Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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Melbourne Renegades 5 for 129 (Marsh 57, Finch 37, Grant 3-20 ) beat Brisbane Heat 6 for 128 (Lehmann 65, Nabi 2-19, Zahir 2-21, Richardson 2-22) by five wickets
Melbourne Renegades brushed aside a second-string Brisbane Heat with a five-wicket victory in Geelong to notch consecutive victories for the first time this BBL season.
Renegades limited a decimated Heat, featuring eight debutants, to 6 for 128 on a sluggish pitch and then cruised to victory with Shaun Marsh smashing a 35-ball 57.
After 12 of their players and head coach Wade Seccombe tested positive for Covid-19, Heat's home clash against Sydney Sixers on Wednesday night was postponed but they were able to ensure this game went ahead following a late scramble for replacement players.
Renegades (3-5) have revived their season with wins over shorthanded opponents Melbourne Stars and Heat, leapfrogging to fifth on the ladder.
Renegades' spinners trouble Heat
After electing to bowl, Renegades aimed to put the inexperienced Heat under pressure on a slow pitch but their quicks were too wayward. Spinners Zahir Khan and Mohammad Nabi, who substituted paceman James Pattinson, turned things around after the four-over powerplay as Renegades almost predictably turned the tables.
Zahir bowled three overs on the trot early to pin down Heat as he unleashed his trademark tricks to give Renegades a stranglehold. Zahir and Nabi did the bulk of the heavy lifting but canny seamer Kane Richardson, who has had a stellar season, enjoyed the sluggish pitch to stymie Heat in the death overs.
It certainly wasn't their toughest test, but Renegades did the job and recovered well after a sloppy start.
Lehmann stars in BBL return
There was, obviously, an unknown over this new-look Heat batting order. But BBL debutant Jack Clayton impressed with a trio of boundaries in his first seven deliveries faced as Heat powered to 0 for 33 after the four-over powerplay.
The Queensland contracted player took a liking to pace but the beguiling spin of Zahir proved tougher and he succumbed second ball trapped in front attempting to sweep when on 15.
A depleted Heat welcomed the addition of Pakistani batter Fakhar Zaman, who made his BBL debut having been a recent international signing. But his stay was brief, holing out to Zahir as Sam Heazlett - one of two incumbents from Heat's previous game - and stand-in skipper Tom Cooper fell shortly after to leave the visitors in a hole.
They were held together by Jake Lehmann, son of Heat assistant coach Darren Lehmann, and the former Adelaide Striker showcased great maturity as wickets fell around him. Having played 30 BBL games previously, Lehmann posted his maiden T20 half-century in his first BBL game in three years.
In a bid to accelerate late, Lehmann shuffled around the crease to great effect and almost batted through the innings ensuring the understrength Heat posted a reasonable total given the circumstances.
Vintage Marsh impresses
Renegades look a far more formidable team with Shaun Marsh back in the line-up. In his second game back after a serious calf injury, the 38-year-old was in sublime touch marked by a gorgeous on-drive in the third over as he scored 19 of their first 20 runs.
Australia T20 World Cup-winning captain Aaron Finch was merely a spectator as Marsh's class came to the fore with classic square drives then he launched consecutive straight sixes in the eighth over to bring up a half-century off just 31 balls.
Finch inevitably got in on the act with a couple of monster sixes off spinner Cooper in the 10th over as Renegades eventually romped to victory in the 15th over.
While they've taken advantage of two weakened opponents, Renegades are building momentum to be right in the mix for a playoff berth.
Grant impresses with ball
Quick David Grant made a spectacular BBL debut when he clean bowled Sam Harper in the opening over with a yorker. But against veterans Marsh and Finch, it was tough going for Heat whose pace attack included Ronan McDonald, who played two Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland nine years ago, and 19-year-old Will Prestwidge.
They had few answers in a baptism of fire for the newcomers. The pressure was on frontline spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who was thwarted by the experienced batters playing him cautiously. He eventually picked up Marsh but it was too late.
Grant, who plays for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield, was a shining light showcasing clever slower balls.
Heat (3-6) gave it a crack but just didn't have the firepower as they slipped below Renegades and into sixth position on the ladder.