Hat-trick mystery to Neser as Renegades beat Heat, Proteas not spooked, Baz having a ball with Stokes

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Amid the chaos, Michael Neser has said he was unaware he’d taken the ninth hat-trick in BBL history.

It spanned two overs as the Brisbane Heat paceman destroyed the Melbourne Renegades’ top order on Wednesday night, reducing them to 4-9 in their run chase.

“S***, that’s funny,” Neser told reporters post-match when they informed him of the rare feat.

“I didn’t realise I took a wicket on that final ball of that over before. It’s kind of cool – first hat-trick I’ve ever taken.

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“To be honest, a lot was going on. The wicket was doing a lot, the ball was swinging, so I was really just focused on bowling a good length.”

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 21:  Michael Neser of the Heat celebrates the wicket of Jonathan Wells of the Renegades during the Men's Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Renegades and the Brisbane Heat at GMHBA Stadium, on December 21, 2022, in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Michael Neser celebrates. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Squeezed out of Australia’s Test side, Neser responded in spectacular fashion with four wickets in his first eight deliveries on his return to BBL duty.

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The Heat had posted a modest 8-137, batting first, before Neser gave them momentum with the ball. The 32-year-old snared Sam Harper’s wicket with the first delivery of the Renegades’ innings and dismissed Jake Fraser-McGurk with the last ball of the same over.

Nic Maddinson was Neser’s next victim at the start of the third over and the hat-trick was complete when Jon Wells left one that cannoned into the stumps. Neser was not far away from the BBL’s second double hat-trick when an inswinger went through Andre Russell’s gate, narrowly missing off-stump.

The close shave didn’t faze Russell, who soon smacked Neser onto the GMHBA Stadium roof.

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It was one of three sixes the West Indies power hitter blasted off Neser, who still finished with career-best T20 figures of 4-32.

Russell tallied half a dozen sixes in his match-winning knock of 57 off 42 balls, leading the Renegades to a four-wicket win.

The result left the Heat in a 0-2 hole ahead of a clash with the unbeaten Adelaide Strikers (3-0) – Neser’s former team – at the Gabba on Friday.

The Renegades, who copped three straight wooden spoons after claiming the 2018-19 title, have made a perfect 3-0 start this season.

The outlook wasn’t so rosy when No.6 Russell arrived at the crease in the third over with the score at 4-9.

“In situations like that, I don’t think the best way to go about it is to go and block,” Russell told reporters.

“For me it’s being positive and take the pressure off the batting team and try to put the bowlers under pressure.

“I’ve been in a few situations like that in my career and I went out and did similar things. I’m happy it worked tonight again.”

Russell was dropped on 31 by Bazley and took advantage, belting double the Heat’s total of three sixes before he was eventually caught behind off Mark Steketee (2-23).

Aaron Finch (31 not out) and Will Sutherland (6no) steered the Renegades home after Akeal Hosein (30 off 19) played a crucial cameo with the bat.

Sutherland faced just one ball, matching Russell’s record with a 103m six of his own.

Earlier, Brisbane won the toss and batted first but staggered through an innings that lacked the usual T20 fireworks.

Captain Jimmy Peirson (45 not out) top-scored for the Heat and hit six of his side’s eight fours during a 29-run power surge in the final two overs.

Matt Renshaw (29) and Sam Billings (25) put on a 61-run partnership for the third wicket but both fell victim to Renegades paceman Tom Rogers, who posted career-best figures of 4-23.

Import spinner Hosein (3-26) also did damage with the ball.

Proteas bats not spooked, claims Zondo

South Africa’s struggling batting line-up will not be spooked by the prospect of another lively pitch for the second Test against Australia.

The Proteas were rolled for 152 and 99 in Brisbane last week, falling behind 1-0 in the three-match series after the Test lasted just two days.

In their last six completed Test innings South Africa have failed to reach 200.

No.5 Khaya Zondo top-scored with an unbeaten 36 in the second innings but the Proteas’ inexperienced batters were no match for Australia’s star quicks on a Gabba pitch the ICC rated as “below average”.

