Melbourne Stars (1-0) v Melbourne Renegades (1-1) @ MCG
Preview - It's a bumper Melbourne Derby to kick off the New Year as the Stars and Renegades collide in the coliseum that is the MCG. Last year, the clash broke all records when 80,000 jammed into the MCG in a match where the Stars emerged victorious, with import Luke Wright belting a remarkable unbeaten 109 from 63 to ensure a crushing 7-wicket victory. The Stars have had to sit idle, wait and watch the majority of BBL6, having played just one match since it all kicked off 10 days ago. That match was an emphatic statement to the rest of the competition that the Stars mean business again, as they torched the Hurricanes by 7 wickets in Hobart. The Renegades have been licking their wounds since, going down in a final ball thriller to Perth, to drop them to 1-1. To add injury to insult, the Renegades have lost star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo for the duration of BBL6 with a serious hamstring injury. The Stars have an imposing record against the Renegades, having won 7 from 9 overall, including the last five in a row. Last time the Renegades were triumphant against the Stars was when they won both games on their way to a table topping finish in 2012/2013.
Squad Changes - The Stars welcome back maverick import Kevin Pietersen, having arrived in the country just a few days ago. Pietersen was a star in BBL5, scoring 323 runs at an average of 40 and a strike rate of 157. The Stars have decided to rest Rob Quiney with a tight hamstring, after he plundered 75 from 43 balls in Hobart. With Peter Handscomb again unavailable through Test duties, the Stars bring tall medium fast bowler Cameron Gannon to the 13-man squad. Gannon has played 19 T20 matches, claiming 26 wickets at an economy rate of 8.5. The Renegades make the one enforced change with Trent Lawford coming in for the injured Dwayne Bravo. Lawford has played BBL cricket for both the Sixers and Strikers, and the big Victorian all rounder is a strong chance of playing at the MCG.
Melbourne Stars Scouting Report - The Stars batting is loaded and their top order was highly impressive in their season opener. Glenn Maxwell looked in outstanding touch as he effortlessly smashed 58 n/o from 29 balls. What I liked most about his innings was how straight he played and how he kept his shape and played plenty of proper cricket shots. We love the invention from Maxwell, however he has a supremely textbook technique and doesn't need to go searching for things all of the time. It's great to see him batting up the order at Number 3, and there are rumours he could even open the batting tomorrow, which I think would be a great move. Luke Wright will have fond memories of this clash having stolen the show last year with 109n/o from 63 balls, and will be right at home in the MCG surroundings. Having started the season with 48, the Renegades will be doing plenty of homework around how to limit Wright. The likes of David Hussey and James Faulkner are very dangerous players, however they have hardly had any batting over the past couple of weeks, so could be a little rusty coming into this massive game.
The Stars are one of the few sides with very few changes and their bowling line up and tactics are fairly set in stone. Michael Beer, the crafty left arm spinner, has always been a very underrated commodity in the Power Play. Beer only has 41 wickets from 55 games, however his economy rate is one of the best in the business at 6.26. Scott Boland did a pretty decent job going for only 33 from his 4 overs on belter of a wicket with a very short square boundary at Blundstone Arena. Boland is a more senior member of the Stars attack now, having played 14 ODI's for Australia. If anything, this attack lacks a bit of an enforcer and Boland is potentially a bowler that can crank things up and test the Renegades with a few shorter ones. Adam Zampa went for over 40 in Hobart, however will enjoy the vastly bigger square boundaries at the MCG. Tampa is a proven performer in T20 cricket, and his 64 wickets from 54 games at an economy rate of 7 shows exactly why he has represented Australia successfully in this format.
Melbourne Renegades Scouting Report - The Renegades would have had a long few days after an average middle order batting display cost them a certain victory over Perth. Callum Ferguson struck the ball nicely and looked in good touch, however blew a golden opportunity to really cash in when he was out to a soft shot for 37 off 29 balls. Tom Cooper and Peter Neville will have to step up to the plate in the absence of Dwayne Bravo, as the Renegades look to take some pressure off captain Aaron Finch. Finch looked in great nick again, having hammered 24 from 14 balls, however you get the feeling for the Renegades to knock over the Stars they will need 50 plus for Finch as their batting lacks firepower compared to most Top 6 outfits in BBL6. Cameron White is a player who will want to put in a big performance against the side that dumped him a couple of seasons ago. White was the Stars captain for their first four seasons before being moved on and picked up by the Stars, their cross-town rivals.
The Renegades revamped bowling unit has put in two excellent performances to start BBL6. The Renegades have conceded just 131 and 152 in their first couple of games, and have managed to pick up 16 wickets. It's clear the addition of world class T20 spinners Brad Hogg and Sunil Narine is already having the desired effect on a side that has struggled with the ball over the year. Hogg has 2 for 53 from his 8 overs, while Narine has the outstanding figures of 4 for 52 from 8 overs. Both bowlers going for less than 7 runs an over, and also picking up vital wickets, really puts the choker hold on their opponents in the middles overs. One of the surprise packets perhaps this year has been Chris Tremain who, despite only picking up 1 wicket, has only conceded 40 runs from his 8 overs making him the most economic fast bowler in the BBL. Tom Cooper has only bowled a combined total of 3 overs in the BBL, however he sets the tone usually with tight opening overs in the Power Play. Bowling round arm from around the wicket, Cooper has a clear role to hustle through that first over, not concede a boundary and set the tempo for the Renegades.
Verdict - Stars deserves favouritism having the bigger names on paper and having won their last five games against the Renegades. However, I am expecting this game to be closer than what people expect. I reckon either Aaron Finch or Cameron White are going to go large here- two Victorians who will thrive on playing in front of 80,000 at the MCG. There will be plenty more support for the Stars and White, having been cut by the team he used to captain, I think will play a big innings here. I really think with Luke Wright, Glenn Maxwell and Kevin Pietersen at the top of the Stars order, the Renegades need will need early wickets if they are any hope of causing a boil over. I know they don't like to use their main spinners in Narine and Hogg in the Power Play, however I would be deploying Narine very early to try and make the big breakthrough. James Faulkner was a little off the pace with the ball in Game 1, however I expect him to get a few wickets here and perhaps be required to ice the game for the Stars with the bat. Expect this game to be relatively high scoring, with the Renegades probably requiring 180 plus if they want to cause a big boil over.
The Lurker - "Its time to start 2017 with a bang and I'm really confident the Stars can get the job done at a packed MCG. They have won their last 5 agains this mob and will be having a chuckle to themselves as they make it 6 straight. have a lash at the Glenn Maxwell / Cameron White High bat double and get on James Faulkner to take the most poles for the Stars"