Sydney Thunder’s Big Bash League season was over after they fell agonisingly short of chasing down the Melbourne Renegades’ target
Melbourne Renegades 6 for 189 (Harris 64, Sandhu 2-37) beat Sydney Thunder 180 (Rohrer 48, Nair 45, Richardson 4-22) by nine runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Melbourne Renegades put one foot in the Big Bash League semi-finals and eliminated Sydney Thunder with a thrilling nine-run victory in a high-scoring affair at Canberra’s Manuka Oval. Twenty sixes were hit between the two teams, the most in a single match for this tournament, including one Thunder over costing 25 and then another from the Renegades worth 28 runs for the Thunder.
Marcus Harris performed at the top of the order for the Renegades, and Beau Webster provided critical hitting in the final over of their innings to push the tally as far as 189. After losing early wickets, including the loss of Shane Watson to an outstanding catch by Kieron Pollard, it seemed the Thunder were going to fall well short, but some clean striking by Arjun Nair and particularly Ben Rohrer left the game in the balance. Ultimately the difference was made by Kane Richardson, the outstanding bowler on either side, granting his teammates enough runs to play with the closing overs. Renegades must now wait to see if they can be overtaken in the final games, with a game still in hand.
An opening at the top
Matt Short was Marcus Harris’ third opening partner for the tournament, after Aaron Finch and Tim Ludeman. The new-found formula worked handily for Renegades in a match they had to win, as the pair added 77 in 50 balls to set the innings off to a firm start. Harris was the more stroke-laden of the two, pining seven boundaries and two sixes during a stylish stay, while Short rotated the strike intelligently and offered right-handed contrast to mix up the lines of the Thunder bowlers.
Both batsmen were the beneficiaries of dropped chances, however, including Harris in the very first over of the match. Gurinder Sandhu angled a fullish delivery across him, and a push-drive resulted in an edge through to Jay Lenton that the wicketkeeper grassed while moving away to his left. Then in the fifth over, Short shovelled Mitch McClenaghan around the corner and straight into – then out of – the hands of Fawad Ahmed at short fine leg. McClenaghan’s frustration was swiftly transferred from Fawad to himself when he realised the umpire had signalled a no-ball, on a night when his bowling would prove particularly costly.
After a serviceable but by no means dominant middle period of the innings, Renegades entered the final over of their 20 on 6 for 164, a tally that left both teams in the contest. McClenaghan’s third over had been a good one, costing eight runs and claiming the vital wicket of Dwayne Bravo, so Shane Watson had little hesitation throwing him the ball for the 20th. In Ludeman and Webster, he was facing two batsmen without much to shout about over the course of the tournament, the former failing to top 14 in eight previous games, the latter only playing his second match of the tournament.
But a combination of looseness from McClenaghan – two rank wides as he failed to nail a pair of slower ball bouncer attempts – and sweet striking by Webster put space between the teams. Webster’s height gives him plenty of leverage, and after starting with a two, he crunched another McClenaghan short ball over the straight midwicket boundary. When the bowler corrected fuller, Webster swung effectively over square leg for another six, and closed out the over with a skimming drive that smoked to the cover fence. In one over the Thunder’s ask had gone from reasonable to steep.
Entering this match, Rohrer had not passed 30 in the tournament and looked, for the most part, like a cricketer with one eye on a post-playing future: he is, after all, already employed as Tasmania’s talent manager when not wearing the green and black. But in a scenario where the Thunder had to keep attacking despite losing wickets, he freed up to considerable effect. Nair had shown the way with a few meaty blows of his own, but it was Rohrer who delivered the massive over that briefly gave the Thunder a chance.
Sizing up Jack Wildermuth’s right-arm seam, Rohrer first targeted the cover boundary, first powering over it then thudding into it. The third ball was straighter, drawing a drive down the ground that trickled into the rope, the fourth on a similar line coaxing Rohrer to swing lustily over midwicket for a second six. He rounded off the over with a pair of slashes behind square that both reached the boundary, meaning all six deliveries had been despatched for either four or six, adding up to 28 runs in all.
Richardson gains just enough breathing room
When Rohrer was dismissed, the Thunder still needed 47 from the final five overs, and that had become 40 from 18 after Richardson concluded an immaculate spell by conceding just two runs from his final over while at the same time dismissing Aiden Blizzard and Sandhu. It was a display that underlined why he is a part of Australia’s Twenty20 squad for the looming triangular series, and left the Thunder needing another Rohrer-like burst of hitting.
For a time it seemed Chris Green might be up to the task, belting two leg side sixes off an over from the Renegades’ captain Dwayne Bravo over that ultimately cost 18, and leaving the Renegades defending 22 from the final two overs. However Chris Tremain delivered an excellent penultimate over, replacing Richardson, in which he avoided conceding a boundary and left Bravo with 13 runs to defend in the 20th over. The critical wicket fell first ball, Green skying Bravo, and from there Fawad and McCleneghan were always unlikely.