All eyes on spin after late semi-final switch
Until Sydney Sixers' dramatic collapse in the final group game this match looked to be heading to the SCG but now the Docklands pitch will be under the microscope again
For much of Sunday afternoon it appeared that this match would be played at the SCG. That was until Glenn Maxwell detonated for Melbourne Stars, sending the Sixers hurtling from second down to third via a heavy defeat to break a run of four consecutive wins, and at the same time gifting a home semi-final to the Renegades, their first since 2013. The change of venue from Sydney to Melbourne caused some late switches in travel plans, while also delaying the digging up of the Docklands Stadium drop-in pitch ahead of the AFL season.
But it remains to be seen whether playing at home helps the Renegades or hurts the Sixers, given that the two sides, each well stocked with spin and defensive pace bowling options, claimed sizeable victories on each other's home turf this tournament. When the Sixers comfortably defended a paltry 132 at Docklands, questions about the venue's tired pitch were as sharply directed as ever, before the Renegades turned the tide at the SCG by holding the Sixers to 115 and then sprinting past that tally in a mere 13 overs.
Both sides are missing key players due to the vagaries of the international schedule, Tom Curran departing the Sixers and Mohammed Nabi absent for the Renegades. The Renegades captain Aaron Finch said that his men had taken note of the way that Maxwell dismantled the visitors on Sunday, principally by getting himself set and being primed at the finish to capitalise on errors in length that became more frequent from the Sixers the closer Maxwell got to the finish.
What happened in the group stage
December 29, Marvel Stadium: Sydney Sixers 7 for 132 (Richardson 3-22) beat Melbourne Renegades 9 for 99 (Curran 3-18) by 33 runs
January 16, SCG: Melbourne Renegades 3 for 116 (Cooper 49) beat Sydney Sixers 9 for 115 (Curran 44, Nabi 4-25, Richardson 3-26 ) by seven wickets
Run to the finals
(last five matches, most recent first)
Melbourne Renegades LWWWL
Sydney Sixers LWWWW
In the spotlight
For a bowler discarded by Queensland and then Tasmania, Cameron Boyce's leg breaks have been remarkably useful this tournament, aided by the slow nature of the Docklands pitch but also highly effective elsewhere. Having spoken about the fact he thinks he is in better position to bowl at a higher level than he was at the times he was earlier chosen for Australia, Boyce now has a major stage on which to demonstrate this. "Boycey's been fantastic, he's always had the ability to bowl really well and be a big spinner, of the ball, which as a legspinner is crucial," his captain Aaron Finch said. "We've seen this wicket really suit him, but in saying that he's bowled well everywhere he's gone, his economy rate has been unbelievable for a legspinner, particularly an attacking one as well, so he's been a real star for us this year." Leading into this BBL, Steve O'Keefe had never claimed more than six wickets in a single tournament, nor played more than eight matches in one. He has blown away both elements of his T20 record this time around, nabbing 19 at 18.21 from 14 games while conceding just 6.65 per over despite often being used in the Powerplay. "Steve O'Keefe the season he's had has been pretty outstanding, bowling some really tough overs in the Powerplay, it's never easy," Finch said of O'Keefe and his offsider Nathan Lyon. "So the way they both bowl, they complement each other really well, left-arm/right-arm, one looks to spin it a lot, one looks to not spin it a hell of a lot but still has the ability to. They're going to be a real challenge on this wicket."
Melbourne Renegades: Aaron Finch (capt), Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Tom Cooper, Harry Gurney, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Cameron White, Kane Richardson, Chris Tremain, Jack Wildermuth
Sydney Sixers: Sean Abbott, Justin Avendano, Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Mickey Edwards, Moises Henriques (capt), Dan Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Ben Manenti, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Philippe, Jordan Silk, James Vince
Stats and trivia
Melbourne Renegades last hosted a semi-final in the second edition of the BBL in 2013, when they finished top of the table but failed to make the final
Sydney Sixers won the inaugural BBL in 2012, but have been unable to regain the trophy in six further attempts since then
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig