Thursday, 19 December 2013

Big Bash League 2013-14 Match 1: Melbourne Stars vs Melbourne Renegades Preview

Just as it did last season, the Big Melbourne Derby kicks off the third edition of the KFC T20 Big Bash League, with the Stars and Renegades facing off at the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground tonight.

In last summer’s opener, all eyes were supposed to be on the long list of quality names on the Stars team sheet, but Renegades’ captain, Aaron Finch, ignored all that to start the tournament in spectacular fashion and clubbed a 65-ball unbeaten 111 to steer the Renegades to an eight wicket victory.

This year, the Stars still boast an impressive list of names, even if the great Shane Keith Warne has finally retired his flipper. No less than twelve of the 18 players in the Stars squad have some degree of International experience.

As always, that will matter little to the Renegades, who will once again be relishing the opportunity to rain on their big brother’s parade. Of course, they might consider themselves to the big brother in the Big Melbourne Derby, and bragging rights are certainly on the line again tonight.

Key Battle: Clint McKay v Aaron Finch

Finch is one of the undisputed master blasters of the BBL, and indeed T20 cricket around the globe, and how he takes on one of the craftier limited overs bowlers in the world, Clint McKay, will go a long way to deciding this first match of BBL|03.

Finch’s 111* in last year’s opener was the second-highest score of BBL|02, yet interestingly, he averaged only one six per innings for the tournament. He’s arguably an even more destructive batsman now, and now holds the highest T20 International score, an astonishing 156 off just 63 balls for Australia against England, in Southampton. His ability to manufacture shots and turn good balls into maximum runs makes him the danger man for the Stars’ attack.

McKay might just be the bowler to bring his Victorian team-mate undone, though, with his clever use of cutters, and his subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes of length and pace.

Dark Horse: Ben Rohrer

One of the more underrated batsmen in T20 cricket, Rohrer has an uncanny knack of being able to flourish in tight situations, crafting invaluable contributions from his own bat and guiding teams to unlikely totals in the process. Equally deft at squeezing ones and twos as he is tonking sixes out of nowhere, Rohrer’s impressive BBL|02 form earned him an Australian T20 debut last summer against the West Indies in Brisbane.

Last Time

January 6, 2013 at the MCG: the last outing between these two sides will be remembered most for the fiery mid-pitch confrontation between Stars’ then-captain Shane Warne, and Renegades import, West Indian all-rounder Marlon Samuels. Both players were guilty of needling the other, provocatively or otherwise, and it came to a flashpoint when the two stood toe-to-toe hurling obscenities at each other. With Warne miked-up for the match, it was abundantly clear the two weren’t exchanging Twitter handles.

The match itself was played before an Australian domestic cricket record crowd of 46,581 people on a Sunday night at the MCG, and saw another Aaron Finch-led demolition, with his unbeaten 67 leading the Renegades to 1/147 and a nine-wicket win. Renegades all-rounder, Will Sheridan, took 3/36 to restrict the Stars to 9/146 batting first.


Stars: Cameron White (C), Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Alex Keath, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Clive Rose, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Luke Wright

Renegades: Aaron Finch (C), Fawad Ahmed, Jos Buttler, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Jake Haberfield, Jayde Herrick, Muthiah Muralidaran, Peter Nevill, Aaron O'Brien, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Rohrer, Will Sheridan

Facts and Figures

Stars’ veteran Brad Hodge (342 runs, strike rate 144.91) was third on the BBL|02 runs tally, while Renegades’ batsmen Aaron Finch (332 runs, SR 125.75) and Ben Rohrer (295 runs, SR 152.06) completed the top five.

The Renegades boasted two of the top ten highest BBL|02 scores, with Finch’s 111* against the Stars, and English long-bomber Alex Hales’ (now with Adelaide) 89 against the Sydney Sixers. The Stars’ Hodge (88 v Adelaide), Cameron White (88 v Perth), and Glenn Maxwell (82 v Sixers) also made the top ten.

Stars’ Sri Lankan slinger Lasith Malinga - who should be available for Round 2 - took the BBL record figures of 6/7 from four overs against Perth last year, but incredibly, they aren’t the best figures recorded in T20 cricket. Somerset’s Arul Suppiah took 6/5 in the English T20 comp in 2011, while Shakib Al Hasan took 6/6 in a Caribbean Premier League game in August this year.

While Malinga’s 13 wickets also feature highly, the Renegades own Sri Lankan superstar, the one and only Muthiah Muralidaran, rounded out the top five wicket-takers in BBL|02 with 11, at the superb economy rate of 5.96 runs per over bowled.

Broadcast: from 7:30pm AEDT on Channel 10, and on Fairfax Radio Network.

Twitter: #BBL03



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