Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder, Big Bash League 2016-17 December 22, 2016

Finch and spinners brush Thunder aside

Melbourne Renegades 7 for 179 (Finch 63, Ferguson 38) beat Sydney Thunder 131 (Gibson 39, Cummins 37) by 49 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Brad Hogg's double-wicket over extinguished the Sydney Thunder's chances of a comeback © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

After losing all their home games last season, Melbourne Renegades began the 2016-17 Big Bash League with a clinical victory at Docklands stadium, defending 179 with ease to leave Sydney Thunder's title defence in deep trouble after two heavy losses in three nights.

Finch formidable, and Hogg's tongue wags again

The Renegades' foundation was laid by captain Aaron Finch, who clubbed 63 off 37 balls at the top of the order. His knock was defined by clean hitting, on a ground where he averages 56 in T20s, and it proved to be the leading contribution on the night, highlighting the size of the hole he will leave in the side when national duty calls in January.

No shot was better than Finch's lofted strike off Clint McKay, described by Ricky Ponting as "absolutely magnificent" on commentary. Later, he muscled Fawad Ahmed for consecutive sixes over extra cover. He holed out off the next ball, but his job was done.

For pure enjoyment, there was no better moment than Brad Hogg's double-wicket over that extinguished any realistic chance of a Thunder comeback. The ever-smiling left-arm wristspinner was playing in his first game for the Renegades after crossing over from Perth Scorchers. Across four tidy overs, he showed that at even at 45, he remains an estimable competitor.

Power on, power off

Finch's night got better when a shrewd move to open the bowling with part-time offspinner Tom Cooper paid off immediately as Kurtis Patterson sliced the first ball of the Thunder's chase to backward point.

Then, Chris Tremain reinforced why he entered this competition as a man tipped for big things by cramping up Eoin Morgan, who spooned a catch to square leg. By the end of the Powerplay, Thunder had put up just 33, which was 15 less than the Renegades' score at the same point. With the required rate already in double-figures, the experienced trio of Hogg, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo sent down six overs and conceded just one boundary. Game over.

Master trumps apprentice

The notoriously slow and low Docklands surface encouraged Thunder to go in with three spinners, two of whom got their side back after a profligate start. Fawad Ahmed and Chris Green bowled their first spells in tandem and allowed only 25 runs in four overs. But they were let down by the third cog - Arjun Nair. On debut, his only over contained a slew of half trackers and was taken for 14. In a conversation with ESPNcricinfo earlier this year, Nair mentioned that he learned to bowl, in part, from watching Sunil Narine on YouTube. He will have learnt a bit more tonight after being dismissed by him having faced only three balls. At 18 years though, Nair has time on his side to do justice to his talent.

Cummins gives Thunder reason to believe

Thunder won't have long to lick their wounds, with two more fixtures over the next week. While they can't bring back the top four that had such a hand in last year's title win - Shane Watson, however, will be back soon from injury - they can take heart from Pat Cummins' performance across disciplines so far. He bowled with serious pace, hitting 150kph in his first spell, to finish as the most frugal of the Thunder bowlers. In the field, he was all aggression. His two dives while minding the deep midwicket boundary may have left hearts in mouths given his injury history, but they underlined his athleticism.

Later, with the bat, Cummins showed his big-hitting antics from the tournament opener were no fluke. His 37 off 23 balls, which included four sixes in four overs, gave the 23,015 people in attendance something to remember.

As for the Renegades, they will be back at the Docklands on December 29 when they face Scorchers, before their crosstown blockbuster against the Stars at the MCG on New Year's Day. If they can get through those fixtures unscathed, it may really be time to believe the hype.

Comments