Sixty days after the eighth edition of the Big Bash League started, it will conclude with the first ever Derby final - the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades. Docklands Stadium is the venue by nature of the Renegades finishing higher after the qualifying rounds, despite the best efforts of the Stars and their president Eddie McGuire to have the decider moved across town to the MCG. Just as Cricket Australia are locked into a tournament of at least 59 games over the term of their current broadcast deal, so too are the Renegades obliged to play all their home finals at Docklands.
On the evidence of Friday night's semi-final however, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The pitch on which the Renegades squeaked past the Sydney Sixers was one of the best of the entire tournament, running contrary to the succession of sluggish surfaces prepared at the stadium previously this season. There was pace off the pitch and off the bat, providing the likes of Josh Philippe, Daniel Hughes, Cameron White and Sam Harper with the ability to play their shots. Tellingly, it allowed Dan Christian to strike the blows required to take the Renegades home.
That change in conditions, should it remain the same for the final, is significant given the fact that the Stars overcame the Renegades on slowish surfaces in each of their two meetings so far this season. Tight with the ball and then sensible with the bat, they were comfortable winners in a pair of low-scoring contests. Since that time, the Stars have drawn plenty of inspiration from their captain Glenn Maxwell, while also being beautifully served in their Hobart semi-final by Daniel Worrall's seam and swing. The giant of both previous encounters between the two clubs, though, was undoubtedly Marcus Stoinis, and he looms as a key opponent for the Renegades on Sunday afternoon.
What happened in the group stage
January 1, MCG: Melbourne Stars 4 for 124 (Stoinis 70*, Richardson 2-17) beat Melbourne Renegades 121 (Stoinis 3-19) by six wickets
January 19, Docklands: Melbourne Stars 3 for 151 (Stoinis 78*) beat Melbourne Renegades 9 for 148 (Bravo 3-27, Stoinis 2-26) by seven wickets
Run to the final
(last five matches, most recent first)
Melbourne Renegades WLWWW
Melbourne Stars WWLLW
In the spotlight
Composure born of experience was critical to the way that Dan Christian took the Renegades home against the Sixers, on a night where at numerous times it looked far more likely that the visitors would win. But not only will Christian's power and poise with the bat be key, for his medium pacers have been a vital middle overs link for the Renegades alongside the wrist spin of Cameron Boyce. His advice for the rest of the team was typically even-headed: "If you get caught up in the hullabaloo and the extra media that we're going to have around the game and the bigger crowd and all that stuff I think you get caught up in it and not focus on what got you there in the first place."
Traditional statistics can sometimes be a little misleading in T20, but Marcus Stoinis' impact on the Stars' two wins over the Renegades bears no argument. In those matches he has claimed 5 for 45 from his eight overs before scoring 148 runs without yet being dismissed by a Renegades bowler. At the back end of the Australian international season, Stoinis was flagged as the new preferred allrounder of the national selectors, having moved ahead of Mitchell Marsh. The way he has dominated the Renegades so far demonstrates part of what the national team sees in him, but also why Aaron Finch's men must find better ways of constraining Stoinis in the tournament final.
Renegades Aaron Finch (capt), Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Tom Cooper, Harry Gurney, Sam Harper (wk), Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Cameron White, Kane Richardson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
Stars Glenn Maxwell (capt), Jackson Bird, Dwayne Bravo, Jackson Coleman, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Sandeep Lamichhane, Nic Maddinson, Marcus Stoinis, Dan Worrall, Adam Zampa
Stats and trivia
Melbourne Renegades are playing their first ever BBL final, while the Stars were beaten finalists, at home to the Sydney Thunder, in 2016
Renegades have only made the finals three times in their history, while last season was the first time the Stars had missed the semi-finals
The Stars and Renegades have the least half-centuries in this year's BBL with the Renegades well adrift at the bottom with just three to the Stars' nine.