Saturday, January 2, 2016, 6pm AEDT, Melbourne Cricket Ground, watch on Network 10
Melbourne Stars: Sixth
Melbourne Renegades: Seventh
Melbourne Stars: 1-2
Melbourne Renegades: 1-2
Melbourne Stars: 2
Melbourne Renegades: 2
Melbourne Stars: WLL
Melbourne Renegades: LLW
THE battle for Melbourne hots up with the men in red taking on the green machine for bragging rights over the nation’s cricket capital.
The Melbourne Stars ($1.75 with WilliamHill.com.au) will welcome the Melbourne Renegades ($2.05 with WilliamHill.com.au) to the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground with hopes of squaring their Big Bash 2015/16 ledger.
The Stars started the season in dire straits with a pair of losses, but their talisman Kevin Pietersen went home for the Christmas and New Year period and they promptly got on the winners’ list, claiming a five wicket result over the Sydney Sixers in Sydney.
In that match, the Stars choked the life out of the Sixers, holding them to just 6/139, with Ben Hilfenhaus claiming 2/25 and Michael Beer going for just 16 off his four overs.
They then chased down the score easily, reaching 5/143 with eight balls to spare.
While they lost openers Marcus Stoinis (for a duck) and Luke Wright (8) cheaply, Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb combined to steady the ship, the former with 50 off 36 balls and the latter 52 off 40.
Then David Hussey struck an unbeaten 24 off 15 balls to guide the Stars home – after James Faulkner was dismissed for a golden duck.
Maxwell was in fine form, walking the line between the remarkable and the ridiculous as he always does, and copping some flak off national selector and Network 10 commentator Mark Waugh, who was critical of his decision to play a reverse sweep with the Stars still needing almost 90 to win.
“I hate that shot,” Waugh said after the shot.
“I tell you what, I would not have been happy (if Maxwell got out to the innovative shot).
“I would not have been happy.”
But the Big Show was having none of it and really had the last laugh as he put his side in the box seat.
“If you look back I got eight off three balls so I’m not going to stop playing it, it’s one of my best shots,” Maxwell said.
“You can see the way they set the fields it’s obviously in their minds as well.
“It’s the way I try and manipulate the field and it’s working at the moment.”
He says the use of spinners – captain Hussey employed the slowies in 12 of the first 16 overs against the Sixers – would be something the Stars would continue to do.
“I felt like that strategy is going to work for us most of the time during the Big Bash,” Maxwell said.
“It’s something we rely on heavily and it’s one of our main strengths having probably two of the best spinners in the competition in Beer and Zampa.
“They’ve been absolutely class for us.”
Another bloke with plenty of class is gun import Pietersen, who will be back in town for the derby. They won’t have seamer Scott Boland, who is likely to make his test debut for the Aussies the next day, and John Hastings suffered a shoulder injury in training and has not bowled this week.
He is under a cloud, but they will be doing every thing in their power to have him fit and firing for this one.
Last night, the Renegades rattled up 4/170 against the reigning champion Perth Scorchers, in what looked like a strong total.
Captain Aaron Finch was the lynchpin, clubbing 72 off 48 balls at a strike rate of 150, with six fours and three sixes, sharing a 98 run opening stand with master blaster Gayle, who struck three of the biggest Big Bash League sixes you will see in his innings of 41 off 35 balls (he took a while to get going).
Cam White fell for a golden duck and the Renegades did struggle to really get going late in the innings, with Matty Wade managing 35 off 25 balls and Dwayne Bravo 14 off 10.
But the Scorchers proved just how good they were, openers Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh tearing the Renegades’ bowling attack to shreds in a chase that was made to look remarkably easy.
They put on a 171 run opening stand, falling one run short of the Big Bash League’s record partnership, Klinger whacking 90 off 58 balls and Marsh 76 off 54 in the first 10 wicket win in the competition’s history.
The Renegades will need to bowl better if they’re going to beat the Stars in this one.
