by Niall Seewang
AGAINST the Stars in game one, it was the batting heroics of Aaron Finch that inspired the Renegades, but on Friday night against the Thunder their underrated bowling attack was the catalyst for a second successive Big Bash victory.
Fresh from an inspired win in the first round of BBL|02, the Renegades maintained their perfect record with a five-wicket victory at ANZ Stadium.
It was a victory set up from first ball, with the Renegades' frugal pace attack and suffocating spin line-up the platform before a steady run chase delivered victory with 10 balls to spare.
After the win, Finch paid tribute to left-arm spinner Aaron O'Brien, who took 3-15 off three overs, having previously captured 2-27 against the Stars.
"The way he goes about it, he's just an old pro … it can be pretty innocuous, left-arm spin, but he's been really good for us," the Renegades captain told Fox Sports.
"The way he mixes up his pace and uses his experience is just unbelievable."
O'Brien, who was named Man of the Match, said he was enjoying his cricket at the Renegades.
"It was great to do well as an individual tonight but as a team … we did what we had to do," he said.
"[Playing at the Renegades] is a really great environment, a fresh environment, and I'm really enjoying it so far.
"All the individuals know and execute their roles and the guys know exactly what we need to do."
After winning the toss and electing to field, the men in red immediately gained the ascendancy through tight first spells from Will Sheridan (0-14 off two overs) and Darren Pattinson (0-15 off three), with their opening overs only going for one run each.
With dangerman Chris Gayle still at the crease, the Renegades would have still been nervous but a bizarre run-out, in which the West Indian's bat got stuck in the turf as he tried to slide it into his crease, proved crucial.
"We were a bit lucky to get the big fella run out, but it was a key wicket," Finch said.
Much like in the first game against the Stars, the introduction of spin twins Muttiah Muralitharan (2-16 off four) and O'Brien (3-15 off three) was vital. They tightened the noose on the Thunder, who couldn't get any rhythm into their innings until some lusty late hitting helped propel them to a competitive total.
In reply, Finch (31 off 33) and Dan Harris (eight off 14) did well to survive a fierce opening spell from ex-Renegade Dirk Nannes and it was slow going in the initial part of the chase. In fact, Finch later said the spell from Nannes was one of the best he'd ever faced.
Azhar Mahmood sent Harris packing before Marlon Samuels, playing his first game for the Renegades, was deceived by a Mahmood slower ball and was bowled for four off eight balls.
When Finch departed in the 11th over, it was game on, but Ben Rohrer (27 off 20) started steadying the ship. The Renegades appeared set for a comfortable win before the clever left-hander was run out, giving the Thunder a sniff.
However, Sheridan (12 not out off sixteen balls) and Peter Nevill (nine not out off 14) brought the team home in 18.2 overs.
Finch said the Renegades used a low-risk approach in chasing the modest target.
"When you're chasing a total like that, you don't have to take too many risks, you can keep the ball along the ground and limit your risk-taking," he said.
"I'm really happy we got home."
The unbeaten Renegades next take on the Hobart Hurricanes at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday 19 December at 7pm.