Heroes to zeroes: Boyce reflects on a Gades-crash
Veteran leggie insists there is no finger pointing as the Melbourne club wonder where it has all gone wrong in their BBL|09 campaign to date
13 January 2020, 08:18 PM AEST
Melbourne Renegades' record-setting ninth consecutive defeat which all-but ended their KFC BBL title defence might also prove the most instructive among their litany of losses.
Set 174 by the Adelaide Strikers on a dry but true pitch last Sunday, the Renegades' batting misfired early and was then unable to find fluency as they were bowled out for 110 in the 20th over, their lowest total of a disappointing BBL|09.
A reason why the champions believed the Strikers' total was eminently gettable at the innings change was the corresponding match a year ago, when the home team posted 174 and the Renegades duly reeled it in with five deliveries to spare.
While there has been a notable change in personnel across the intervening 12 months (six of the 11 in Renegades uniforms were present on the previous visit to Adelaide Oval), the shift in morale has been even more marked.
"For whatever reason, we're not getting it right," Renegades leg-spinner Cameron Boyce said in the wake of their defeat to the Strikers, which saw the titleholders set a new benchmark for the worst start to a BBL season.
"It's not time to point the finger or play the blame game.
"We're doing it as a collective at the moment, and we need to figure out by ourselves internally how to get out of it because what we're putting forward just isn't good enough."
A more detailed comparison of the Renegades a year ago and the current iteration corroborates Boyce's claim there is no single, simple explanation for their fall.
After their first nine matches of BBL|08, the eventual winners sat second on the ladder (behind the Hobart Hurricanes) with five wins from nine matches and little outward indication they were bound for the trophy.
Their batting had been solid, led by opener Sam Harper who was ninth-highest runs scorer in the competition, but the Renegades strength was largely built on their bowlers' ability to keep opponents to manageable totals.
They boasted six bowlers in the top-30 wicket takers (Kane Richardson, Pakistan left-arm quick Usman Shinwari, Dan Christian, Boyce, Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi, and Jack Wildermuth) while a year later that representation is reduced to three.
And of that trio, Richardson is currently unavailable due to his commitments with the men's ODI team in India and overseas signing Richard Gleeson (seven wickets at a cost of 10.03 per over) has proved so expensive he was omitted from the starting line-up for Sunday's game in Adelaide.
It's not only the lack of penetration with the ball – the defending champions' ability to quell rivals in the final 'death' overs is among the least effective in the competition.
Having clawed back the Strikers' scoring rate after their explosive start on Sunday, the Renegades then conceded 66 from the last 30 deliveries.
Compounding that shortcoming, they remain unable to consider their 'death overs specialist' – England seamer Harry Gurney who was a key to last summer's triumph – who suffered a hamstring strain early in BBL|09 and is expected to miss most of the tournament.
In addition, the Renegades learned shortly before the season began that overseas signing Shinwari was rendered unavailable after being called up to Pakistan's Test squad.
However, the reduced potency of their bowling has seemingly been counter-balanced by increased productivity among their top-order batters.
Harper has been only marginally less effective this summer, high-profile signing Shaun Marsh has excelled and is currently second-highest runs scorer (behind Marcus Stoinis), and Beau Webster sits fourth on that list.
Webster has been a revelation with 311 runs at a strike rate of 145.33 (including 49 from 33 balls) on Sunday, and with Marsh (21 from 29) was the only member of their outfit to reach double-figures against the Strikers.
Where the Renegades have fallen away most sharply is the contribution from their middle-order batters who were crucial in orchestrating successful run chases or late-innings power-hitting in their championship summer.
In particular, it was allrounders Christian and Nabi, along with experienced Tom Cooper who began the Marsh Sheffield Shield season in outstanding form for South Australia, who powered the Renegades in the back-half of their batting during BBL|08.
However, Christian (95 runs at an average of 11.88 from his nine innings this season) and Cooper (42 runs at 7.00) have proved a reduced threat, while Nabi only returned to the Renegades on Sunday when he claimed 1-33 from four overs and scored six from 11 balls.
"Nabs is a world-class player," Boyce said of the former Afghanistan captain who will assume heavy responsibility for the remainder of the campaign.
"It obviously didn't go to plan with the bat for him (on Sunday), but he bowled beautifully and he's one of the guys who brings a lot of experience to the team.
"We've got a wealth of games under our belt with the guys we do have in the team at the moment (despite skipper Aaron Finch and Richardson being absent on national duties).
"There's certainly no excuses, but it's not a blame game. We're not pointing fingers at anyone individually."
While Boyce – who was his team's best-performed bowler last Sunday with 1-22 from four overs – claimed scapegoats weren't being sought for the Renegades' historically poor start, there was an urgent need for individual players to stamp their mark on future games.
Given that player-of-the-match honours invariably reside with the winning team, it's hardly surprising the Renegades have yet to produce an award recipient in their nine matches of BBL|09.
At the same stage of BBL|08, they not only boasted five recognised match-winners, that prize had been shared by four equally influential players – Harper (twice), Shinwari, Christian and Richardson.
As such, Boyce believes the Renegades horror run can be snapped if they're able to snare victory in a close game or if the deeds of one or two can ignite some self-belief within a group searching for answers as well as positives.
"Either a win, or someone putting their hand up with a really good individual performance, to try and get the guys up and going," he said when asked what the team most sorely required.
"But it's tough. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard to think we need to win a game every time we walk out on the pitch, because that's realistically what we have to do (to reach the play-off rounds).
"I feel a little bit for our fans at the moment, who are trying to ride each game as well.
"You could probably call it frustration, but I think the guys have pretty clear plans as to what we need to do.
"A lot of luck comes into that as well. I feel like we've had a lot of things go against us, but as a collective we're just not getting it right so we just need to sort it out."