Adelaide Strikers 6 for 158 (Weatherald 71, Boyce 2-16) beat Melbourne Renegades 9 for 126 (Webster 33, Neser 2-10) by 32 runs
Jake Weatherald found his mojo with a sublime 71 as Adelaide Strikers rolled out their trademark blueprint to strangle the Melbourne Renegades in Geelong.
Weatherald appeared to bat on a different surface, with his 71 off 44 balls the stand-out performance of the match. He was the only player on either side to pass 33 and looked set for a huge score until he was run out in unusual circumstances, attempting to pinch a third run.
He was doing so to try and regain some momentum after Renegades legspinner Cameron Boyce stemmed the flow, taking 2 for 16 in a sublime four-over spell. Some special late hitting from Rashid Khan gave the Strikers a decent score to bowl at, but it proved surplus to requirements.
The Renegades never came close in the chase. They scored just 12 runs off the first four overs and never recovered. Michael Neser and Billy Stanlake did the early damage, before the Renegades floundered against the legspinning trio of Rashid Khan, Liam O'Connor and Colin Ingram.
Much has been expected of Jake Weatherald this season, after his match-winning century in last season's BBL final. He had made four starts this tournament, but failed to kick on. He started with two boundaries in the first over from the part-time spin of Tom Cooper. But he really got going against the dangerous Usman Shinwari. After flushing one into Shinwari's shin that left an egg-shaped bruise in the second over, he stuck three consecutive boundaries in the fourth over, including a magnificent lofted straight drive. He then targeted the short 60-meter boundary after the Powerplay, smashing three sixes into the stands at midwicket. He reached 50 off just 26 balls and laid the perfect platform as the Strikers reached 1 for 75 after nine overs.
Boyce breaks through and bouncing bats
Brought in for the eighth over, Boyce slowed the rate immediately. Alex Carey holed out from the first ball of his spell. Boyce bowled three dots to Ingram in his next nine balls. The pressure forced Ingram to heave across the line and he sliced a leading edge to cover. Boyce had 2 for 5 after two overs and finished with 2 for 16 from his four. The scoring rate plummeted and it caused two unusual run outs. Matthew Short and Weatherald were both run out in similar fashion. Both men dived for their ground at full stretch, both had their bats over the line, but the end of their bats were adjudged to be in the air by the TV umpire, with no part of it deemed grounded past the popping crease when the stumps were broken. The vision didn't appear clear cut in either case, but the TV umpire Sam Nogajski was quick to give both out. The Strikers slumped to 6 for 127 with two overs to go, but Rashid Khan did what Rashid Khan does and thumped 21 from seven balls, which included two dots, to raise the total above 150.
The Renegades had raced out of the blocks in their previous match against the Melbourne Stars before falling in a huge hole. They made a change at the top of the order, splitting the inexperienced but inventive pair of Mackenzie Harvey and Sam Harper with the wise-head of Cameron White. But White's sluggish start put the Renegades well behind the rate. He made 8 off his first 14 balls as the Renegades slumped to 2 for 12 after four overs. Neser hit his lengths superbly, and Harvey and Harper both fell trying to find the rope. Harper was caught attempting a ramp. Carey bravely took the catch running back and collided with Billy Stanlake, but both men avoided injury. White and Cooper took 20 from the last two overs of the Powerplay, but the required run-rate remained above nine-an-over.
Legless against legspin
Legspinners have dominated the BBL so far, and the Strikers picked two specialists in Rashid Khan and Liam O'Conner, along with the skipper's part-time leg breaks. Ingram used O'Connor in the first over and then brought him back immediately post the Powerplay. But it wasn't a magic delivery that made the breakthrough. Instead, Cooper bunted a long hop to cover. It started a sequence of eight straight overs of legspin that put the Renegades into the mire. They got out to good balls and bad ones. White was trapped plumb lbw, sweeping to Rashid Khan. Mohammad Nabi and Dan Christian were bowled by O'Conner and Ingram respectively to leave them 6 for 51. Ingram pushed his luck with a third over and finally paid a price for two waist-high full tosses, but the damage was done. The required run-rate reached 13 by the time pace returned and the game meandered to a tame finish.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne