Melbourne, Jan 4: The Melbourne Stars avenged their 2019 Big Bash final defeat to the Melbourne Renegades with a thumping victory at the MCG that was inspired by a moment of magic in the field.
An eight-wicket trouncing in front of a crowd of 54,478 on Saturday reflected the changing fortunes of these teams since they met at nearby Docklands Stadium in the title match 11 months ago.
Michael Klinger's Renegades have gone into reverse gear this season and this was a sixth straight defeat for the defending champions, who are proving to be a shadow of the side led by Andrew McDonald last season.
The Stars have soared to the top of the table with five wins in six games for David Hussey's side, who scythed down the Renegades from 117-2 to their eventual 142-9 total.
Shaun Marsh and Beau Webster looked like lifting the Renegades to a substantial total as their third-wicket partnership reached 62.
Yet Marsh's dismissal for 43 to a brilliant boundary catch, Ben Dunk tossing the ball back to Nathan Coulter-Nile, off Sandeep Lamichhane's leg spin triggered a collapse, with Dan Christian stumped for a golden duck and Webster also soon back in the dressing room.
Marcus Stoinis anchored the Stars response with an unbeaten 68 from the top of the order to becoming the leading scorer in the competition, with skipper Glenn Maxwell plundering a snappy 40 not out as the Renegades attack sorely lacked bite.
DUNK RISES TO SEND MARSH PACKING
It was the unmistakeable turning point, given the Renegades may have pushed for a score around 180 had Marsh cleared the rope.
He and Webster had taken 17 runs off the previous over, and Marsh was hungry for more, lustily pulling Lamichhane. He looked set to move to the brink of a half-century, but Dunk dashed back to intervene.
Momentum was taking the fielder over the rope, but Dunk held his poise for just long enough to lob the ball back to Coulter-Nile, who completed the job.
SIX OF THE WORST
The Renegades began this campaign with high hopes of defending their title, despite losing coach McDonald, who joined the Australia set-up.
The addition of Marsh to their squad suggested they would be a force again, but the Klinger era is already in crisis. Six defeats from six games tells a sorry story.
A lack of mid to lower-order resolve cost them in their biggest match of the season so far, with the Renegades then largely bereft of threat with the ball, and you wonder what they have left.
STARS WILL MISS STEYN
This was Dale Steyn's final Big Bash match for the Stars before reporting for South Africa duty, and his four-game stint proved as sweet as it was short. He signed off with 2-16, typically setting a high standard for the rest of the attack.
But if Steyn has been the fast bowling exemplar in the Stars ranks, at least they have a replacement who has shown he can do damage with the ball.
Little-known Pakistani fast bowler Haris Rauf, left out for this game, looks sure to play an integral role in the remainder of the campaign after netting 10 wickets in his first three matches.
Rauf was playing grade cricket in Hobart until December when the Stars acted on a tip, and he can carry the team through to the finals.