Melbourne Renegades 9 for 171 (Harris 85, Pollard 3-30) beat Adelaide Strikers 8 for 165 (Dunk 32, Perera 4-25) by six runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Strikers struck off, Renegades survive
The Melbourne Renegades stayed alive in the sixth edition of the Big Bash League, finally closing out a contest after a couple of thrilling losses, and knocking out the struggling Adelaide Strikers with a six-run win.
Asked to bat at the Adelaide Oval, the Renegades set a decent total of 171 for the loss of nine wickets, built around Marcus Harris' dominant innings of 85. No other batsman really got going, Callum Ferguson the next best with 26, though all of the top five got starts.
Ben Laughlin bowled an exceptional spell of 2 for 15 from his four overs, while Michael Neser returned 2 for 14 from three, but the Renegades made up for it by punishing Kieron Pollard, Liam O'Connor, Ish Sodhi and Wes Agar.
The final result looked closer on paper than it was in the flesh, the chase effectively extinguished when captain Brad Hodge was out 37 runs short of victory with 20 balls to spare, after little substantial support from the top order. Jono Dean clubbed the Strikers to within some hope of a comeback win, but Thisara Perera finished off with the ball after so famously failing to do so in last week's record chase against the Hobart Hurricanes.
We'll always have Harris
The Renegades opener was the difference, and proved his value as a recruit from Western Australia, belting his 85 from 53 deliveries. Six of his shots went to the fence and four cleared it, his moderate start dropping into gear with three consecutive fours off Agar in the third over.
He flew past a half-century thanks to a couple of sixes off Pollard in the eighth. Cameron White and Tom Cooper fell around him, but Harris pushed on to within reach of a maiden T20 century in his 20th game.
When he fell with the score on 149 and four overs to go, a possible Renegades score of over 200 went begging, as the last six batsmen kept to single figures. In the end, though, Harris alone had been enough.
Strikers waste another good chance
Tim Ludeman and Ben Dunk got the start that should have enabled the Strikers to chase comfortably, with 53 runs from the first six overs. But not for the first time this season, the rest of the innings lost its way. Ludeman holed out, Dunk missed a straight ball from part-time offspinner and part-time Dutchman Cooper, and the slide began.
"I'll just look to be super positive against Perera. Pollard is great against spin, so hopefully that takes some pressure off him." That was Hodge's offering to the commentary team during the chase. "We know Perera will be bowling a lot of slower balls, so hopefully we get onto a few."
It was Pollard rather than Hodge who got onto one, a ball that dropped short and sat up. Pollard hammered it out to deep square leg, flying for a flat six. Or that's what everyone thought had happened, except that a screamer from Callum Ferguson at the boundary intercepted it.
Once again it was poor Hodge trying to herd a bunch of kittens across the finish line. That paved the way, though, for a fluke accident that took the shine off the win for the Renegades. As Hodge looked to lift the rate, his bat flew out of his hands after a particularly violent slog sweep, and flew behind the pitch where Peter Nevill stood a few paces back.
With the wicketkeeper's eye on the ball at deep backward square, he didn't see the bat that then hit him in the side of his face, forcing him to come off with a massive swelling on the right side of his jaw. Perera knocked over Hodge later the same over, while opposing captain Aaron Finch deputised with the gloves.
Be the crowd favourite
The competition for bringing the crowd into the game was split between Harris and Neser. Aside from Neser's bowling providing a couple of deep catches, he put on a show himself by the fence.
First he hung on to one at deep midwicket to dismiss White. Then he dropped Ferguson at long-on, held Perera at long-off, and snared James Pattinson at deep midwicket towards the end of the innings.
Harris brought onlookers into the game literally via the last of his sixes from a gorgeous straight hit off New Zealand legspinner Sodhi. A security guard on a camp chair at the boundary wasn't watching play, and only just responded to the crowd's calls to yank his head out of the way. Harris tried to send him the next ball as well, but the pull shot hung just inside the rope for Dean to claim.
The late season wash-up
Very simple. This was a knockout match, even as the second-last of the season for both teams. The Strikers and Renegades went into the game at the bottom of the ladder on four points each, needing to win their last two to match the eight points of the teams currently occupying the finals positions.
The Renegades had certainly had the better season on the field, losing twice from the last ball of matches, while the Strikers had struggled. In the end, things went to form, and Red Melbourne stayed in contention.