Melbourne Renegades 139 for 6 (Russell 57, Finch 31*, Neser 4-32) beat Brisbane Heat 137 for 8 (Peirson 45*, Rogers 4-23, Hosein 3-26) by four wickets
On a tricky surface at Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium, Renegades were in major trouble in their chase of 138 after Neser’s heroics. But Russell turned the match on its head with 57 off 42 balls punctuated by six mighty sixes.
In a see-saw finish, continuing a string of tight finishes to start BBL12, a scratchy Aaron Finch held his nerve to hit the winning boundary in the final over as Renegades celebrated their third straight win to start the season.
Heat are winless having lost both their games to Renegades.
Neser returns to the BBL in style
Relieved of Test duties, Neser enjoyed his return to the BBL with a wicket first ball to dismiss Sam Harper, who flicked a leg-stump half-volley straight to the fielder inside the ring.
But there was nothing fortuitous when Neser found the perfect line and length to graze the edge of Jake Fraser-McGurk’s bat in the last ball of the first over.
With his next ball, in the third over, Neser bowled Renegades’ captain Nic Maddison, who chopped onto his stumps, before claiming a hat-trick in stunning style by rattling the stumps after Jonathan Wells didn’t play a shot.
It might be a different format but Neser showed why he is unlucky not to be a regular member of Australia’s stacked pace attack in Test cricket. In a silver lining, he produced just the ninth BBL hat-trick.
Dre Russ launches audacious counterattack
At 9 for 4, there were shades of Sydney Thunder’s embarrassing all out 15 but Russell made a mockery of conditions and Renegades’ precarious position. He smashed three sixes off a red-hot Neser to change the complexion of the game within minutes.
Heat’s captain Jimmy Peirson gambled with spinner Mitchell Swepson in the sixth over and Russell promptly greeted him with a massive six over long-on. It was either feast or famine for the West Indian, whose first four scoring shots were sixes.
With brute power, Russell wound the clock back to notch up his first BBL half-century in his 25th innings. But he appeared to have suffered a wrist injury and wasn’t quite the same as his belligerent innings came to an end in the 15th over amid the power surge.
In the midst of a brief four match-stint before playing in the UAE’s inaugural ILT20 league, Russell made a big impact having previously expressed disappointment of being overlooked during the BBL draft.
After Heat elected to bat, Maddinson gave the new ball to spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who was playing against his old side, and Akeal Hosein.
It proved a masterstroke as they removed big-hitting Max Bryant and Colin Munro, but Renegades’ attack was soon thwarted by Matthew Renshaw and Sam Billings.
Rogers continued to extract menacing bounce from the surface, with one rising delivery hitting Peirson on the back of the neck, and added two more wickets to his career-best BBL performance.
He’s now taken seven wickets in three games this season and beefed up Renegades’ attack along with Mujeeb and left-arm spinner Hosein, who finished with three wickets and also starred with the bat.
Full report to follow…
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth
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