Melbourne Renegades 5 for 176 (Christian 49*, Nabi 48*, Rashid 2-13) beat Adelaide Strikers 5 for 174 (Short 65, Wells 42) by five wickets
Melbourne Renegades avoided being derailed by Rashid Khan – not that the legspinner didn’t try his best – as his Afghanistan team-team-mate Mohammad Nabi was able to take the bragging rights although victory was largely sealed by a magnificent display of coolness and composure by the globe-trotting Dan Christian. The win took them to the top of the points table.
The Renegades slid from 1 for 71 to 5 for 82 and looked to be heading out of the contest after Rashid struck twice in his second over but the response was assured from Nabi and Christian, who was in hospital during the early hours of the morning with food poisoning, as they added 94 in eight overs.
The Strikers had struggled early with the bat before a 104-run stand between Matthew Short and Jonathan Wells carried them to a competitive total, but the defending champions came up a little short in a terrific contest in front of more than 34,000 people at Adelaide Oval.
Trouble at the top
There is a lot of attention paid to Adelaide Strikers’ top three but in their first home outing of the season they couldn’t find their range. Alex Carey was kept off strike and then run out in a horrid mix-up with Jake Weatherald, who himself struggled to find the boundary with regularity – 13 off his 28 deliveries were dots – before top edging a sweep and Colin Ingram was given caught behind to one he may not have touched. In their opening match against Brisbane Heat it was only Carey who really fired, so they’ll want consistency from the top three sooner rather than later.
Renegades see what they lost
Short made the off-season move from Melbourne Renegades to Adelaide Strikers as he sought more regular playing opportunities. In the opening match of BBL08 against Perth Scorchers, his darting offspin played a very useful role and on Sunday showed the Renegades what could have been theirs. “Enjoyed that a lot,” he said at the change of innings, “I was pretty nervous beforehand.”
His 65 off 41 balls – the fifty coming off 32 deliveries – was a new career-best, overtaking the 62 he made for the Renegades in the final group-game last year only to be subsequently left out of the semi-final which they lost by one run.
He was smart in targeting the short boundary with two sixes in three balls off Jake Wildermuth, kickstarting the Strikers innings which had struggled for momentum.
Rashid’s impact on a T20 innings is beyond even the overs he bowls. The way the Renegades went ultra-hard in the Powerplay was, in no little way, because they knew they had Rashid’s four overs to face. Such was their position after five overs – 1 for 51 – that Rashid was on inside the Powerplay and immediately offered the Strikers control as his first over went for three.
Then he was brought back for the ninth over and that’s where he made his mark. Sam Harper, who had played another jaunty innings, walked across one that would have hit middle and then Cameron White was trapped by a zipping googly which caught him in front of off-stump. When Cameron Valente, making his T20 debut, had Tom Cooper caught at midwicket the Renegades had lost 3 for 2 in eight balls. The innings had changed in the blink of an eye.
It brought Nabi to the crease. In the build-up to the match he hadn’t been shy to say how he didn’t have any problems with Rashid. When the first ball he faced from Rashid bounced and beat his attempted cut, there was a cheeky smile from Rashid to his Afghanistan team-mate but two balls later Nabi responded with a thumping straight six.
The six by Nabi was the penultimate ball of Rashid’s second spell as one over was held back by Ingram. With him out of the attack, the Renegades were far more comfortable against the other Strikers bowlers. Ben Laughlin was taken for 15 off the 13th over and there was a sense that, while the experienced head of Christian was at the crease, the Renegades would be more than even money once he had his eye in.
Christian had only arrived back from the Mzansi Super League in South Africa a few days before the start of the BBL and his luggage – including his bats – did not make it to Melbourne with him straightaway, but he later said how the global T20 circuit meant he rarely felt out of rhythm and showed no ill-effects from his 4am journey to hospital.
Such was the work done by Christian and Nabi that they were able to play out Rashid’s last over for the tune of two runs, although that left them needing 33 off 18 balls. Christian didn’t risk leaving much to do in the final over. The 19th effectively finished the game as he clobbered Billy Stanlake for 20 including two huge sixes, which carried him over 4000 runs in the format, leaving Nabi to guide the winning boundary in the final over.