Melbourne Renegades (1-0) v Perth Scorchers (1-1) @ Dockland Stadium Melbourne
Preview - It's a high octane clash between two of the favourites for BBL6 when the Scorchers travel to Melbourne to take on the Renegades. It's a mouthwatering reunion for Brad Hogg as he takes on the side of his former franchise, the Scorchers, after having so much success with them over the past five BBL campaigns. Hogg left on frosty terms, with coach Justin Langer having some choice words for Hogg in the media. However no one can blame Hogg for leaving to go to a side which monetarily still valued him at the higher end of the scale, given his production in the past. As for the Renegades, they will be looking to build on their opening win over the Thunder. They will be given a far sterner examination here from a Scorchers side rebounding from an awful performance in Sydney. The Scorchers were belted by 7 wickets by the Sixers, with their batting leaving a lot to be desired. Last season, the Scorchers demolished the Renegades by 10 wickets at the WACA. When the sides last met under the roof at Docklands again, it was the Scorchers that were successful, winning by 35 runs. The Scorchers have a perfect record against the Renegades having won all five clashes between the pair.
Melbourne Renegades Scouting Report - The Renegades put in a pretty good team batting display against the Thunder. However, I don't see the logic at all in Marcus Harris opening the batting ahead of Cameron White. Harris has been in good Shield form, however, Cameron White is a far superior white ball cricketer and was in outstanding form in the recent Matador Cup for Victoria. You could argue there is not a huge difference between opener and Number 3, however I think White would be the logical answer coming in from Ball 1, averaging 30 in T20 cricket with a strike rate of 130. Callum Ferguson has been a mystifyingly disappointing player in T20 cricket over the past few years. However there were positive signs in his 38 from 32 balls in the opening game. Ferguson averages just 21, with a strike rate of 119 through 69 T20 games, which are pretty slim picking for a player of his quality. While you wouldn't say Ferguson is a noted big hitter or innovator, he did average 41 in 30 ODIs for Australia. Still, for the Renegades, plenty revolves around captain Aaron Finch if they want to register similar big scores through the series. I wouldn't be surprised if the Scorchers tried to take the pace off to Finch in the Power Play as they search for the vital early wicket.
I thought coming into BBL6, the Renegades had the best spin bowling pair in the competition in Brad Hogg and West Indian Sunil Narine. The pair showed their class in their first game, claiming 4 for 54 between them in their 8 overs. For the Renegades, this is pure gold, as their struggles with the ball in particular being a big reason they have missed the finals the past three seasons. Tom Cooper is no mug either with his skidding off breaks, and with him bowling a bit in the Power Play, it allows Hogg and Narine to dictate terms in the middle overs. Chris Tremain was highly impressive in Game One as their strike bowler, taking 2 for 27 from 4 overs. However, he will be given a much sterner test here against the likes of Klinger and Marsh as opposed to the pop gun Thunder outfit that travelled to Melbourne last week. Tremain is an awkward customer, and with a chippy action and bowling at good pace, he is the enforcer every good bowling outfit needs. Dwayne Bravo has the best combination of slower balls in T20 cricket and to me, the Renegades look just about the best bowling side in the competition, if the wickets are slow and low; on quicker, harder surfaces they might be a genuine strike bowler light.
Perth Scorchers Scouting Report - If you're the Perth Scorchers, I don't even know if you bother reviewing too much tape from their disastrous batting display in Sydney. It was one of those nights where four or five high class players had brain explosions, or got out meekly, as the Scorchers fumbled their way to 8/130. I can't see it happening again. Head Coach, Justin Langer, won't stand for it. Both Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger looked less at home against the spin up front, and I am sure they will have to deal with that again throughout the campaign. Shaun Marsh has a stunning T20 record, averaging 40 with a strike rate of 129. He is the only batsman to average over 40 in all the BBL squads, and is capable of accelerating as the innings progresses. I was really taken by Sam Whiteman's innings even though it was only 28. He played with a bit of swagger and confidence about him to score those 28 runs from just 16 balls, and I think he is just around the corner from having a real breakthrough innings. I would like to see Mitchell Marsh batting a bit higher than Number 6, and be given as many overs as possible with the opportunity to cut loose. The Scorchers are a really well drilled and well coached outfit and I would not be surprised in the slightest if they had a floating batting order based on circumstances in the game, depending on which tempo they are scoring.
Hilton Cartwright is also a massive inclusion for Perth Scorchers, having been released from his duties with the Australian Test squad for this match. Cartwright has only played eleven T20 games, however it says something about his untapped ability that he has been chosen ahead of the likes Mitchell Marsh, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell and all the other promising all rounders in the country. I have not seen a lot of Cartwright, however his First Class batting average of 44 from 16 games is impressive. With the ball, the Scorchers will be sweating on the fitness of Mitchell Johnson, who is looking to return after missing the game in Sydney. Johnson was impressive in Perth taking 3/33 and his slinging left arm created a great balance to Andrew Tye and David Willey in the pace attack. Tye was fabulous in Sydney, displaying his full arsenal of skills to claim 3 for 15 off 4 overs. Tye has quickly established himself as a T20 specialist and seems a bowler at the peak of his powers right now, with his slingy yorkers and canny changes of pace. It's a big game for Ashton Agar coming up against Brad Hogg. The Scorchers built their success on their spin bowling and there is pressure on Agar to carry the can now that Hogg has moved on. Agar has struggled in T20 cricket with the ball, with just 13 wickets from 29 games going for more then 8 runs per over. There is no doubt about his potential, but it was one of the reasons I thought Perth might come back to the pack this year, in that opponents won't have to go into their shell against their lead spinner.
Verdict - This is potentially the best game of the BBL to date on paper. Both sides are close to full strength, and I think both look like Top 4 outfits in that they have strength and depth to an extent in both their batting and bowling. The Scorchers already have plenty of "multi dimensional" players - players that have more than one skill set (batting, bowling, fielding) and with the addition of Mitchell Johnson and Hilton Cartwright they get a couple more of them here. I also like the bounce back factor. I like backing teams coming off a heavy loss because they are likely to want to make amends. The Renegades are well rested, however were not sufficiently tested against the Thunder so they could come into this game a little under done. Brad Hogg will be desperate to do well against his former team mates, however I also think the Scorchers' batsmen will read him better than most in terms of picking his variation. They will have a clear plan agains Hogg. I still think the Renegades lack a second really explosive batsman to go with Aaron Finch. If he falls early, I think their celling drops quicker than a lot of other teams. However, with this game being at home, I expect a slow turner and Narine and Hogg will be right at home there against a Scorchers' outfit that struggled in the slower conditions in Sydney. I expect this game to go right to the wire, with the scores being more in the 160-170 range.
The Lurker - "The Lurker is all over the Scorchers tonight like a Makers and Coke with plenty of ice. The Scorchers hold an imposing record against the Renegades, having never lost to them in the past. JL will have the Scorchers fired up after their very dusty performance at the SCG the other night. For all you exotic punters raking in the coin, get on Klinger to score 25+ into a Scorchers win. Plus, look at the high bat double of Cameron White in to Shaun Marsh. I'll need a wheelbarrow soon to count all the cash you coats have won off me."