THE BBL degenerated into WWE, only serious, on Sunday night when Shane Warne came to the brink of blows with the Melbourne Renegades' controversial import Marlon Samuels.
The result of the Melbourne derby - a nine-wicket victory to the Renegades over Warne's Stars in front of a record crowd at the MCG - was completely overshadowed by a series of ill-tempered eruptions revolving around Samuels, the West Indies all-rounder who has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout his stint with the Renegades.
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Melbourne Stars captain, Shane Warne and Renegades batsman Marlon Samuels have a fiery exchange at the MCG earlier this month.
The feud appeared to be sparked during the Stars' innings when Samuels, while bowling, physically impeded the progress of David Hussey by grabbing his shirt as the Stars batsman turned for a second run.
Samuels made light of the contact but Hussey was not amused, and pointed his bat at the Jamaican as the umpire intervened.
After Warne bowled the 9th over of the Renegades' runchase, the champion leg spinner marched up to Samuels, wagged his finger in his face, and said, ''F--- you, Marlon.''
During the next over, after an underarm throw from Warne struck Samuels on the body, the West Indies star threw his bat in the Australian's direction.
Again, the umpires intervened but Warne was furious and continued to vent his anger at the square leg umpire when a short ball from Clint Mckay was called a wide.
Renegades captain Aaron Finch, who is likely to make his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka at the MCG on Friday, deserved enormous credit for keeping his cool while Warne lost control of his temper, to make a mature 67.
Samuels' innings came to a painful end when he top-edged a fast ball from Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga through the grill of his helmet, drawing blood, and he retired hurt on 17.
The drama came as the Big Bash League finally delivered the record crowd its makers have craved since scrapping state allegiances for Twenty20.
The turnout of 46,581 eclipsed the previous record of 43,125 for a Twenty20 match between Victoria and Tasmania at the same ground in January, 2010.
It was that astonishing attendance that convinced Cricket Australia of the power of the shortest format to broaden the game's appeal and bring crowds back to domestic cricket.
The jazzed-up BBL was designed to cash in on that popularity but CA's marketeers could not have imagined it would provide ''entertainment'' of the sort served up by Warne, the tournament's biggest star who is miked up for Fox Sports, and Samuels during the grudge match between the two Melbourne teams.
Samuels has been fiercely unpopular among opponents this season. Brisbane Heat coach Darren Lehmann was hauled before a disciplinary hearing for publicly questioning his bowling action, prompting the Renegades to close ranks around their star overseas guest.
Then, Adelaide Strikers coach Darren Berry was reported under the code of conduct over an altercation with Samuels, having apparently drawn the ire of the Jamaican after warning him not to bowl his quicker ball before their match.
The incidents with Hussey and Warne followed a tense moment when Brad Hodge initially stood his ground after Samuels took a sharp, low catch to dismiss the Stars batsman.
There are no third-umpire interventions in state cricket but the replay suggested Samuels kept the ball off the ground.
The Renegades' decisive win secures a home semi final for the Etihad Stadium-based team, which will finish on top of the ladder after coming in second-last in the BBL's first season.
Finch celebrated his call-up to the one-day squad in emphatic style, having made an unbeaten century against the Stars in the season's first Melbourne derby.
L WRIGHT c Pattinson b Sheridan 29
B HODGE c Samuels b O'Brien 11
G MAXWELL c Doolan b Samuels 3
D HUSSEY c Cooper b Pattinson 23
C WHITE lbw b Muralidaran 17
R QUINEY c Muralidaran b Pattinson 24
J FAULKNER c Rimmington b Sheridan 23
J HASTINGS run out (Sheridan) 5
C McKAY c Nevill b Sheridan 0
L MALINGA not out 2
S WARNE not out 0
Sundries (8w, 1nb) 9
Total (9 wkts - 20 overs) 146
Fall of wickets: 22 (Hodge), 39 (Maxwell), 49 (Wright), 85 (Hussey), 86 (White), 126 (Quiney), 144 (Hastings), 144 (McKay), 144 (Faulkner)
Bowling: A O'Brien 4-0-22-1 (1w), W Sheridan 4-0-36-3 (2w 1nb), D Pattinson 3-0-12-2, N Rimmington 2-0-23-0, M Samuels 3-0-26-1, M Muralidaran 4-0-27-1 (1w/5)
A FINCH not out 67
A DOOLAN b Warne 30
M SAMUELS (retired hurt) 17
P NEVILL not out 24
Sundries (1b, 1lb, 7w) 9
Total (1 wkt - 18.5 overs) 147
Fall of wicket: 70 (Doolan)
Bowling: J Hastings 3.5-0-31-0 (1w), L Malinga 4-0-20-0 (1w), J Faulkner 2-0-26-0, C McKay 3-0-26-0 (3w), S Warne 4-0-24-1 (1w), G Maxwell 1-0-7-0 (1w), C White 1-0-11-0
Result: Melbourne Renegades won by 9 wickets