It wasn’t meant to end this way.
The table-topping Melbourne Renegades were knocked out of the Big Bash by eventual champions the Brisbane Heat at the Docklands, largely thanks to the innings of Luke Pomersbach who smashed 112 runs of just 70 balls, yet only 15 runs was the difference between the sides at the end.
It was a disappointing finish to a fantastic season, a season where the experts and next to nobody expected the side to be a genuine chance for the title.
Turn the clock back to the end of the 2011/12 season and the Renegades were almost a rabble.
The team which featured Victorian legend Brad Hodge, star Pakistani all rounders Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi and captained by Andrew McDonald won only two matches for the season. They would finish second last on the table, only ahead of the Sydney Thunder on net run rate.
Across town at the home of Australian cricket, the MCG, the Stars were faring much better. After a slow start, the Stars started to play good cricket and scraped into the finals in fourth place, before eventually losing to runners-up the Perth Scorchers in a tight tussle at the WACA.
In sport, it takes a while until you feel a connection to a particular person or team. The Big Bash League was now entering its second year and people were starting to take sides rather than sit on the fence, as many Victorians and New South Welshmen and women would have done in the first year.
Now it was critical to do the right things in all aspects, on the field and off. All of the signs pointed to the Stars for Victorians. They play at the traditional home of cricket and have arguably the best bowler ever in Shane Warne. They had also recruited Victoria’s favourte batsman and former Renegade Brad Hodge in the off-season.
To the city’s west, things weren’t as pretty. There was a mass exodus, from the CEO to the coaches and players. Just five players from the previous season signed up again, including new captain Aaron Finch. Coach Simon Helmot later admitted that he was feeling the heat heading into the new term.
However, what was not realised at the time was that the Renegades were smart in the way they were signing their players. They picked solid performers, players who had experience. The majority of them were from outside Victoria, which led to more intrigue.
Then came the big coups. Chairman James Brayshaw announced on Channel 9’s ‘Footy Show’ that Muttiah Murilidiran would play for the team. ‘Murali’ is the world’s leading wicket taker of all time. West Indian Marlon Samuels would join him. Samuels was man of the match in the ICC World T20 final.
The season started brilliantly with a win over the Stars. Captain Aaron Finch led the team to victory with 111 runs. Not many knew how much you could take from the win as it was the first match, however the next three games solidified the Renegades as a genuine contender with wins over the Thunder, Hurricanes and Heat.
Then the side hit a hurdle. They travelled to the WACA and were smashed by Perth. Finch failed and the critics were out, saying it was a one-man team. It was though just a minor blip and they continued on their merry way, beating the Strikers at home and then derby number two for the season had arrived
Before a record crowd of 46,681 at the MCG, the Renegades crushed the Stars by nine wickets. The Docklands-based side had confirmed themselves as the best team in Melbourne. They would complete the regular season with a 29 run win over the Sydney Sixers at the SCG before the fateful semi-final.
Despite the finals loss, the Renegades season can be classed as a massive success on and off the field, with solid bases set for future seasons.
The Big Bash League is only in its infant stage but it can only get better, as will the Renegades in BBL|03.