Sport Cricket Big Bash League Painting the town red, Renegades salute in Big Bash League final
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Painting the town red, Renegades salute in Big Bash League final

The Melbourne Renegades celebrate their maiden BBL title at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Getty
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It shouldn’t have been possible. The Melbourne Renegades were gone for all money at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

But somehow the Renegades managed to pull the Big Bash League title out of the fire against their crosstown rivals, Melbourne Stars, who stumbled dramatically to concede the final.

The Stars were cruising with an opening partnership of 93 in the 12th over, after winning the toss and conceding 144 bowling first.

But a scarcely credible collapse of 7-19 across five manic overs left their tail with far too much to do.

In the end the team in green only finished up seven wickets down, but were 14 runs short of the target, while the team in red became the first Melbourne side to become BBL champions.

It was one last moment of influence for a Docklands Stadium pitch that through the season has most politely been described as a dungheap.

Slow and difficult to time shots, only the Renegades’ semi-final last Thursday night has produced team scores above 150.

Ben Dunk set the tone for the Stars by playing shots early, carving over backward point as Marcus Stoinis took his time to settle in. But Stoinis had lifted his rate to 39 from 37 balls before missing a swipe at leg-spinner Cameron Boyce.

Ben Dunk’s 57 off 45 balls helped get the Stars’ chase off to a flying start. Photo: Getty

Peter Handscomb charged pace bowler Chris Tremain three balls later to sky a slog against a ball too short for the shot, then Dunk looked to smack Boyce’s final delivery over long-off but didn’t get enough distance.

Stars captain Glenn Maxwell had already been dropped during Tremain’s third over, a smoking cover drive intercepted by a diving Cameron White but jarring loose when White’s elbows hit the ground.

Maxwell had been the player to sneak his up-and-down team into the final, first with his 82 off 43 balls to stun Sydney Sixers in the last game of the regular season, then 43 not out steering the Stars home in a semi-final upset away from home in Hobart.

But he couldn’t do it three times running, mistiming a signature flick off the pads that fell short of the deep square leg boundary to start Tremain’s next over.

Renegades wicketkeeper Sam Harper attempts a run out amid the Stars’ collapse at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Getty

Four wickets in 14 balls, and a comfortable target of 53 from 43 had tightened to 47 from 29, but even then the equation shouldn’t have been beyond the Stars.

But Tremain finished a frugal over worth two runs, then Harry Gurney sent down one worth seven, capped off with Nic Maddinson’s wicket as the batsman mistimed an attempted scoop shot up in the air.

Plenty of sides have made 38 from 18 balls, but the 18th over from Dan Christian was the game-breaker. Seb Gotch slogged to deep midwicket, before Dwayne Bravo froze against a full toss and lobbed up a leading edge for White.

With 33 needed from 12, and bowlers Adam Zampa and Jackson Bird at the crease, no amount of late-order fight was going to win the day.

It was fitting that Christian should be the clincher with the ball, given his batting had first got the Renegades into the final, then had kept them in it.

His power hitting had rescued a faltering semi-final run chase with 31 not out from 14 balls. But in the final he had a very different job, having to rebuild the innings from the halfway mark after finding himself at the crease at 5-65.

A mixture of smart running and late hitting, including a searing flat cover drive for six, took Christian to 38 from 30 balls. Tom Cooper added 43 as the pair remained unbeaten in a vital partnership worth 80 runs.

Marcus Harris and Sam Harper had both been out early to charging pull shots against Bird, while Renegades’ captain Aaron Finch’s blighted run continued.

Since hitting a world-record T20 International score of 172 last July, Finch has barely got out of single figures for Australia’s white-ball teams, while starting and ending an unsuccessful run in the Test side.

In the semi-final he was frazzled enough to switch his stance to left-handed, charge down the pitch against spinner Steve O’Keefe, and aim a giant slog from about a metre outside what had now become his leg stump. He missed the lot and was bowled.

In the final he was minding his own business down the non-striker’s end until White drove a ball straight down the pitch, and Bird kicked it by reflex on to the stumps in his follow-through. Finch was run out for 14.

Zampa slid through the defences of White and Mackenzie Harvey, while his Nepalese leg-spin partner Sandeep Lamichhane slid through four overs for 16 runs, and the Renegades looked done and dusted.

But Christian and the Docklands Stadium would each have their final say, and Maxwell’s late-season run would be derailed.

In Melbourne, bragging rights for being first will forever rest with the side in red.