Skipper Aaron Finch returns to the Renegades line-up. Image courtesy of news.com.au
For the second season in a row, Brisbane Heat stormed home in the back half of the Big Bash League, but unlike last campaign they Darren Lehmann’s squad has qualified for the semi-finals with three wins from their last four starts. Importantly, Brisbane has been very good on the road this season beating Adelaide, Sydney Thunder and Hobart away from the ‘Gabba. The bad news is that one defeat came against the Melbourne Renegades , their opponents in Tuesday night’s first semi-final.
The Renegades have received a massive boost with Aaron Finch dropped from Australia’s one-day squad after a pair of failure in the opening two ODIs. Finch has been nothing short of dominant opening the batting in the BBL amassing 309 runs at an average of 77, to go alongside a strike-rate of 128.
Finch has smashed 31 boundaries and cleared the ropes seven times this season, and the only man to top that number is Heat opener Luke Pomersbach . His whirlwind 82 off 42 balls against the Hurricanes almost single-handedly won the game, and after looking rusty early in the tournament, he suddenly finds himself in the sort of form that had him playing for Australia a few seasons back. The former West Australian received a nasty blow on the foot against Hobart, and he will be monitored up until game time but should play.
There are three openers with the potential to win this game off their own bat. Most Australians wouldn’t have seen Alex Hales before the Renegades’ win over the Sydney Sixers last week, but his one-two punch with Finch gives Melbourne the most devastating opening combination in the competition. The Englishman’s blazing 89 off 52 balls set the SCG alight and showed that his recruitment was a shrewd move after the loss of West Indian Marlon Samuels after the shocking eye injury he suffered against the Stars.
Samuels’ impact will the ball will be missed, but between Muttiah Muralithan and Aaron O’Brien , Melbourne has two of the most effective spinners in the competition. Only five players in the top 20 wicket-takers in this edition have an economy rate of under six runs per over, and spin twins Murali (5.57) and O'Brien (5.87) are two of them. Brisbane will need more from its tweaker, Nathan Hauritz , who is yet to take a wicket this campaign despite bowling 15 overs in eight matches. He has been leaking over eight runs per over, so he’ll need to find a way to keep Hales and Finch in check if he continues to open the bowling.
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