by Paul Barbieri, Omnisport
The Melbourne Renegades produced a brilliant performance in the field as they returned to winning ways with a 48-run victory over the Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday night at Etihad Stadium.
Having been sent in to bat by Strikers skipper Johan Botha, the Renegades posted 6-155 off their 20 overs as Tom Cooper led the way, posting a composed 59 off 46 deliveries, while Ben Rohrer chipped in with 35.
With plenty of batting power in the sheds, the Strikers still looked capable of taking down the target, especially as Michael Klinger (24) and Tim Ludeman (six) produced a solid start in the chase.
But when Ludeman fell to a brilliant catch by Aaron O'Brien - the fielder was knocked off his feet at mid-wicket by the sheer power of the opener's shot - it was all downhill from there for the Strikers as they lost six wickets for just 34 runs.
Three of those came from veteran spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who was on a hat-trick during the 11th over after taking out Kieron Pollard (0) and Theo Doropoulos (0) lbw. Michael Neser fended away the hat-trick ball but by then it was still all over for the Adelaide side.
There was still time for a nice act of sportsmanship from Renegades skipper Aaron Finch during the 14th over as Neser was run out when he failed to ground the bat running through for a second run. However as Neser lost his bat in a collision with Darren Pattinson while racing to make his ground, Finch withdrew his appeal and the batsman stayed on.
Although Botha went on to make 31 and Neser an unbeaten 29, the Strikers were eventually dismissed for 107 with 10 balls to spare.
Where it was won
The Renegades pretty much wrapped this one up with their performance in the field. The home side's score of 155 wasn't a bad effort on a slow pitch but it still seemed a total that would need some solid defending against the likes of a master blaster like Pollard. But the Renegades rose to the occasion in the field, even if Adelaide self-destructed somewhat.
Where it was lost
As mentioned above, the Strikers self-combusted in a big way early in their innings. Ludeman and Klinger both fell to quality catches off reasonably good strokes, but Callum Ferguson's dismissal for six was especially soft as he misjudged Marlon Samuels and found a leading edge, spooning the ball up for a simple catch. Nathan Reardon also disrespected Muralitharan as he raced down the pitch, only to find he hadn't anticipated the doosra and was bowled. And with the Strikers in a perilous position, both Pollard and Doropoulos opted to defend against Muralitharan with their pads. On a pitch that wasn't offering much bounce right from the outset, such a move was sheer suicide against the Sri Lankan veteran.
Who killed it
Tom Cooper - Cooper's innings may not have featured the big pyrotechnic hits other batsmen have produced throughout this series, but it may prove one of the most important for the Renegades this summer. Teaming up with Ben Rohrer, the pair added 46 as they stabilised the Melbourne side's innings after the loss of early wickets. Cooper didn't lose his head either throughout his knock, opting for the quick singles and twos as he helped the Renegades build a defendable total in conjunction with Will Sheridan (15 not out) late in the innings.
It's tough to go past Pollard's brilliant catch to remove Renegades danger man Ben Rohrer for 35. Having reduced the 'Gades to 3-51 when Aaron Finch holed out, Rohrer and Cooper had stabilised the Melbourne sides' innings and were poised to really step it up, having added 46 off 41 balls together. But Rohrer, the ice man in so many innings for the Renegades so far this summer, got a little cute off Pollard as he attempted to chip the West Indian over the infield, miscuing his shot. It was all the opportunity the athletic Pollard needed as he ran back 15 metres with the flight and caught Rohrer with a diving one-handed effort. Tim Ludeman also dismissed Tom Cooper with a one-hander off the last ball of the Renegades' innings with a catch that was probably a little better than Pollard's but for sheer spectacle it has to be the West Indian's effort.
Where to next
The Renegades head to the MCG for the second Melbourne derby of the season against the Stars on Sunday evening at 7pm AEDT. The Strikers, meanwhile, head to Hobart to play the Hurricanes on Saturday evening at 7pm AEDT.