The Melbourne Renegades have a dreadful record in the Big Bash, with just one semi-final appearance in six seasons. Yet they are the first team in the 2017-18 season to win two games, and, brimming with options with bat and ball, have the feel of a side well-primed to challenge for the title this year. This was a triumph for the nous of Brad Hogg
, Dwayne Bravo
, Cameron White
and Tom Cooper
, who all produced exemplary performances, while Jake Widermuth's three wickets showed the Under-30s could contribute too.
The night after one teenage legspinner called Khan won a Big Bash game, another teenage legspinner called Khan briefly threatened to do the same. Shadab
, who took the new ball, actually recorded better figures than Rashid - 2 for 17 from his four overs, compared to Rashid's 2 for 22 - but received nothing like the same support.
What happened to the Bash Brothers?
The irrepressible duo of Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum are one of the main drawcards of the Big Bash League. Not on Saturday night, though. This was meant to be the night when Lynn - player of the tournaments in the last two editions of the BBL - returned after a shoulder injury for his first game in seven months. Instead, Lynn was omitted as a precaution - a decision made easier by Brisbane's opening victory and the expansion of the group stage this year. That left McCullum left to try and provide double the pyrotechnics. He thumped Cooper - unusually bowling the second over, rather than the first - through midwicket for four, and was then clean bowled attempting a reprise, just his second ever dismissal against offspin in the BBL. All that hype, and only five runs from the two Bash Brothers.
, enjoying the best night of his T20 career, snared two other wickets in the Powerplay, Brisbane Heat were floundering at 3 for 28 off 5.2 overs. They needed to consolidate, but they also needed to improve their lame run rate. For much of the alliance between Marnus Labuschagne
and Alex Ross
, the Renegades seemed almost as happy as the Heat. While the Heat had stopped collapsing, the two added only 39 in 6.3 overs, at exactly a-run-a-ball, and, as they manoeuvred spin as if it were the middle overs of a 1990s ODI. Only Ben Cutting, briefly, shook the Heat out of their torpor.
Dwayne Bravo took five wickets in the Renegades' opening game, thereby becoming the first man ever to 400 wickets in T20 cricket. Here he had to be content with two - both in the final over, when another slow ball almost yielded a hat-trick. But as the Heat attempted to salvage a working total, Bravo conceded just 12 across the 18th and 20th overs. He was simply too precise and too smart - again.
In T20, conservative tactics have seldom defended a score as underwhelming as Brisbane's 8 for 132. Just as well, then, that McCullum is their captain. He made a between-innings decision to entrust Shadab with the new ball, and was not dissuaded when a misfield by Sam Heazlett allowed a four through midwicket in the opening over. In his second over, Shadab's quicker ball snared Aaron Finch, who is markedly less effective against spin than pace.
Given a third straight over, a delivery that skidded on upended Marcus Harris's middle stump to provoke a little trepidation among the home supporters. But Shadab only had one over left, which McCullum used in the 11th over, in desperate pursuit of a wicket. The trouble was, the asking rate was so untaxing that Cooper and White had no need to take any risks. Shadab's final delivery was a googly which Cooper just jammed his bat on in time. He had bowled wonderfully in taking 2 for 17, but it would not be enough.
The Melbourne Renegades are easy to mock for their age - they have seven over-30s and two players, Hodge and Hogg, into their 40s. Yet T20 has proved the format most conducive to veterans. White and Cooper used all their game sense as they navigated the Renegades towards their target without discernible risk. And then victory arrived with a certain swagger: Hodge pulled a six third ball off the 19th over, before, two balls later, Cooper thumped a six of his own, to seal his half-century and the win.