Stars finally shine in Melbourne derby

Kevin Pietersen played with a freedom he had not enjoyed so far this summer and the Melbourne Stars came alive in the field to rip bragging rights back from the Renegades in last night’s Big Bash League derby.

Under a closed Etihad Stadium roof, the Stars finally enjoyed their first victory of the summer but they will need to win their remaining four matches, and rely on other results, to have any hope of an unlikely finals berth.

Pietersen quickly adjusted to a slow but consistent deck to blast his highest score of the series (74 off 46 balls) and share in a 110-run stand with Peter Handscomb (41 off 37 balls), guiding the Stars to 4-167. The Renegades, having earlier opted to chase, a growing trend through the tournament, would fall 23 runs short before a home crowd of 44,316 – their biggest at Docklands.

Emerging Stars left-arm quick Jackson Coleman again highlighted his promise with three wickets.

Each side had lost two men to international duty, with the Gades arguably the heaviest hit, missing power hitters Aaron Finch and Cameron White. With ‘s opening one-day international against England in Melbourne tomorrow, it was a fair question as to why they could not have played in this clash, particularly as Finch and White spent the evening in the Gades’ bunker and fellow batsman Brad Hodge (side strain) was a late withdrawal.

The Renegades slumped to 4-56 in the 10th over, having lost two of their wickets care of brilliant catches.

The first was by Glenn Maxwell, at backward point, who helped to dismiss a dangerous Tim Ludeman (13 off 14). Maxwell’s athletic leap meant he almost jagged the cracking square cut in his out-stretched right hand but he was good enough to recover in time to cup the ball which had spilt free. It was one of four catches he would take.

Pietersen also got into the act, holding on to a scorching blast from Tom Cooper (19 off 19) at cover.

The Gades needed stand-in skipper Dwayne Bravo to produce a masterclass but he could muster only 26 off 18 balls. The defeat leaves them with a 4-3 record, with the opportunity to refresh before their next game on Monday week.

Pietersen had set the tone with the bat. He came to the wicket after Ben Dunk’s miserable series continued, the left-hander falling for a second duck.

Having announced last weekend this was going to be his final BBL, Pietersen was clearly a man at peace. He was also determined to show he was still elite.

There have been few better showmen since he made his international debut in 2004, and he hauled several of his power shots from the kit bag. He said during Channel Ten’s commentary that he and the Stars still had pride to play for.

“We are still playing for the star on our chest,” he said.

Pietersen lifted the tempo in the fifth over, twice lifting left-arm spinner Jon Holland over mid-wicket, the first for four, the next clearing the rope. Bravo then introduced himself into the attack, and was clipped over square leg for six by Handscomb. By the time the West Indian’s over was done, 26 had been taken from the previous 12 balls.

Pietersen also took to paceman Jack Wildermuth and veteran spinner Brad Hogg, who had his second ball slugged for a six over mid-wicket.

The former England skipper wasn’t done there. Stepping back in his crease, he clipped Kane Richardson for six over mid-wicket and soon posted a half-century off 28 balls.

He saved his best for Hogg, crunching successive sixes over mid-wicket in his second over. Hogg did not return.

Maxwell, dropped on seven, would finish unbeaten on 31 and took 12 runs off the final three balls of the innings to ensure the Stars posted a strong total.

Off-spinner Mohammad Nabi, in his last match before leaving for international duty with Afghanistan, was the pick of the Gades’ bowlers (2-15).