Can Renegades outshine Stars without comforts of home?
In form: Renegades captain Aaron Finch. Photo: Getty Images
As the Melbourne Renegades continue spinning their way towards the Big Bash semi-finals, a rival coach has raised doubt over whether the current ladder-leaders can win the tournament away from Etihad Stadium.
The Renegades' liking for slow conditions on the drop-in pitch at the Docklands venue has been pivotal in their climb this season, and for captain Aaron Finch's use of mainly spinners in their four wins there.
Muttiah Muralidaran would get a game anywhere but has been particularly suited to Etihad and was the match-winner against the Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday night with 3-18 from four overs.
Muralidaran, West Indies off-spinner Marlon Samuels, left-arm spinner Aaron O'Brien and even Finch's occasional tweakers have accounted for well over half of the overs sent down by the Renegades in six games this competition.
Strikers coach Darren Berry said the Renegades' spinners were suited to Etihad Stadium but Finch's side could struggle in a knockout match away from home, like it did in last Saturday night's 51-run defeat to the Scorchers at the WACA Ground.
"They've got a good formula and the game. It's a big ground and here they're very, very competitive. They're a good side," Berry said.
"We saw in Perth it didn't suit them at all. So they need to get a home semi-final and if they do they're a real shot at it. But if they have to play away in a semi-final I don't think their team is as suited."
The Renegades will get their next test away from home, albeit across town at the MCG, in Sunday night's derby against the Stars, where both sides will be out to secure a place in the semi-finals, if they haven't done so already.
Australia's looming one-day series against Sri Lanka, which starts at the MCG on January 11, could have a major bearing on what sides the Big Bash teams field in the semi-finals, especially given Finch's importance to the Renegades.
But coach Simon Helmot insisted his side was well placed for batting depth through Tom Cooper and Ben Rohrer and others on the fringe to cover if Finch was granted higher honours.
"I hope we do lose to Finchy to national duties. He certainly deserves to be involved in the Australian one-day side and T20 side," Helmot said.
"We believe we've got good depth. Hilly (Michael Hill) got his chance (against the Strikers) but didn't get away, and we've still got 'Doc' (Daniel) Harris who can come into the side and we've got Alex Doolan waiting in the wings."