Last year’s Boxing Day Test was over before lunch on the third day and pressure is on MCG curator Matt Page to deliver a pitch that delivers a fair contest between bat and ball.

But Peter Roach, head of cricket operations for Cricket Australia, was adamant there had been direction to flatten out the MCG wicket following the express match at the Gabba and last year’s bowler-friendly conditions in Melbourne.

“You can’t play a game before you’re actually in it,” Zondo said on Wednesday.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 18: Rassie van der Dussen of South Africa is clean bowled by Mitchell Starc of Australia who celebrates taking his 300th Test Wicket during day two of the First Test match between Australia and South Africa at The Gabba on December 18, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“Going forward and thinking what the pitch is going to be like, is it going to be bad or good, I don’t think that’s a good space for us as a team or batsmen to really think about.

“I don’t necessarily think they will prepare a pitch like they did last time because it’s been deemed below average so I’m sure there’s going to be an effort to make it more fair between bat and ball.”

Zondo, who is coming off just his third Test appearance, fought valiantly at the Gabba during the second innings after falling for a duck on day one.

“I just made sure that I watched the ball even closer and move a little bit quicker,” he said.

“If you scored a 30 or 40 on that pitch, it was like gold.”

Baz describes Stokes as ‘incredible’ captain

Brendon McCullum says Ben Stokes’ captaincy is “incredible” and he has taken it to a new level during the 3-0 series win in Pakistan.

The tourists completed an eight-wicket victory in the third Test on Tuesday morning to seal a series whitewash few had predicted.

All three Tests were thrilling affairs on England’s first tour of Pakistan in 17 years, while off the field they have pulled together in the face of adversity as several squad members were ill during the month-long trip.

And with a home Ashes series on the horizon in June, after two Tests in New Zealand in February, head coach McCullum believes Stokes deserves all the plaudits.

It was his first overseas series success as skipper but England have been transformed since he was appointed in April.

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN - DECEMBER 05: Ben Stokes of England celebrates with coach Brendon McCullum after winning the First Test Match between Pakistan and England at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on December 05, 2022 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

England have won nine out of their 10 Tests under McCullum and Stokes, with a heavy emphasis on attacking play.

“He seems to have (taken it to a new level), it’s quite incredible,” McCullum said of the 31-year-old Durham all-rounder.

“What we see on the field, pulling the strings, is one thing – he’s constantly active, making plays and always thinking about wickets and he’s so consistent with his message that he doesn’t care about runs.

“That’s one thing, but what he does off the field is quite remarkable: his man-management, his general positivity is quite staggering.

“I thought he’d be good but he continues to exceed expectations. He and I are starting to build a really good relationship, not just on the field but off it as well. We’ve got a good one.”

McCullum put particular emphasis on Stokes’ man-management style by highlighting his role in getting an ill Jack Leach through the second Test in Multan.

“The most obvious example was when Jack Leach was crook in the second game and Stokesy was unbelievably ill as well – he never talked about that, he was just concerned about the other guys, trying to work out who was going to take the field,” the New Zealander said.

“He went to Leachy’s room, he was pretty much a non-starter, and he said, ‘You’re playing, I’ll get you through, I desperately need you in this team because you’re so important to us’.

“That’s a pretty powerful message from someone as strong-willed and with a personality like Stokesy. But that’s just one example – there’s loads – it blows you away.

“The subcontinent can be challenging when you’ve got security restrictions, but honestly, it’s kind of been the best thing for us. The camaraderie that’s developed, the relationships and the way guys interact teaches you so much. It’s been an amazing four weeks and Stokes has been leading that.”

Harry Brook, who scored a century in all three Tests in Pakistan, epitomises England’s bold approach.

The 23-year-old says Stokes leads from the front and all the players have bought into the mantra instilled in the dressing room.

“Absolutely, the way he plays his cricket, he leads from the front, but he’s said plenty of times that it will only work if everybody buys into it, and everyone who has played has done that,” Brook said.

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