Renegades drain the Heat out of finals
The Big Bash League lost its biggest finals trump card on Monday with AB de Villiers' Brisbane Heat eliminated by wooden-spooner Melbourne Renegades.
Cricket Australia officials will be seeing red on Wednesday morning with not even an expanded finals series - the top five feature this season - enough to see a batting line-up boasting de Villiers, Chris Lynn and Marnus Labuschagne squeeze in.
Captain Lynn boldly tossed the ball to Labuschagne with the game in the balance in the 18th over at Marvel Stadium, although Renegades captain Aaron Finch punished the leg-spinner's fourth ball with an 88m six.
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Finch was dropped by Jack Prestwidge at deep midwicket the next ball as he and wily import Mohammad Nabi extinguished the Heat's campaign in the final home-and-away game of the season.
The nightmare didn't end there for Prestwidge. The next over he committed a clumsy misfield that gifted Finch his half-century via a boundary and triggered Bronx cheers for the fumbly fielder.
A victory for Brisbane would've seen it host Hobart Hurricanes in a cut-throat game at the Gabba to kick-start the finals on Thursday night.
But instead Sydney Thunder clapped their hands red at the shock upset that will see it claim fifth place and travel to Hobart for Thursday's eliminator.
It was a bright end to a dark season for the Renegades, who claimed their first wooden spoon after a championship defence that finished 3-11.
Opener Tom Cooper's kamikaze knock of 23 (10) but Brisbane on the back foot, although when spinners denied 200cm Beau Webster access to his back foot the game steadied.
The No. 4 became bogged down as mystery spinner Mujeeb's first three overs netted 1-5 as Ben Cutting cashed in with the wicket of a frustrated Webster.
But that brought Nabi (38 not-out off 28) to the crease and the old hand combined with Finch (63 not-out off 49) to send de Villiers back to South Africa with a BBL average of just 24.3.
MAXY THE MAN, SAYS SKIPPER
Aaron Finch wants Melbourne Renegades to lock in coach Michael Klinger for next summer after the wooden-spooner charged to the line with three wins from the final five games.
Klinger was thrust into the role just weeks before the season, and the Renegades' championship defence crashed to a 0-9 start.
But Finch pointed out the Gades were rarely blown away and said they had the talent to charge up the ladder next year.
The Gades' initial imports were busts this summer and Finch lamented that it was difficult to lure star overseas talent because of the clash with the shorter Bangladesh Premier League. "(Klinger's) been outstanding," Finch said.
"It's disappointing the results haven't gone our way, because not much has changed from last year where we managed to win those 50-50 moments in games and get over the line in close ones and go on to win the final."
IT'S GOTTA HURT
The Heat haven't made the BBL finals since 2016-17 and the franchise's fragile batting performances ultimately cost them a shot at this summer's title.
"I don't think we lost it tonight - it's our big losses throughout the tournament which hurt," Heat captain Chris Lynn said.
"Everyone is pretty disappointed. I'm my own harshest critic.
"The windscreen is bigger than the rear-vision mirror. Let's try and look forward.
"There's more to life than cricket. The boys can't be too disappointed.
"We've just got to keep getting better."
Lynn was the only Heat batsmen to feature in the tournament's top 10 run-scorers, but his 387 runs at 29.76 was below a pass mark for Brisbane's highest-paid player.
The Heat's sole BBL title victory came in 2012-13 and they must find a way to play smarter cricket following a number of brainless batting collapses over the past two summers.
De Villiers said the Heat weren't far off being a competitive team and he was hoping to return for BBL10.
"I don't think we need much," he said.
"We played some really good cricket. We threw away two games. I was to blame in a way.
"We were a little bit lackadaisical with our batting. A little bit of intensity is necessary. A little bit of experience.
"I had so much fun, I wish I could have been here from the start.
"I enjoyed every minute of it. Let's hope (I'm back). It's a long way away but I'd love to come back.
"I had a lot of fun with the boys. They looked after me like I was one of their own."
FRIENDLY FIRE FOR CAPTAIN BOYCE
It was a Toombul Cricket Club reunion yesterday with local captain Cameron Boyce bowling at teammates Chris Lynn and Matt Renshaw in the same over.
Boyce - the spinner Shane Warne wants Australia to pick for the T20 World Cup - staggeringly lost his Queensland Bulls contract two years ago, despite being in his late 20s and in career-best form.
Renshaw won the Brisbane club battle on Monday, reverse-sweeping a four and then slog-sweeping two sixes off Boyce as he top-scored with 65 (47).
DEATH BY FIVE CUTS
Ben Cutting's game plan was obvious on Monday - go after Will Sutherland.
The Heat opener plundered 22 runs off his first five balls from Sutherland, and was then trapped lbw. That sparked yet another collapse as Brisbane bumbled its way to 4-65.
At that stage the Heat had lost 14-101 from its past 105 balls against this season's wooden-spooner, and there was an argument to rename the franchise 'Brisbane Jenga', such was its propensity to collapse.
GADES HAVE THE SQUAD
Fans wondering if the cupboard is bare just 12 months after a flag should switch on Fox Sports on Tuesday night.
Australia Under-19 captain Mackenzie Harvey and opener Jake Fraser-McGurk will bat against India in a World Cup quarter-final, and the Renegade youngsters should be locks in next year's batting line-up, alongside Sam Harper, Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Beau Webster.
The red team has the best junior talent in the land, while promising all-rounder Will Sutherland bowls with serious heat and looks like a player who could tear next summer apart. They desperately need extra firepower with the ball, but with vacant international slots that should be taken care of.
DE VILLIERS MISSES THE BOAT
Ab de Villiers averaged four runs against the Big Bash League's worst bowling unit. Renegades' imports haven't fired this season, but they targeted the stumps on Monday and did it worked with Samit Patel and Mohammad Nabi bowling AB and Chris Lynn respectively.
The South African wizard swept one boundary off Patel and was gone in the same over. Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon watched de Villiers' vintage knock of 71 against the Stars on Saturday night with the Renegades boys over a few beers.
"They were in disbelief at some of his backfoot shots off the spinners," Beau Webster said. But there was no encore at Marvel Stadium.