Over the past decade, It’s been almost the expectation that the away team has its life sucked away at Kardinia Park.
Geelong know how to use their home ground’s narrow confines to make free-flowing football an almighty challenge. The Cats have been organised, full of experience, and largely looked in control. On Wednesday night, the Melbourne Renegades may as well have been wearing the navy and white hoops.
The Big Bash League had been taken to the recently renamed GMHBA Stadium, and the Renegades brought their suffocating style down the highway to win their third match from four this BBL season, and ensure the Sydney Sixers remained winless at the halfway mark of their campaign.
The Renegades sent the Sixers in after winning the toss, and, in front of a crowd of 23,586, implemented the sort of slick, tight, disciplined bowling effort we’ve come to expect from them this summer. Their effort left the Sixers bogged down and barely able to find the boundary. For much of the Sixers’ innings their run rate was more of the kind found in a 1980s one-dayer than a modern-day Twenty20 clash.
Arguably the best thing for the Renegades was their fielding, which had been their Achilles heel. Aaron Finch snared a sharp one-handed catch to remove the badly out of sorts Jason Roy for five, while Dwayne Bravo nailed a direct hit from 30 metres to run out Nic Maddinson for 24.
Mohammad Nabi opened the bowling and again excelled, taking 2-22 from his four overs. But such was the Renegades’ dominance that sort of economy rate was almost over par. They used just five bowlers, with Kane Richardson (0-13), Jack Wildermuth (1-20), Brad Hogg (1-26) and Dwayne Bravo (3-29) all keeping the pressure up in their four overs as the Sixers crawled to 7-111 from their 20 overs, with stand-in captain Johan Botha top scoring with 32 not out from No. 8.
The early overs of the chase were frustrating for the Renegades, who struggled to get the ball of the square after losing Marcus Harris in the first over. After three single digit scores to open the season, Renegades captain Finch still couldn’t find his groove. Then bang. The hometown hero whacked 17 runs from the sixth over, bowled by debutant Mickey Edwards, and the genie had been uncorked. Soon he and Cameron White looked in control.
White is arguably the safest hand in the competition at present. His assuredness at the crease typifies a Renegades team that looks a serious title challenger. Finch pleased the locals by becoming the first player to reach 50 15 times in the BBL, before being run out for 51 from 38 balls. Not that his dismissal really mattered, as the Renegades coasted to an eight-wicket victory with 27 balls to spare. White was left unbeaten on 49 from 44 balls after Bravo hit a four to win the game.
The Sixers are just about cooked. They came close to upsetting the Perth Scorchers two nights earlier, but without captain Moises Henriques (personal reasons), batsman Daniel Hughes (quad) and veteran spinner Steve O’Keefe (ankle), they look unthreatening both on paper and in action. A fresh shoulder concern for Maddinson only makes things worse. They are clearly in the wooden spoon frame along with Hobart. Oh, and the other Melbourne team.
The Renegades, who have played the same XI in all their games, now turn their attention to Saturday night’s derby against the Melbourne Stars at the MCG.
The Stars are on the ropes at 0-3 after unravelling at home to Brisbane Heat on Tuesday night. On form there is no reason to tip them. They are everything the Renegades aren’t at the moment: disorganised, lacking composure, bereft of performing leaders. It’s long been said that ladder positions count for little in derbies. For the Stars’ sake, it better not.