Melbourne Renegades 9 for 152 (Finch 54, White 40, Sandhu 3-23, Sams 3-29) beat Sydney Thunder 5 for 140 (Sangha 54, Ferguson 52, Gurney 2-27) by 12 runs

Melbourne Renegades solidified their place in the Big Bash League top four with a stout defence of 152 to defeat the Sydney Thunder - one of their nearest rivals on the competition table - by 12 runs in a defensive affair at the Sydney Showground Stadium.

The visiting captain, Aaron Finch, made a vital half-century, not only for the Renegades but his own peace of mind after a difficult summer, and with assistance from Cameron White was able to lift the Melbourne side to a defensible total on a somewhat sluggish pitch.

In the chase, Callum Ferguson appeared to have given the Thunder a strong chance to chase down their target, but his dismissal amid an admirably tight spell by Cameron Boyce - who had been unsuccessfully promoted to open with Finch - left the young batsman Jason Sangha unable to summon the big hits required to finish off the job.

Finch begins finding himself

Over a summer in which he graduated into, then flunked out of, the Australian Test team, Finch has seemed to get increasingly frazzled by the array of formats and tasks confronting him, to the point that his role as the national limited-overs captain in a World Cup year has become in danger of being affected. At the conclusion of the ODI series against India, the Australian coach Justin Langer expressed hope that Finch would regain some equilibrium via the BBL.

A halting stay worth only 14 in the Melbourne Derby was not exactly promising, but against the Thunder Finch was able to get himself going in the sort of manner he will hope to make a habit of over the next six months or more. Though the Renegades started off with the experimental presence of Cameron Boyce at the top of the order alongside Finch, the captain was able to build into an innings of confidence and some heavy hitting that reaped four sixes while not giving a chance until he fell to Sandhu. It's a long way from the World Cup final, but it's a start.

Sams, Sandhu keep Renegades in check

At 3 for 116 in the 16th over, the Renegades had successfully absorbed the loss of early wickets and also a parsimonious spell by Fawad Ahmed to appear set for a late ransacking of runs. However, Sandhu's fooling of Finch with a slower ball was to set the scene for a twist in the innings, as Sandhu and Sams put the clamps on by claiming regular wickets.

White's innings of 40, featuring 14 cuffed from one over from Chris Jordan, ensured the Renegades did not lose all momentum, but three wickets apiece for Sandhu and Sams had the Thunder looking confident at the innings break.

Ferguson sets things up

During a long career that might have featured more international cricket but for a terribly timed knee injury in 2009, Ferguson has proven himself to be an expert at the sorts of modulated, balanced innings critical to white-ball success. Coming in at the fall of Anton Devcich in the very first over, pouched at third man, Ferguson shrugged off the loss of the powerful Shane Watson shortly after to appear to set up the Thunder for a fruitful chase.

His stand with Jason Sangha relied upon Ferguson finding the boundary with some regularity, and when Sangha advanced to dispatch Boyce inside-out over cover in the 13th over, the partnership appeared set to enter another gear. That, though, was to reckon without Boyce.

Boyce holds the Renegades centre

Discarded by Tasmania and unwanted by Queensland after the Bulls chose to move on to the younger Mitchell Swepson, Boyce has proven an excellent acquisition by the Renegades as a willing wristspinner who has found an artful balance between defence and attack. His spell to the Thunder rather summed this up, as he conceded only a single boundary in four overs.

At the same time he was able to coax Ferguson into a blow that fell fractionally short of the long-on boundary and into the hands of a jumping Dan Christian, leaving Sangha to fight an ultimately losing battle with his own timing and boundary-scoring as the Renegades squeaked their way to victory.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig