Melbourne Renegades 7 for 184 (Finch 44, Harper 36, O'Keefe 2-22) beat Sydney Sixers 3 for 180 (Philippe 52, Hughes 52, Boyce 2-33) by three wickets
An uncharacteristic pitch at Docklands Stadium reaped an uncharacteristic result for the Big Bash League. The higher ranked team won a semi-final, meaning the Melbourne Renegades reached their first tournament final in eight years with a successful chase for the highest total at the venue this tournament, underlining the much-improved surface prepared for the game.
They did so largely through the late innings excellence of Dan Christian in the company of Cameron Boyce, who had earlier helped generate a Renegades recovery with the ball after Josh Philippe and Daniel Hughes had threatened to vault the Sixers to an unreachable total. Christian and Boyce put on 41 in 3.3 overs following the loss of the captain Aaron Finch, who had seemed intent on batting through the innings until he was undone in the midst of another excellent spell from Steve O'Keefe. Sam Harper and Cameron White, recalled to replace Mohammed Nabi following his recovery from a hamstring strain, also played useful aggressor roles with the bat.
In a tense atmosphere, this was a contest full of notable moments: Harper bizarrely no-balled for being judged to have his gloves in front of the stumps, a collision between Harper and Ben Dwarshuis when the left-armer dismissed the Renegades gloveman, and then a vehement caught behind appeal by the Sixers captain against Tom Cooper denied by the helmeted umpire Gerald Abood. The two contentious decisions tilted the balance a little either way, leaving plenty of imponderables for both the Sixers and the Renegades - not that the winners will have too much time to ponder ahead of their Melbourne Derby final against the Stars on Sunday.
Philippe power(play)s ahead
When Finch won the toss, sent the Sixers in and handed the new ball to Tom Cooper's occasional offbreaks for the concession of a miserly four runs in the opening over, a familiar Docklands tale appeared set to play out. But in the hands of Kane Richardson, the ball came nicely onto the bats of Hughes and Philippe, heralding a tally of 15 from the second six balls of the night. Philippe, currently subject of plenty of speculation about his future direction having been poached from Perth Scorchers by the Sixers this season, showcased his cover drive to die for - both its orthodox and lofted versions.
Hughes, while not so flashy, was nonetheless effective, as the Sixers careered away to a Powerplay worth 58. The entry of Boyce to the home side's attack reaped more boundaries initially, and a pair of damaging moments for the Renegades when Harper first missed a stumping off Hughes when beaten in flight, then was adjudged to have edged his gloves in front of the stumps before the same batsman had completed his shot - reaping a no-ball and a free hit. Replays suggested this was a call that was both incorrect as well as overly technical, though Boyce was at least able to break the stand in the same over when he adjusted his line to cramp Philippe's cover drives and earned a miscued catch in the deep.
Sixers break new ground
Philippe's exit had Hughes and James Vince taking over more or less seamlessly on the attack, as the second six overs of the innings reaped even more runs than the first. Hughes rolled to his half century from only one more delivery than Philippe, leaving Finch and the Renegades staring down a target in excess of 200 to chase. However, Boyce was to return to the bowling crease intent on correcting an initial spell that cost 24, and by tossing the ball wide of Hughes' eyeline he coaxed a catchable drive well pouched by Cooper.
From there the incoming batsmen found it far harder to get their timing right, exemplified by the workout Moises Henriques gave the toe and front edge of his blade while scrounging 28 from 27 balls. Boyce. Meanwhile. finished with the excellent figures of 2 for 33, helping to ensure that while the Sixers put together what was comfortably the biggest first innings at Docklands during the BBL, their final eight overs only returned 59 runs for the visitors, six of them carved over midwicket by Jordan Silk from the final ball.
Harper rogers Sixers early
In pursuit of 36 more runs than any team had managed in the first innings of a BBL game at Docklands this season, the Renegades needed early acceleration. Marcus Harris managed one crisp boundary before lifting his head and being bowled while trying to hit O'Keefe out of the Melbourne metropolitan area, leaving the dasher's responsibility to Harper. Coming off a frustrating innings with the gloves, he was able to demonstrate the doughty hitting that had served the Renegades well on numerous occasions, raising the 50 inside five overs before edging Dwarshuis behind.
Dwarshuis' celebration was redolent of those by Kagiso Rabada at Port Elizabeth in 2018 - so fired up he seemed oblivious to Harper walking past, causing contact between the two - but firmer contact of bat on ball was to be made by White in an innings that appeared to be setting up the Renegades while Finch played the anchor role at the other end. At 2 for 101 with one ball of the 11th over to go, the hosts looked set fair in their pursuit, before Sean Abbott enticed White to drag onto the stumps while trying to eke out a strike-keeping single. The Sixers now found the opportunity to tighten things up.
O'Keefe turns the screw before Christian comes through
In an outstanding tournament, O'Keefe has consistently harried batsmen into error through subtle changes of pace while sticking to a rigorously disciplined line of attack on the stumps. After Harris had been the 20th victim of this approach in the first over, O'Keefe returned at the very moment that Finch was straining to break free after biding his time. Finch had noted before the game how Glenn Maxwell had done a similar thing for the Stars to the Sixers attack at the MCG in the final qualifying game, but against O'Keefe he was unable to maintain his usual shot shapes - trying a highly optimistic switch-hit (his first-ever in the BBL, according to CricViz) as O'Keefe once again hit middle stump.
The Renegades, though, had plenty of depth in their line-up. Both Christian and Boyce had contributed vital runs at earlier junctures, and they proceeded to put together a stand that showed experience and composure in significant measure. The required rate ballooned well beyond 11 per over when they were together, but again the memories of Maxwell must have helped - the Sixers bowlers aside from O'Keefe had not always nailed their yorkers. No fewer than 18, including a pair of telling Christian sixes over long-on and cover, were ransacked from Sean Abbott's penultimate over. This meant that even after Boyce trod on his stumps first ball of the 20th, Christian and Richardson scrambled to victory - and a home final on Sunday afternoon.