Mitchell Marsh top-scored for Perth against Brisbane. Image courtesy of Tony McDonough/AAP
The Melbourne Renegades had the wood on their Victorian brethren last season but the Stars wiped the floor with their cross-town rival in the Big Bash opener winning by 76 in a very complete T20 performance. The Renegades were seemingly powerless to drop the destructive 95-run opening stand between Luke Wright and Cameron White, with the Englishman producing a whirlwind knock of 70 off just 32 balls, which included eight 4s and five 6s – the Renegades managed to find the boundary just 15 times in total and only twice did they clear the ropes . One bright spot was the performance of England short-form 'keeper Jos Buttler who smashed a quickfire 49, but this is his last match before joining the touring squad.
Another team which suffered at the hands of a brutal innings was two-time runners-up the Perth Scorchers . After helping to rip through Brisbane’s top order, Nathan Coulter-Nile was at one stage slapped for three maximums straight by power-packed right-hander Chris Lynn, who got Heat over the line with a stunning 81 off 53 deliveries. Coulter-Nile should have had his man earlier in the over but Michael Beer dropped a difficult chance in the outfield.
It’s tough to criticise the tall left-arm tweaker too much, though, as he and ageless spin twin Brad Hogg kept the Scorchers in the match with some quality slow bowling. As he did with regularity last year, Beer went for less than a run a ball, while Hogg turned back the clock with a masterful display. The chinaman had left Dan Christian stranded with a perfectly pitched wrong ‘un on his way to figures of 3/21 off his allocated four overs. If Ashton Agar continues to play as a batting all-rounder, then he is also there as a third spinning option.
Last season’s leading run-scorer, Shaun Marsh , was relatively subdued during his innings of 37 off 30. His younger brother, Mitchell , picked up the slack with a quickfire 50, but the Scorchers will need a lot more from the rest of the batting line-up to succeed in this tournament. They’ve already lost West Indian power-hitter Dwayne Smith after he pulled out of the tournament at the last minute for unknown personal reasons. The Scorchers have signed former Pakistan paceman and short-form specialist Yasir Arafat as his replacement with Coulter-Nile out of this match while he's with the Australian squad in Melbourne. Veteran batsman Adam Voges is a long-term injury concern with a shoulder problem.
While the Scorchers have reached both BBL finals so far, it hasn’t been because of their home record. Perth is 6-5 overall at the Furnace, and it should be no surprise they dropped both deciders at the WACA Ground. In each of the previous Big Bash tournaments the Scorchers have lost their home opener, which doesn’t bode well for this Boxing Day clash.
Perth has won both of its encounters with the Renegades, including last season’s clash at the Furnace which it won by 51 runs. It was the Scorchers’ pace attack doing the damage taking nine of the 10 wickets on offer. They were one of the few teams to keep Melbourne dangerman Aaron Finch in check last year with the T20 international managing just eight runs.
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