Adelaide Strikers 5 for 173 (Wells 58, Short 41) beat Melbourne Renegades 110 (Webster 49, Siddle 3-14, Rashid, 2-19, Head 2-26) by 63 runs
Jonathan Wells and Matthew Short set up Adelaide Strikers for a commanding victory over the winless and aimless Melbourne Renegades at Adelaide Oval to allow the hosts to keep pace with the top teams in the Big Bash League, while pushing the visitors closer to a summary elimination from the tournament.
With the finals series expanded to five teams this summer, the Renegades are still a mathematical chance of qualifying, but their current streak of nine consecutive losses after winning last year's title is now the second-worst after Sydney Thunder's 19 in a row in the competition's early years.
After a rapid start, the Strikers were in danger of losing their way before Wells and Short piled on 80 in 52 balls to ensure they set a target well beyond the reach of the Renegades. Peter Siddle, Rashid Khan and Travis Head all claimed multiple victims as the Strikers held all their catches.
Strikers' early power
On a pristine Sunday afternoon, Head took little time choosing to bat on the same surface that had allowed Rashid to claim a hat-trick against the Sydney Sixers. With it expected to slow down and spin, the Renegades named three spinners and used two in tandem with the new ball, but Phil Salt and Jake Weatherald were still able to get away to a flying start, finding the boundary with enough frequency to rush the Strikers to 50 inside five overs.
Even with the departures of Salt and Weatherald, both trying to force the pace perhaps a fraction too much, the hosts were still able to post 59 from the Powerplay, enough of a start to allow a rest through the middle overs, even as the Renegades bounded back into the contest with a couple of wickets. Head and Harry Nielsen, into the team in place of the absent Alex Carey, fell to Cameron Boyce and Samit Patel respectively, leaving the need for a middle order recovery.
All's well that ends with Wells
Fortunately for the Strikers, they have long possessed a strong middle order insurance policy in the form of the slightly built Wells, who has made it a signature to ensure that his team will be able to at least reach 150 on most occasions, even if the earlier overs have not been kind to him. Summoning the help of Short, Wells calmly allowed the run rate to drop from its early innings heights of beyond 10 an over to less than seven with six overs remaining, before launching a final assault.
As demonstrated by Glenn Maxwell elsewhere, this taking of a little extra "set-up" time to weigh up the pace, bounce and spin of a surface can result in spectacular results, and so it was to prove at Adelaide Oval. Returns of 10, 10, 10 and 11 from overs 15, 16, 17 and 18 were followed by a gluttonish 18 and 17 from the 19th and 20th, as the Renegades saw their target balloon from a likely 150 to 174. Short's 41 from 28 balls featured a trio of sixes, while Wells lasted until the penultimate ball of the innings for a priceless 58 from 38.
They miss, you hit
A chase of 174 against Rashid and company would have been difficult for a confident side, let alone the winless Renegades. And the early exchanges of the pursuit were to follow as expected. Marcus Harris, for a long time a curiously ineffective Twenty20 batsman, lifted Head for one boundary over cover, but was bowled when he tried to do it again. Siddle amiably greeted his Victoria squad mate Sam Harper with a friendly pat, but next over nailed a yorker to pluck out the opener's middle stump.
As Webster and a scratchy Shaun Marsh sought to build some sort of chasing platform, the Strikers did not lose patience, and the calling of the strategic time out for the end of the ninth over brought a re-affirmation that, even though Michael Neser's first over went for an unsightly 19, the hosts needed to keep targeting the stumps of an anxious and unsuccessful opponent. As if on cue, Head's second ball of the 10th over was well flighted and dipped enough of Marsh to have him yorking himself as he tried to raise the rate. Three bowled out of three, and the Strikers were on their way.
No Webster, no Renegades
A strong, intelligent innings by Beau Webster was to go completely to waste as the combination of Strikers pressure, Renegades anxiety and a slowing pitch all conspired to see a dramatically swift end to a game that had, for some of its distance, had some pretensions towards an actual contest. That was largely due to Webster, and even when he was partnered by Mohammad Nabi the visitors still had a chance, albeit mathematical.
However the poise of Rashid, Siddle and Head, plus a staunch fielding display from the Strikers that saw every catch taken, meant that the remainder of the Renegades innings melted away as if they were late for the plane home to Melbourne. In all, the final seven wickets went down for 24 in five overs as the Strikers' adoring Adelaide Oval crowd - this time comprising 28,188 spectators - continued having fun.
The Strikers, then, got the win they needed to keep in touch with the top of the table, and the Renegades stretched their streak to nine.