Sydney Thunder 4 for 171 (Hales 68, Khawaja 66) beat Melbourne Renegades 5 for 169 (Marsh 42) beat by six wickets
Well-paced half-centuries from Alex Hales and Usman Khawaja and a multitude of errors from the Melbourne Renegades helped Sydney Thunder to their second successive victory to start the season at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong.
Hales made 68 and Khawaja 66 and they shared a 99-run opening stand, which started slowly but flourished later as the dew set in. It went right to the wire, with the Thunder needing six runs off the last six balls. Matt Gilkes was run out trying to steal a bye but Alex Ross hit the winning boundary off Richard Gleeson with two balls to spare.
The Renegades skipper Aaron Finch may regret his decision to bat first as his legspinner, Cameron Boyce was nullified by the dew and the Renegades made three critical mistakes in the field. Finch and Jack Wildermuth let boundaries go straight through their legs while Sam Harper failed to catch a sky ball from Gilkes.
Earlier, Harper, Finch and Shaun Marsh all couldn't capitalise on starts as the Renegades went from scoring 1 for 61 in the powerplay to making just 5 for 169 overall on a good batting surface as the Thunder bowlers bowled brilliantly through the middle overs.
Sam's swift start
Harper made a century off 46 balls in a warm-up game against the Melbourne Stars on Monday and came out all guns blazing to give the Renegades the best powerplay of the tournament so far. He made Australia's T20I captain look pedestrian at the other end as he produced his trademark ramps over short fine leg but also some powerful strikes down the ground off Daniel Sams, Jono Cook, and Chris Tremain. He hit 39 off 19 balls with four fours and two sixes to bring up a 50-partnership with Finch in just 4.2 overs but he perished in the 30s again. Last season he reached 30 seven times but only passed 40 once. He fell to a leading edge trying to go across the angle of a Sams off-cutter. Finch was just 14 off 11 with two fours when Harper departed.
Ferguson mixes and matches to leave Renegades muddled
The Renegades scored just 108 in the last 14 overs of the innings, failing to capitalise on the platform. That was partly due to the Renegades' middle-over batting. They were the slowest middle-over strikers in the BBL last season. Ferguson mixed and matched his bowlers cleverly with only Cook, Arjun Nair and Chris Tremain afforded two-over spells to not allow any batsman to settle and only two of his six bowlers needed to bowl their full quota. Shaun Marsh is a notoriously slow starter and sets himself to back-end every innings, with a strike-rate of 180.50 in the last five overs of all T20s he's played. On debut for his new team, he was true to form reaching 42 off 32 with four overs to go, but with Tom Cooper and Dan Christian struggling to find the rope, Marsh went early and holed out to Nair, with Sams taking an excellent diving catch at deep midwicket. It was a key moment with 22 balls left in the innings. Sams then added to the Renegades' frustration when he trapped Christian with a excellent slower ball. The Thunder gave up just three boundaries in the last five overs of the innings.
Steady but slow start to the chase
Khawaja and Hales look on paper to be one of the most dangerous opening combinations in the BBL. Khawaja played fluently as Hales battled early on this occasion. Khawaja took a particular shine to new Renegades signing Gleeson striking five boundaries in six balls from Gleeson over two different overs. He reached 50 off 39 balls in the ninth over, but Hales was 20 off 20 with just one boundary as the Thunder reached 0 for 74 at the halfway stage. Kane Richardson was one of the key reasons giving up just 13 runs in three overs to the halfway point. The majority of those were to Khawaja with late swing across the left-hander and some high-quality lengths tying him down.
The dew set in, batting became easier, fielding became harder and Hales unleashed. Khawaja set the tone in the 11th over targeting Boyce and depositing him twice with the spin. He was caught at cover in the next over but Hales got moving with two streaky outside edges to the third man boundary enough to ignite him. He went into top hear scoring 47 from just 15 balls after being 21 from 22. He was savage on Boyce and Christian striking five fours and two sixes to reduce the target to 23 off 23 before his Nottinghamshire teammates Harry Gurney forced a mistake. Then the Renegades made mistakes of their own to undo some great death bowling from Gurney and Richardson. The pair conceded just 14 runs in two overs with 20 to defend from the last three but the fielding mistakes were costly. Ross held his nerve, hitting a crisp straight drive to seal the win.