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Big Bash League: Bowlers, not big-name batsmen, set to be crucial in Melbourne derby

With players such as Kevin Pietersen and Glenn Maxwell up against Chris Gayle and Aaron Finch, Saturday’s Melbourne Big Bash League derby shapes as a battle of the bat.

But it is the lower-profile battle of the ball that is likely to have a bigger impact on which of the Stars or Renegades get back to parity in their win-loss record or be on the brink of being out of finals contention.

The Renegades batsmen have been so effective across their three matches that one of their specialist batsmen, Tom Cooper, is yet to get a chance in the middle.

“I think our whole batting group is going beautifully at the moment. Tom Cooper has been sitting with the pads on for three games now at No.7 and hasn’t had a hit,” Renegades captain Aaron Finch said.

During the past fortnight the Renegades have failed to defend solid totals at Etihad Stadium: firstly 4-172 against Sydney Sixers then 4-170 against Perth Scorchers. While they bowled poorly against the Sixers, against the Scorchers they were simply outplayed, to the extent the visitors’ openers, Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh, were able to reach the target on their own “without having to play a shot in anger”, with eight deliveries up their sleeve.

“They weren’t poor, they weren’t off the mark by a hell of a lot very often,” Finch said. “If you’re going to win T20 games and T20 tournaments you have to get wickets, and we didn’t do that.”

The Renegades are badly missing bowlers who can take wickets in the powerplay, to make it harder for opponents to make a steady start knowing they can accelerate later because they have wickets in hand. James Pattinson fulfilled that role for them last season, yet by the time he is available after national duty – if at all – the Renegades may already be out of finals contention.

Nate Rimmington has been their only successful bowler so far. Chris Tremain started well against the Sixers, yet his brief to fill the strike-bowler role left vacant by Pattinson has seen him concede 9.83runs per overs.

In just three matches the Renegades have used a total of five bowlers – Guy Walker, Xavier Doherty, Cameron Stevenson, Cameron Gannon, Nathan Hauritz – to fill their final two spots. Gannon is likely to hold his place against the Stars, while Doherty could return in place of Hauritz, who captain Finch admitted was brought on too late against Perth.

“‘Haury’ just ran into a steam train there,” Finch said, in relation to Hauritz’s 0-29 from the two overs he bowled to Klinger and Marsh.

While both teams have won only one of their three matches neither look totally out of form. Finch said it added to the occasion that both teams equally needed victory at the MCG, in terms our ensuring they qualifying for the semi-finals after their eight-match season.

“Both teams are almost on wood at the moment. In the past, there’s been one or two teams that’ve been not in great form so you might be able to scrape in with four wins, but now with everyone beating each other and the competition being so tight I think you’ll have to win five games. We’re at that stage now where we’re touch and go,” he said.

“For both teams, it is [pivotal]. There’s going to be a huge crowd . . . there’s also a lot of excitement around the derby.”

The Stars will recall Pietersen, who has returned from England, and will hoping bowling all-rounder John Hastings passes a fitness test on his injured shoulder.

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