Saturday, 2 January 2016

Cool Hand Luke Stars at MCG

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 Cricket fans turned out en masse at the MCG and Luke Wright stepped up on the big stage with a century as Melbourne Stars scored a seven-wicket win over Melbourne Renegades in front of a record Big Bash League crowd on Saturday.

The 80,883-strong crowd easily eclipsed the previous record of 52,637, set at Adelaide Oval, and created an electric atmosphere, with the superb unbeaten innings of 109 off 63 balls from the English import guiding Stars home with five balls to spare.

As much as Wright dazzled, many of those fans came for the tantalising match-up between big-hitters Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen. But it failed to live up to the hype with Gayle making just four runs and Pietersen out for six. Having won the toss and sent the Renegades in, the Stars restricted their cross-town rivals to 161-7, then overcame the early losses of Marcus Stoinis and Pietersen to notch their second win from four matches in the tournament.

In a pivotal moment late in the Stars run chase, a dropped catch by Tom Beaton rolled to the boundary for four when Wright was on 64. The Englishman then rubbed salt into the wounds with a pair of towering sixes off the next two deliveries from Xavier Doherty.

Former Star Cameron White marked his first match against his old side with a well made 54 from 39 balls – the highlight of Renegades’ innings. Skipper Aaron Finch passed 4,000 career runs in Twenty20 cricket, but he was dismissed after making 36 off 29 balls. Gayle spooned an easy catch to Pietersen at mid-on off the bowling of John Hastings. Amazingly, Pietersen was speaking to Channel 10 commentators on the live telecast as Hastings came in to bowl to Gayle.

“I will be very happy if that bloke who is down there who is currently batting knocks one up in the air here,” Pietersen said. “We’ve all seen him start slowly but he can explode.” Hastings was the pick of the Stars bowlers with figures of 4-29 from his four overs.

Cricket Australia have apologised to fans stranded outside the MCG before the game after new security measures failed to cope with the record Big Bash League crowd. The previous BBL attendance record of 52,637 set at Adelaide Oval, was broken by the time James Faulkner bowled the first ball of Saturday night’s match, with 56,674 fans inside the ground.

But more than 24,000 people remained outside the venue as the new counter-terrorism fence and security checkpoints slowed entry to the facility. Cricket Australia, however, were quick to defend venue management. “The Melbourne Cricket Ground has been highly proactive in their security measures for major cricket events this summer,” a spokesperson said.

“The match tonight experienced an unprecedented record crowd for domestic cricket. We thank fans for their patience and apologise for the delays experienced entering the ground tonight. The safety and security of our fans, players and officials is always our number one priority and rest assured we’ll continue to work with the MCG to ensure everyone has a fantastic experience at any cricket event this summer.”

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