The Melbourne Stars have been a very consistent team in the BBL bar one poor season.
It wasn’t meant to end this way. The table-topping Melbourne Renegades were knocked out of the Big Bash League by eventual champions the Brisbane Heat at Etihad Stadium.
Brisbane’s victory was largely thanks to the innings of Luke Pomersbach, who smashed 112 runs of just 70 balls, yet only 15 runs was the difference between the sides at the end.
It was a disappointing finish to a fantastic season, a season which began with none of the experts expecting the Renegades to be a genuine chance for the title.
Turn the clock back to the end of the 2011/12 season and the Renegades were a rabble.
The team – which featured Victorian legend Brad Hodge, star Pakistani all-rounders Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi and captained by Andrew McDonald – won only two matches for the season. They finished second last on the table, only ahead of the Sydney Thunder on net run rate.
Across town at the home of Australian cricket, the MCG, the Stars were faring much better.
After a slow start, Shane Warne’s Stars started playing good cricket and scraped into the finals in fourth place, before eventually losing to the Perth Scorchers in a tight tussle at the WACA.
In sport it takes a while until you feel a connection to a particular person or team. As the Big Bash League was entering its second year, people were starting to take sides rather than sit on the fence, as many Victorians and New South Welshmen did in the first season. So it was critical to do the right things in all aspects of the franchise.
All of the signs pointed to the Stars for Victorians. They play at the traditional home of cricket and have arguably the best bowler in history in Shane Warne. In the off-season, they had also recruited Victoria’s favourite batsman, Hodge, from the Renegades.
To the city’s west, things weren’t as pretty. There was a mass exodus, from the CEO to the coaches and players. Just five players from the previous season signed up again, including new captain Aaron Finch. Coach Simon Helmot later admitted that he was feeling the heat heading into the new term.
However, what was not realised at the time was how smart the Renegades were in the way they were signing players. They picked solid performers, players who had experience. The majority of them were from outside Victoria, which led to more intrigue.
Then came the big coups. Chairman James Brayshaw announced on Channel Nine’s ‘Footy Show’ Muttiah Muralitharan, the world’s leading wicket taker of all time, would play for the team. West Indian Marlon Samuels, man of the match in the ICC World T20 final, would join him.
The season started brilliantly with a win over the Stars. Captain Aaron Finch led the team to victory with 111 runs. Not many knew how much you could take from the win as it was the first match, however, the next three games solidified the Renegades as a genuine chance with wins over the Thunder, Hobart Hurricanes and Heat.
Then the side hit a hurdle. They travelled to the WACA and were smashed by Perth. Finch failed and the critics were out, saying it was a one-man team.
It was just a minor blip though and they continued on their merry way, beating the Adelaide Strikers next up. Then came derby number two for the season.
Before a record crowd of 46,681 at the MCG, the Renegades crushed the Stars by nine wickets. The Docklands-based side had confirmed themselves as the best team in Melbourne. They would complete the regular season with a 29 run win over the Sydney Sixers at the SCG before the fateful semi-final.
Despite the finals loss, the Renegades season can be classed as a massive success on and off the field, with a solid base built for future seasons.
The Big Bash League is only in its infant stage so it can only get better, as will the Renegades in BBL three.