Melbourne Renegades 4 for 172 (Harper 52, Marsh 47, Bowe 2-23) beat Sydney Thunder 7 for 122 (Ross 51, Christian 3-14) by 12 runs on the DLS method
Believe it or not, the Melbourne Renegades are still a mathematical chance of making the Big Bash League finals after breaking their nightmare sequence of nine consecutive losses with a rain-interrupted victory over the Sydney Thunder at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Their captain Dan Christian was instrumental in the result, clumping some desperately needed late innings runs then claiming three wickets in a typically thoughtful spell. The last two were most vital as the Renegades momentarily wobbled in their defence, after Alex Ross had slammed 26 from a Mohammad Nabi over to leave the Thunder with a gettable 31 to win from the final two overs.
Renegades bide their time at the start...
Over nine losses in a row, the Melbourne Renegades have found more than a few ways to start games badly, and on this occasion, Shaun Marsh and Marcus Harris seemed determined not to throw things away too early. So on a fine evening in Canberra they elected to play themselves in carefully, eschewing big shots against the new ball and trying to rotate the strike while denying the Thunder an early wicket or two.
This approach at least had the effect of not blowing up the Renegades innings early, as has happened on numerous occasions. However it was obvious that neither Harris, who would depart after seven overs, or Marsh who followed in the 13th, had quite the confidence or fluency to go on from their platforms in the fashion of a Glenn Maxwell or, more mortally, Jon Wells for the Adelaide Strikers. This meant that the Renegades still found themselves in a somewhat iffy position when Beau Webster became Liam Bowe's second victim with 31 balls remaining.
...And find some much-needed punch at the finish
Fortunately for the Renegades, Sam Harper did not lose his head as these wickets fell, and built an innings at his own pace with steady acceleration. It was a different knock to many of his others, going far deeper into the innings than Harper commonly has managed, and allowed Christian the certainty at the other end to take a few more risks in the closing overs. This combination meant that the Renegades could capitalise on the Thunder's parallel propensity to leak runs in their closing overs.
In fact the final three of the innings grew in productivity for the Renegades in the kind of trend line loved by investment property owners, reaping 13, 16 and then finally 18 runs. No fewer than 11 of those flowed from the bat of Mohammad Nabi, who pummelled his first ball for four down the ground and then hoisted the last of the innings over the midwicket boundary, with timing and power redolent of a far more set batsman. The choice of Chris Morris to bowl the final over meant that Daniel Sams, the BBL's leading wicket-taker, was left an over short of his allocation.
Thunder stumble before the rain
As rain clouds hovered over Manuka, the Thunder swiftly lost Usman Khawaja to a superb catch behind the wicket by Harper, who dived across in front of slip for a dismissal that was unclear to the umpires as the former Australian top order batsman had hit the ground around the same time as he edged his drive at Andrew Fekete. Worse was to follow when Callum Ferguson was most unluckily run out by a deflection when Fekete parried a caught and bowled chance from Alex Hales onto the stumps at the non-striker's end.
The loss of a promoted Sams, lbw on the sweep shot, left the Thunder in a rickety position, but the arrival of showers created a new dimension. The required rate asked of the Thunder would go up, but the number of balls in which they could lose wickets was bound to go down.
Ross fireworks can't keep Renegades winless
Needing 104 runs off 49 balls when the rain cleared, the Thunder needed at least a couple of big overs. Hales was unable to provide any, and Morris also fell cheaply as the equation stretched to 57 required from the final 18 balls. Enter Ross, who sized up Nabi's usually parsimonious off-breaks and found some deliveries lobbed down onto an obliging length for him to get under. Four, six, six, six, four followed, Narrowing things to 31 off 13, fewer runs than the Renegades themselves managed from the final two overs of their innings.
Captain Christian, though, was in no mood to give this one up, and he was to follow up with a superb penultimate over in which he mixed up his pace while hitting the blockhole with commendable regularity. This was too much for Jay Lenton, yorked first ball of the over, and Ross was far less successful in targeting the boundary, as his skier was well held by Jack Wildermuth and left him with more than enough runs to defend in the final over.