Thunder sink reigning champions in Geelong
Action-packed half-centuries from Usman Khawaja and Alex Hales lead Sydney Thunder to victory over Melbourne Renegades
Louis Cameron at GMHBA Stadium
19 December 2019, 10:39 PM AEST
The match in a tweet: Nail-biter in G-town! A topsy-turvy match after Khawaja and Hales team up to fire the Thunder to a final-over victory.
The Score: Melbourne Renegades 5-169 (Marsh 42, Harper 39) lost to Sydney Thunder 4-171 (Hales 68, Khawaja 66) by six wickets with two balls to spare.
The Hero: Starved of the strike and seemingly struggling for rhythm early on, Alex Hales exploded to announce himself as one of the batters to watch in BBL|09. Against the side he played one game for back in BBL02, the Englishman had a sluggish start but ensured Usman Khawaja nonetheless saw plenty of the strike in a 99-run first-wicket stand. After his opening partner departed in the 12th over, he went ballistic to crash 48 off his last 18 deliveries. Although his exit to Nottinghamshire teammate Harry Gurney was ill-timed with fewer than four overs to come, he had reduced the required run rate to a manageable run-a-ball.
The Supporting Cast: Dropped from Australia's one-day side this week to add to his recent Test axing, Usman Khawaja batted like a man with a point to prove. After taking new Renegades import Richard Gleeson apart in the Power Play (more on that below), he looked to be guiding the Thunder's run chase perfectly and found the boundary every time the asking rate inched towards 10 per over. A 16-run over off key spinner Cameron Boyce eased the pressure as he and Hales laid a match-winning platform for the Thunder.
The Consolation Act: It's a sign of how far Sam Harper has come and how highly the Renegades now rate him that he edged out Marcus Harris for the right to start the tournament as Aaron Finch's opening partner. The champions' leading run-scorer last season, Harper begun BBL|09 with a bang as he smashed 39 off just 19 balls to help the hosts take 61 off the Power Play. While a series of audacious scooped boundaries were no surprise given how well he played that stroke last summer, a pair of straight sixes highlighted the diminutive right-hander's improved power game. With Finch largely playing second fiddle, Harper's exit (caught at point off Sams) was about as graceful as the Gades could have hoped for; it brought Marsh to the crease with the majority of the innings to bat.
The recruit: The Renegades brought in Shaun Marsh this season to add some polish to their top order after they remarkably hit only three half-centuries in their championship run last summer. And while they didn't get one in their first game of their title defence, the Gades will be encouraged by his first-up outing. After Harper and Finch's flying start, the left-hander anchored the innings with typically sound judgement. A pulled six off an Arjun Nair delivery that barely got over knee height and a glorious back-away-cut over point for four showed why he averages nearly 50 for his career in the BBL.
The golden caps: It's early days, but the Thunder now possess the BBL's two golden cap wearers after Arjun Nair taking his fourth wicket (nudging out Daniel Sams, who also has four, by virtue of getting to the mark first) and Khawaja brought his run tally to 88. The Thunder will be pleased with the efforts of their so-called mystery spinner Nair, especially after removing Finch (holding his nerve after getting spanked for six by him) and Marsh.
The match-up: It was a rude introduction to the BBL for Englishman Richard Gleeson, who Usman Khawaja took a liking to in the Power Play. The left-hander smashed Gleeson for four consecutive boundaries and 23 runs from 10 balls in total.
The auction: Aaron Finch will play for his EIGHTH Indian Premier League side after being bought for a cool $AUD900k while he was in the field. Mic'ed up for Channel 7, Finch declined when Ricky Ponting asked whether he wanted to know what his pay cheque came in at. The Renegades skipper is in for a happy surprise when he checks his phone post-match.
The catch: He hits bombs, he bowls quick … it turns out Daniel Sams is a pretty handy fielder too. The Thunder allrounder was pumped after hanging on to a low running catch on the deep mid-wicket boundary. Sams' snare was vital in the context of the match, handing the visitors the key scalp of Marsh at a crucial juncture in the 17th over to halt their momentum late on.
Look at the big man get low! Daniel Sams with a crucial catch in the deep. Shaun Marsh is GONE. #BBL09 pic.twitter.com/w6iKxZGoBa— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) December 19, 2019
The shot: It's scary to think this man is not in England's one-day or T20 sides at the moment. Hales exploded late on and this shot off Dan Christian over fine leg for six will not have escaped the attention of opposition BBL scouts … nor perhaps his national selectors.
The over: 6444 – in four balls off Dan Christian, Hales changed the entire complexion of the match. After his enormous six over fine leg (see above), he hit three consecutive boundaries (one was courtesy of a Jack Wildermuth misfield, much to Christian's dismay) to settle the run rate at six for the final four overs, meaning the Gades' impressive death-bowling unit did not have enough runs to play with.
The fielding: Harper will not want to see this again, though his teammates are hardly in a position to criticise him. With the Renegades' closers sniffing a collapse after the departures of Hales and Khawaja, the young keeper failed to get a glove on a tough high ball off Matthew Gilkes. Misfields from Finch, Jack Wildermuth and Beau Webster added to the Gades' fielding woes and proved crucial in a tight game.
Up, up, uppppp..... 😫 #BBL09 pic.twitter.com/MjeFNLtarc— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) December 19, 2019
The next stop: Does a hostile welcome await Shaun Marsh on Saturday? The long-time Western Australia favourite will play against his former side the Perth Scorchers when the Gades head west for Saturday's encounter. The Thunder have now split their opening two games and will be straight back in action in two days' time when they take on the Adelaide Strikers in Canberra.
Renegades XI: Finch (c), Harper (wk), S Marsh, Webster, Cooper, Christian, Wildermuth, Boyce, Richardson, Gleeson, Gurney #BBL09— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 19, 2019