Everyone loves an underdog. It was therefore with vocal and lively support that the Melbourne Renegades flew out of the blocks at the start of their batting innings against top-of-the-table Sydney Thunder.
After five different opening batting combinations and seemingly unable to settle on one, internationals Rachel Priest and Dane van Niekerk did what the Renegades had been unable to do consistently in the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League - bat. With panache, verve and a new-found confidence the openers plundered 56 runs from their first 6 overs.
For the first time in this tournament, the Thunder’s opening bowlers failed to deliver. Both Lauren Cheatle and Southern Star Rene Farrell were put to the sword by the Renegades opening batters, who timed and belted the ball to all corners.
"I’m really pleased with how our bowling unit has been performing," Sydney Thunder captain Alex Blackwell said pre-match. Six overs in and that sentiment was being tested to the core; having in-form strike bowlers is one thing, strength in depth a whole other.
Watch: Van Niekerk's big Etihad six
The Renegades opening partnership of 72 was the highest of any partnership to date for the Melbourne outfit. In reaching that score by the 9th over, Priest and van Niekerk gave the home side a platform they haven’t yet had the luxury of receiving. Sydney Thunder, sitting pretty at the top of the table, appeared to be suffering a role reversal against bottom-of-the-pile Renegades.
When van Niekerk fell for 29 off 24 balls, trying to replicate the crunching six she’d hit over mid-wicket earlier in the innings, the stage was set. While Priest continued to go about her business, reaching a well-made 50 off 48 balls, the Renegades however were unable to truly capitalise on their promising start.
Watch: Gibson's brilliant leg-spin with even better celebration
Captain Sarah Elliott, not perhaps known for her T20 skills, delivered the highest-strike rate of the innings, her delicate cuts and pin-point timing proving just as effective as any big biffs of the game.
Following her wicket for 18 however, it was a stop-start affair that ensued, as wickets tumbled consistently. The Thunder were clinical in pegging the Renegades back in the later overs and the Renegades, despite posting their joint highest score in the tournament to date, were perhaps a little subdued going into the innings break.
Watch: Priest powers Renegades with fifty
Still, 139 is no small total and by the third over of the Thunder’s innings, it looked a whole lot bigger. Molly Strano, hero of the hour in last week’s televised derby against the Melbourne Stars with the WBBL’s first five-wicket haul, was in the mix again.
The off-spinner’s second over and the third of the innings saw two wickets fall, as Strano accounted for both Thunder openers Rachel Haynes and Stafanie Taylor. Strano’s figures when televised, while not terrible off-screen, are phenomenal – with her second wicket she was on 7-23 from her two televised games.
Watch: Strano's starring role
By the ninth over, the Thunder were 4-43 – well below the run-rate and struggling for wickets too. An upset looked on the cards. Still at the crease however was the Thunder’s level-headed captain, Alex Blackwell. So often the one in at the end to knock off the winning runs for the Thunder this season, Blackwell has the tournament’s highest average of 86.33, thanks to a string of not out knocks.
On this occasion, Blackwell was once again there at the end - this time however, it wasn’t to hit the winning runs. Despite the captain’s best efforts, wickets continued to fall and she alone could not prevent the onslaught. A late innings rally between Blackwell and Rene Farrell got the pulses racing but in the end the Renegades final total was too far out of reach.
Spinners Sophie Molineux (3-18), Kris Britt (2-20) and Molly Strano (3-20) combined to pick up eight of the Thunder’s wickets as the Renegades multi-pronged spin attack delivered the goods, bowling Thunder out for 103.
Watch: Masterful Molineux takes three
Another result against the grain in the inaugural WBBL and the Renegades, with two wins from two on the big screen, will be wishing that every game they played was televised and in front of a big crowd - more than 14,000 were there to see the Renegades seal their victory. Perhaps next year, it will be.
Watch: Elliott seals win with brilliant catch
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