Match result: Melbourne Renegades win ($1.75 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Highest opening partnership: Melbourne Renegades ($1.78 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Despite their bowling deficiencies, that imposing Reds batting line up should be enough to cause a bookie upset and take the spoils of the Melbourne Derby. Finch, Gayle, Bravo, White and Wade is as good a top five as there is in the Big Bash. By contrast, the Stars’ batting does not look as deep as it once was. They still have Pietersen returning and he is the ace in the hole, but if he does not fire, it is hard to see them putting together a winning total. With Gayle and Finchy firing at the top of the order, you can’t go past that pair of superstars to have a higher opening partnership for the Renegades over the Stars. The Stars have always been known as the Renegades’ ‘big brother’ and the 5-2 record over the men in red – including wins in both matches last season – only enhances that. But this is the best squad ever assembled by Melbourne’s other team and we feel this match is ripe for the picking. If you want to have a crack at either team, sportsbet.com.au’s Big Bash special offers you a little bit of insurance for your punt. If your team scores 160 runs but loses the match, you’ll get your money back, up to $50.
Top run scorer tips
Luke Wright ($4.50 with Sportsbet.com.au)
The adopted English man has become part of the furniture in Melbourne town, and he is a celebrated figure in green. The club’s top run scorer, he is among the highest in the Big Bash, and he strikes them at almost 130. He’s unassuming, but wonderfully talented and, while he possesses the highest score in Big Bash history – 117 against Hobart, way back in the inaugural season of the competition – he hasn’t quite reached that stratosphere since. Could he do it against the ‘Gades?
Kevin Pietersen ($3.50 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Arguably the best batsman in the Big Bash League, Pietersen is a marvel of the game, combining elegance, power and precision. The English man holds the keys to any T20 game that he plays in. And this one is no exception. If he gets going and compiles a big score, it will go a long way to securing the points for the Stars. He made 25 and then a run a ball 49 in the two derby matches last season. Let’s hope he doesn’t have a hang over form the festive season and the birth of his second child.
Aaron Finch ($4 with Sportsbet.com.au)
The Renegades master blaster A1, with the brute Gayle at the other end. Gives you a chance every time he stands at the crease. Coming off 72 off 48 balls, Finch is in form, fit and firing. Always the aggressor, Finchy is a stone cold killer at the top and if he fires, the Renegades invariably win (unless it is against the Scorchers). A must in any top run scorer tips, with apologies to his mate Gayle.
Tom Beaton ($13 with Sportsbet.com.au)
When he came out to bat against … the Network 10 commentators were calling for the big hitters. Twenty three balls later, he was 41 not out, at a blistering strike rate of 178.26. The 25 year old had arrived. The punters still don’t see it that way, though, and behind the likes of Finch, Gayle and Bravo, it is not hard to see why. But their loss is your gain, this kid can seriously strike them and, should he get the opportunity to spend any sort of time at the crease, he will bash and crash with the best of them and reward your faith with his juicy price.
Top wicket taker tips
James Faulkner ($3.50 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Nicknamed the finisher with the bat, this guy is a demon with the ball. Australia’s one day and T20 star, Faulkner has the uncanny ability to choke out his opponents with a huge bag of tricks that always keeps the batsmen guessing. Has just the one wicket from his three outings this season, which is well below his usual high standards, so you can expect him to pull out all the stops in the clash with the bitter cross town rival. Has more wickets than any other Stars’ bowler for a very good reason – he is their best bowler.
Marcus Stoinis ($13 with Sportsbet.com.au)
With doubt over whether Hastings will suit up, the Stars may need to look at other avenues to eke out their 20 overs. We looked at the spinners Zampa and Maxwell, and, especially with the recent man of the match effort from Australian Test off spinner Nathan Lyon in the MCG test, they are certainly options, but we are trying to find an outsider in the market and you don’t get much longer than Stoinis. The all rounder hasn’t even had a roll yet, but, if he gets called upon he could surprise. Just a tiny drink on this one.
Dwayne Bravo ($3.50 with Sportsbet.com.au)
The West Indian magician is perhaps the ‘Gades’ best bowler, possessing the ability to take a match by the scruff of the throat in a few balls. He hasn’t quite imposed himself on a game with the rock so far this season, but you’d think it’s only a matter of time before he rips through a side. The Stars will be wary of the gun all rounder and he represents value at $3.50.
Chris Tremain ($4 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Tremain has copped some serious stick this season, but he has also been a wicket taker. He had three in his first two games and the tall and talented New South Welshman, who moved to Victoria in search of more opportunity a couple of years ago, can really cause some damage with his prodigious bounce. Needs to work on his control, but has the ability to bowl wicket taking balls and that is invaluable in the Big Bash League arena.