The tenth Melbourne Derby will take place on New Year’s Day when the Stars host the Renegades at the MCG.
The Stars got their tournament off to a winning start when they overcame the Hobart Hurricanes at Bellerive Oval on Boxing Day. After reducing the Hurricanes to 3/32, the Stars then took their foot off the pedal and allowed Hobart to rack up a considerable 4/188. Ben Hilfenhaus looked in great form, swinging the new ball and picking up wickets from consecutive deliveries before copping some punishment late in the piece to finish with 3/38 off his four overs. However Hilfenhaus was not the sole recipient of the Hurricanes’ hustling with Australian representatives Adam Zampa (0/41 off four overs) and James Faulkner (0/24 off two overs) both on the end of some serious retribution.
Luckily for their bowlers, the Stars batsmen were also in the mood to inflict some damage and mowed down the target with seven wickets in hand and 14 balls to spare. Opener Rob Quiney lead from the front with his first BBL half-century since the 2011/12 season, blasting 75 from 43 balls including five fours and five sixes.
Quiney put on 88 with fellow opener Luke Wright (48 off 29) to kick-start the chase, before Glenn Maxwell put the icing on the cake with a typically belligerent 58 off just 29 balls. Unfortunately for the Stars, Quiney will miss the Derby with a tight hamstring, however the hosts have a more than handy replacement in preeminent English batsman Kevin Pietersen who is available for his first match of the season.
The Renegades have split their opening two games, most recently suffering a heartbreaking last-ball defeat to the Perth Scorchers at Docklands Stadium. Batting first the Renegades couldn’t quite get going, with five batsman dismissed between 20 and 40 as they lurched their way to a below-par 8/148. Veteran Cameron White showed the most promise with 37 off 29 balls, however the Renegades sorely missed some power hitting at the death, with their last five overs only producing 29.
For the majority of the chase, the Scorchers looked in control and all hope appeared to have subsided for the Renegades in the 11th over when Dwayne Bravo was taken off after injuring his hamstring in the field. However some tight bowling from Sunil Narine (2/20 off four overs) and Chris Tremain (0/19 off four overs) kept the Renegades in the contest and a remarkable final over of part-time spin from captain Aaron Finch suddenly left the Scorchers with three to get off the last ball.
Sadly for the Renegades, Ashton Agar put Finch’s last ball into the crowd to secure a dramatic victory for Perth. Finch may have had more runs to defend off that over were it not for another sloppy performance from Nathan Rimmington who leaked a crucial 45 from his four overs, however Rimmington looks set to retain his place for the Derby given the continued absence of James Pattinson and Peter Siddle. Unfortunately for the Renegades, Bravo has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament with youngster Matt Short in the frame to replace the West Indian at the MCG.
Average first innings score at the MCG in BBL05 was 8/161 with four of six totals over 160. Despite that, the side batting second still won two-thirds of matches, including the second semi-final and final. English opener Luke Wright enjoyed his time at home last summer, averaging 52 for the Stars at the MCG.
- The Stars have won seven of their past nine matches.
- The Stars have also won seven of nine matches against the Renegades, including their last six straight.
- The Renegades have won only three of their last nine matches.
- However the Renegades have won four out of their last six away games.
The Stars are expected to continue their strong record over their city rivals, going into the game as warm favourites against the less fancied Renegades.
The hosts have been one of the more consistent sides in the BBL in recent times, reaching the semi-finals in every edition of the competition with a squad that has remained largely unchanged. A six-match winning streak in the Derby adds further weight to their chances here, as does the return of Kevin Pietersen to strengthen an already-firing batting unit. The fact their bowlers were successfully targeted by the lowly Hurricanes does raise a concern, however their attack has strong pedigree and I’m not confident that the Renegades – now shorn of Bravo and already light on lower-order hitters – can cash in at the death in the same way that Hobart did.
In what is quite a reversal from previous seasons, the Renegades’ strength lies in their bowling, especially the slow-bowling pair of Narine and Brad Hogg, however the loss of Bravo and poor form displayed by Rimmington hurts their ability to choke opponents at the death. The absence of the stylish West Indian all-rounder also puts further pressure on captain Finch at the top of the order to get the Renegades off to a flying start in the knowledge that the likes of Callum Ferguson and Peter Nevill lack the requisite acceleration in the final overs.
All that suggests that the Stars represent some value here and indeed I believe they do. However one shouldn’t overlook the fight shown by the Renegades in their last-start loss to the Scorchers, and any side boasting heavyweights such as Finch and Narine is capable of finding a way to win a match from almost any position. Therefore I’m advocating a back-to-lay strategy, where we side with the Stars pre-match then look to trade out in order to protect our position from any more miraculous Renegades fightbacks.
BACK-TO-LAY – Melbourne Stars at 1.72 or bigger for 2 units (trade out at 1.30 or better).