SYDNEY – The appearance of West Indians Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels created a great buzz and expectation around the cavernous ANZ Stadium but the match was as lacklustre as the crowd, as the Melbourne Renegades relegated the Sydney Thunder to their second loss of the Big Bash tournament while staking their own claim as title contenders.
Neither captain was certain at the toss as to what to do on the drop-in surface. Aaron Finch decided chasing again, after the Renegades success against the Stars, was the best policy when the coin fell his way.
The game meandered early despite Gayle’s presence. He and Usman Khawaja managed just 10 off the first three overs before Gayle clubbed Will Sheridan into the long-off seats to spark some interest.
But Gayle’s dismissal was a metaphor for the Thunder innings. He was run out when his bat got bogged in the soft turf as he tried to slide it safely to complete a tight but straightforward single. Thereafter the Thunder got bogged down at the hands of Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan and Man-of-the-Match Aaron O’Brien.
At 41 for 1 after 8 overs with Khawaja and Mark Cosgrove struggling to find any fluency, Muralitharan delivered four dot balls to Khawaja before trapping him lbw with the fifth. Khawaja’s dismissal sparked a horror collapse with the Thunder losing 6 for 19 in 6 overs of spin. O’Brien claimed three scalps, including Chris Rogers and former Pakistan international Azhar Mahmood in the same over, while Muralitharan added Cosgrove to his tally. Samuels removed Cameron Borgas to leave the Thunder reeling with just 36 balls remaining in the innings.
It was left to Chris Tremain and Ryan Carters to salvage the unsalvageable and they did an admirable job. The pair added 56, unbroken, to raise the total to a defendable 7 for 116, clearing the rope four times in the process. Their partnership allowed Dirk Nannes to charge in with the hope of wreaking havoc. His first two overs were frightfully quick and although they went unrewarded, Mahmood was able to claim the scalps of Daniel Harris and Samuels at the other end. Samuels fell in unusual fashion, deceived by a high full toss that dropped like a stone onto the base of middle stump. It was a brilliant slower ball that stunned Samuels to the point where he had to be reminded he was out.
It rocked the Renegades momentarily but the heroes of their opening night victory came together again to control the situation. Although Finch and Ben Rohrer were unable to see the chase to its conclusion, their composure and lack of panic during sporadic periods of stagnation meant the unfancied Melbourne side could cruise to their second win of the tournament and ascend to the top of the table.†††