The Melbourne Stars have been a very consistent team in the BBL bar one poor season.
Karma will strike in the most unpredictable of ways and when you least expect it. But the Melbourne Renegades found out the hard way on the weekend that karma is also one of their followers on social media.
Leading into Saturday’s Melbourne derby at the MCG – a match which drew well over 54,000 people – the Renegades put out a social media post promoting their head-to-head with the Stars that I don’t mind admitting made me properly laugh out loud.
“Titles”, the provocative post began. Renegades one, Stars none, obviously.
“Lost 7/19 to lose a Final”, it continued, a none-too-subtle reference to the Stars’ complete implosion from a winning position in last season’s BBL decider.
Renegades none, Stars one, for the record.
And on it went, with digs at the Stars’ leading wicket-taker not playing, and a clever comparison of the output of the respective sides’ off-season recruits from the Perth Scorchers – with the Renegades clearly getting more out of Shaun Marsh than the Stars have done with allrounders Nathan Coulter-Nile and Hilton Cartwright, and young batsman Clint Hinchcliffe, the latter pair playing a combined three games this campaign.
— Melbourne Renegades (@RenegadesBBL) January 4, 2020
And it was all going so well. Oh, how the Renegades social media kids must’ve laughed as their score batting first reached 2/115 at the start of the 15th over. The reigning Champions’ BBL|09 winning drought was surely about to end, they’d have been chortling away to themselves.
But what happened next? Karma happened next.
Marsh fell to a piece of Ben Dunk outfielding brilliance on the boundary, claiming the catch at cow corner before flicking it infield as his complete lack of balance was quickly propelling him over the rope. Coulter-Nile completed the catch, ironically, reminiscent of last season’s absolute ripper from Ben Laughlin and Jake Weatherald at the Docklands Stadium against the Renegades.
And then Dan Christian followed the same over. And Beau Webster five balls after that.
The Renegades lost 5/8 in 18 balls and 7/23 all up to struggle to 9/142 from their 20 overs when they would’ve been targeting something well north of 160. Ten an over from the start of the 15th over would have pushed the Renegades to 175.
The average score batting first at the MCG last season was 156, and the team batting first won three of the five games played. The average winning score batting first was 162. 142 was a long way short of par.
Karma then also guided the Stars to 2/143 in the 19th over, delivering an eight-wicket win that pushed them to the top of the BBL table at the time.
The loss was the Renegades’ sixth straight in BBL|09, and right at this point in time, only supreme optimists and Renegades playing and coaching staff would stop short of conceding their title defence is just about toast.
Six losses from six games is the worst start imaginable, and but eight games to come does still give them a chance.
Eight wins would give them 16 points, and 16 was enough for them to finish second last year. Furthermore, the new format for BBL|09 means that a fifth team will qualify for the finals, which last year would’ve been Brisbane on 13 points.
And given Adelaide and the Sydney Thunder shared the points from the no-result smoke-affected game in Canberra, it probably means the Renegades will need seven wins and 14 points, rather than six and 12, to be any chance of mounting a title defence.
But their run home presents a problem.
Starting tomorrow night, the Renegades host Perth in Geelong, face another Melbourne derby under the Docklands roof on Friday, and then head to Adelaide to face the Strikers on Sunday.
Then next Wednesday, they’re due in Canberra to face the Thunder, which after WNBL, W-League, and ABL games were also cancelled this weekend just gone because of the bushfire smoke, and the Brumbies have relocated their pre-season resumption to Newcastle – the Raiders will likely do something similar – that game at Manuka would currently seem long odds to go ahead.
Sunday 19 January sees the Renegades in Brisbane, then it’s Hobart in Melbourne the following Tuesday, the Sixers at the SCG on Saturday 25 January, and the Heat back in Melbourne Monday 27 January.
16 points may not be possible. And that means they really can’t afford to lose any of their other seven games, either.
But there’s another problem.
Their captain and second-highest runscorer Aaron Finch and Kane Richardson, their leading wicket-taker by some margin, are both off to India with the Australian squad.
You can imagine they’ll play the Melbourne derby on Friday night, and then miss the Renegades’ next three games at least. The earliest they’d be back is for the Hobart game on January 21.
Three must-win games without two of their three best players in the middle of a string of games where they can’t really afford a loss?
I reckon I have to say, ‘good luck’, Renegades.
But at least you had a genuinely funny social post.