a result with ramifications elsewhere: defeat for Thunder - their fourth on the spin - keeps Sydney Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes in with a slim chance of reaching the knockouts, too.
Such a result had seemed laughable as Usman Khawaja got to work after Thunder opted to bat. His first 50 runs were nothing short of stupendous. First, came the beauty; away he went to Tom Cooper's opening ball of the match with a caress through the covers, then down he danced to knock Xavier Doherty over mid-off in the next over. The following two balls in Doherty's over showed extra power - although the elegance was never sacrificed, of course - as he threw the hands to send the bowler through the covers for four, then rocked back and pulled for six. Three more fours off Chris Tremain - twice whipped through midwicket, once pinged through extra cover - took him to 31 from three overs. Few could believe that the cleanest stroke - a perfect straight drive off Dwayne Bravo that veritably fizzed off the bat's face - was still to come.
It was a wristy, bristling, brutal exhibition that saw Khawaja continue two extraordinary runs of form; he became the first man to reach 20 in 10 consecutive BBL innings, and has still not been dismissed for under 50 since the start of November. When Jacques Kallis was caught behind off Cooper, Shane Watson joined in the fun. He launched his sixth and seventh deliveries for sixes, rocking back, dropping onto one knee to send Doherty over cow corner. Later, Cameron Gannon was slapped for six behind square; Nathan Rimmington was crashed for four, then a flat-batted six over long-on.
As the ball softened and the pitch slowed, however, the Thunder's fortunes turned. Khawaja - who eventually miscued a Cameron Gannon slower ball to deep midwicket - scored his last 14 runs off 18 balls, while Watson slowed considerably before holing out to Bravo's penultimate ball of the innings. Mike Hussey was pinned in front by the last ball, ending an over that conceded just four singles, illustrating quite how the innings had slowed. Rimmington had been at the forefront of the fightback with a fine mix of slower balls and bouncers, one of which crashed into the collar bone of Andre Russell - who looked set to let fly - causing him to crash into his own stumps and later spend some time off the field. Kallis also left the field with a groin injury.
Khawaja later admitted batting had become "tougher and tougher", and while 173 looked better than par, only 78 of those had come in the second half of the innings. The Renegades had fought back and were left a chaseable target, just when the Thunder had looked ready to end their season.
On the field, Chris Gayle has appeared to be a tetchy, caged bear, forever a moment from being poked. Tonight, just as it looked like he was set to get grizzly, he dozed off. Five fours - and even a couple of twos - had carried him to 28; twice he handsomely cleared the front leg and swiping to off. Then he drilled Clint McKay to Russell at long-on, an easy single waiting to be taken. He remained unmoved and, remarkably, steered the next ball to short fine-leg. "It wasn't a great bit of cricket," his partner Cooper later grumbled. Luckily for Gayle, Cameron White and Dwayne Bravo produced a remarkable chase to spare his blushes as dew set in and the bowlers struggled to grip the ball.
Cooper started well and took four inside out over cover off Fawad Ahmed's second ball before being bowled while attempting a cut two balls later. That saw Bravo join White, who hit some remarkable flat sixes over long-on while picking on Watson's bowling and exuding class. He rode his luck, incorrectly given not out lbw off Kallis on 29, and always looked in control from there. Bravo went after Gurinder Sandhu and Russell, who eventually dismissed him with a slower ball immediately after being nailed for a pair of sixes. White fell later in the over and Tom Beaton was run out, but there was little left to do, and the calm head of Peter Nevill drilled a straight drive to see Renegades home.