Melbourne Renegades 5 for 145 (Cooper 43*, Christian 38*, Zampa 2-21) beat Melbourne Stars 7 for 132 (Dunk 57, Tremain 2-21, Boyce 2-30) by 13 runs
Swooping as if from the clouds above Docklands Stadium, Melbourne Renegades snatched their first ever Big Bash League title from the Melbourne Stars by forcing an extraordinary collapse from their crosstown rivals, after Ben Dunk and Marcus Stoinis had appeared to have taken their side to the outskirts of victory.
Needing 53 from 43 balls with all 10 wickets in hand, the Stars lost a shuddering 7 for 39 from those remaining deliveries, turning a momentarily moribund spectacle into that familiar but always entertaining scenario, the rush of late wickets in the face of a mounting required run rate. Having previously monstered a pair of chases against the Renegades, the Stars fell in a heap, unable to be pulled out of their dive by the captain Glenn Maxwell.
Credit was due to the doughty bowling of Cameron Boyce, Harry Gurney, Chris Tremain, and Daniel Christian, as they aptly exploited the vagaries of a slow surface to prevent the Stars from scoring any boundaries between the end of the 12th over and midway through the last. Christian and Tom Cooper had earlier shrugged off the loss of early wickets after the Renegades were sent in to bat by Maxwell, forging a vital stand to mount a defendable total in the face of excellent work by the Stars spin bowlers in particular. Adam Zampa and Sandeep Lamichhane returned combined figures of 2 for 37 from eight overs, but they were to finish on the losing side.
Given two qualifying matches that both followed remarkably similar scripts - Stars bowling first, Renegades being restricted, Stars powering to a successful chase - it was not surprising to see the visiting captain Maxwell choose to attempt a similar path. He was to be well served by his bowlers seeking out well-defined weaknesses in the Renegades' top order: Marcus Harris coaxed into a pull shot he seldom controls, Sam Harper deprived of room to free his arms, and Cameron White pinned on the crease by Zampa's skidding leg spin.
These moments were added to another of pure unfortunate happenstance for the Renegades captain Aaron Finch, who was run out backing up when a straight drive deflected off Jackson Bird's boot into the stumps. At the end of a summer in which he gained and then lost a Test team place, and also battled as captain of the Australian ODI team, Finch was full of pent up frustration. A plastic chair halfway down the players' race duly copped the wrath of his bat, a moment captured on camera. It remains to be seen whether Cricket Australia's adjudicators will rule this worthy of a fine, given Matthew Wade was penalised $6000 for whacking his bat on a seat after his dismissal during last year's BBL final in Adelaide.
Christian, Cooper consolidate
One thing those early passages made categorically clear was that the Docklands Stadium pitch was far more like the usual surfaces used this tournament, as opposed to the pacier, more entertaining strip unveiled for the semi-final on the Friday night. Given these conditions, and the loss of so many early wickets, the Renegades' well seasoned middle order pair of Christian and Cooper made a visible recalculation of the possible. They reset the innings with a partnership building slowly on a foundation of singles and adjustment to the sluggish nature of the turf.
Entering the final five overs, the Renegades had a mere 91 on the board, but with Christian and Cooper now established they were able to accelerate with significant effect. Save for a superb 18th over by Bravo that conceded just three runs, the Renegades were able to find the boundary with regularity in collecting 54 from the final five overs in total. This included 17 from the 19th over, bowled by Daniel Worrall, and 12 from Bravo's last. Cooper lined up a slower ball from around the wicket and hoisted it well into the seats at midwicket, then pinched three from the final ball via a couple of overthrows.
Stars openers take their time...
Faced with a chase more tricky than terrifying, the Stars placed a premium on not losing any wickets to the new ball in the hands of Kane Richardson and Chris Tremain. Only three boundaries arrived in the Powerplay, as Dunk and Stoinis glided to 36 without loss in the knowledge that the required rate would be less of an issue with wickets in hand. The Renegades' awareness of the need for their own breakthroughs in the Powerplay was underlined by Richardson bowling three of his four overs in a row, before Cameron Boyce and Christian were milked for runs.
Dunk made it to his third half century of the tournament, and was playing the prime aggressor role while Stoinis turned the strike over alongside him, save for one towering six off Stoinis. It was in seeking to repeat the dose from the last ball of the 13th over that Stoinis was out for the first time in three innings and 187 runs against the Renegades this tournament, visibly admonishing himself for the shot to open an end for the Renegades. The scenario still looked very healthy for the Stars, but this was to reckon without the pressure of a final.
...But Renegades take it at the finish
A required rate that crept up slowly should not have been a major problem for the Stars with nine wickets in hand, but the pattern of shots that were to follow underlined both the difficulty of starting an innings on a tiring Docklands pitch and the cauldron-like nature of a stadium filled with 40,816 rowdy Melbournians. Peter Handscomb fell to a skied pull shot, then Dunk picked out long-off from the final ball of a Boyce spell that went from 0 for 22 after two overs to a meritorious 2 for 30 from four.
This wicket, the loss of the set batsman, turned the Renegades' celebrations from relieved to expectant, and thereafter the Stars' middle and lower order took on the stunned visage of cricketers caught in the Docklands Stadium floodlights. Maxwell shoveled the very next ball after Dunk's dismissal to deep backward square leg, Nic Maddinson checked a paddle at a Gurney slower ball and could only loft it to Finch at short fine leg, Seb Gotch picked out deep midwicket and Bravo front edged a Christian slower ball for a lollipop catch on the off side. From a point where the Stars needed 53 from 43 balls with all 10 wickets in hand, they were left with 28 required off the final over. Zampa's six and four in the final over were too little and far too late.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig