Melbourne Renegades The Challenger WBBL|07

The Melbourne Renegades console each other post-game following the loss to the Adelaide Strikers. (Photo: Dani Brown)

The Melbourne Renegades have again fallen at the final hurdle before the WBBL decider, outplayed from the very first ball bowled by the Adelaide Strikers.

The Melbourne Renegades have fallen at the semi-final stage of the season for the third time in four years, this time outdone in WBBL|07 by a determined Adelaide Strikers outfit from the very first ball of The Challenger.

The Renegades returned to the finals series of the WBBL|07 season, having missed out on qualification last year. They had a season-best record of eight wins and four losses, finishing second in this year’s campaign.

Even after gaining automatic qualification to The Challenger, one win away from The Final in the WBBL’s new-look finals format, the Renegades were outclassed by a rampant Strikers side who’s momentum was being carried through from their late-season form and the win in The Eliminator against the Brisbane Heat.

Just like their performance against the Heat, the Strikers had the Renegades on the backfoot early on.

The very first delivery of the contest saw Josie Dooley – who was promoted to open the batting, having opened twice previously this season – bowled by Megan Schutt for a golden duck.

With Carly Leeson – the one addition to the squad for this game – entering the mix next for the Renegades, it was apparent that the side were looking at attempting different methods to score runs quickly, and testing alternative batting positions across the lineup.

Unfortunately for Leeson (two off four), she departed shortly after she came to the crease, falling in the second over of the match, hitting it to Amanda-Jade Wellington at mid-on who took the catch off the bowling of Darcie Brown.

The WBBL|07 Player of the Tournament Harmanpreet Kaur was the next batter to walk out to the middle, joining her fellow countrywoman Jemimah Rodrigues. Showing her destructiveness all season long, the Renegades were banking on her replicating her multiple match-winning knocks with the bat to get the side out of early trouble.

While Kaur would remain at the crease for a short while, Rodrigues enjoyed a 14-run over where she took Schutt to all areas of the ground, scoring three fours – to deep third man, through backward point, and behind square leg.

With Rodrigues (16 off 13) wicket falling in the fourth over, the Renegades lost 4/10 after Jess Duffin (two off 11), Kaur (seven off 15), and Courtney Webb (zero off zero) all were sent back to the sheds in the space of one and a half overs.

As much as Eve Jones (14 off 21) tried to get the score moving along, even hitting Wellington for six, over the rope at long-off, she wasn’t supported much from those above her on the line up, despite Rhiann O’Donnell (10 off 22) making a small contribution.

Ella Hayward (18* off 23) became the side’s top run-scorer, her partnership with Holly Ferling (11* off 10) towards the end yielded a mixture of dot balls, ones and twos as they tried to hustle and get as many runs added on as possible.

The resulting score of 8/83 became the second-lowest WBBL total in history, and the Renegade’s lowest-score across their seven seasons in the competition.

Such was the severity of the Renegades’ batting collapse, it was the first time Duffin had needed to bat in the Powerplay this season as the side was hampered down by too many dot balls. They had 66 across the entire innings, and at times, had their dot balls and runs scored in sync.

Adding to the unfortunate result in the Renegades’ side of the game, Jones and Webb were each runout in circumstances that could’ve been prevented.

The fielding unit of the Strikers were lucky in the sense that an attempted second run after a misfield lead to a Sarah Coyte direct hit to remove Jones, and a Wellington fingertip found Webb out of her crease at the non-strikers end for her wicket.

On the plus side, Kaur entered into another group of talented players and records, with her score this evening, she became only the second player in WBBL history to score 400 runs and take 15 wickets – a feat shared with Sophie Devine and Jess Jonassen.

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A more pressing issue from the Renegades camp was the apparent injury to Sophie Molineux. A notable absentee from the batting line-up, the captain would have been coming in at number 11 should she have received a chance.

Speaking to Channel 7 during the game towards the end of the first innings, Renegades coach Simon Helmot described what was holding Molineux back from coming into the middle, revealing she had been wearing a moonboot all week, nursing a foot injury.

Although bunkered down by this in the first half of the match, Molineux took to the field to still complete her captain duties, even putting herself on to bowl the first over of the second innings which went for eight runs. She’d finished her bowling spell having figures of 0/22 off two overs.

Despite holding an injury, Sophie Molineux still fulfilled her captain duties. (Photo: Dani Brown)

Unfortunately for the Renegades, they took some time to break the partnership of Dane van Niekerk and Katie Mack before Laura Wolvaardt helped claim the win towards the end of the second innings.

The Renegade’s only wicket of the match came from Leeson, who in her only over of the match saw van Niekerk hitting the ball straight into the hands of Kaur at mid-on, finishing with figures of 1/5.

Rhiann O’Donnell, in her first season back playing for the Renegades in the WBBL since WBBL|03 was ultilised the most of the bowling options. Despite giving up the winning runs, she still completed 2.5 overs with figures of 0/18.

Rhiann O’Donnell finished with figures of 0/18 off 2.5 overs. (Photo: Dani Brown)

Duffin, who was celebrating her 50th WBBL match, spoke to media post-game and explained the hardships the whole tournament played upon the Renegades squad.

Travelling all around the country with no respite in Melbourne at all over the past two months took its toll. However, she said that was no excuse as to the reason why the performance was so lacklustre tonight.

“It’s been a long tournament for us,” Duffin admitted.

“We’re the only team in the top four I think that have had to go through the whole quarantine period down in Hobart, to then obviously travel the whole country without being able to go back to Melbourne so without using it as an excuse, I think we were all just a little bit drained by the end of it but again, can’t use it as an excuse.”

Jess Duffin had a good year for the Melbourne Renegades in her return to the game after a year away. (Photo: Dani Brown)

Reflecting on the contest against the Strikers, Duffin conceded things just didn’t go to plan for the Renegades who had a set, unchanged plan, even after seeing their opposition’s strong performance the night before.

She said that while the in-game tactics might’ve needed to be adjusted, the main goal was to remain positive and have a belief that anything can happen in a game of T20 cricket.

“We have a way at the Melbourne Renegades of playing cricket and we really tried tonight to come out and do that,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work this time and I guess that’s just T20 cricket. The steam kinda ran out.

“I think [the aim] was just [to] try and score off every ball. You can be as positive as you can be, sometimes scoring becomes easier. Unfortunately, for us tonight, it didn’t.

“Still really proud of the group. I think to get through what we’ve gone through, to be away for so long, have a couple of Aussie girls and Indian players in our group that have also obviously been away doing their tours as well.

“It’s been a long couple of months for a few players in our squad and I’m just really proud that we even got the chance to play in a final.”

Speaking to the way the Renegades shook up their batting order, and subsequent injury to captain Sophie Molineux preventing the side from having her hitting power during the innings, Duffin speculated that the decision was made to get on top of the might of the Strikers bowling contingent.

“I wasn’t in those conversations but all I can think of was trying to get on the front foot a bit with their opening bowlers, obviously Shooter’s (Megan Schutt) a world-class bowler and just trying to get on top of her a little bit,” Duffin said.

“Again, unfortunately it didn’t come off for us tonight but I think that’s another thing the Melbourne Renegades have done really well this season, is we’re not afraid to change it up.”

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