Melbourne's Courtney Webb dives for a catch. CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES
It was another day, another half-century for Jess Duffin who has led the Melbourne Renegades into a second successive Women’s Big Bash League finals series.
Needing to beat Sydney Thunder at Junction Oval on Sunday to guarantee their spot in next weekend’s semi-finals, the Renegades were sent in on an overcast Melbourne morning.
They were in trouble early after Anna Lanning (three) and Sri Lankan Chamari Athapaththu (duck) fell inside the first three overs, leaving the Renegades 2-6.
Athapaththu was playing her first game of the season for the Renegades having replaced English import Tammy Beaumont.
However, as they have done repeatedly this season, Duffin and Englishwoman Danni Wyatt proved to be thorns in their opponents’ sides.
They put on 72 for the third wicket before Wyatt was removed for 44 from 31 balls by teenager Hannah Darlington.
Duffin continued though, posting her fifth half-century of the season and third in five days before being stumped by Rachel Priest off Darlington’s bowling for 53 from 44 balls.
Duffin, playing her 50th WBBL match, passed 500 runs for the season during her innings, doing little to dispel calls about a possible return to the Australian side.
The Renegades finished at 6-151 from their 20 overs.
They applied pressure early in the Thunder chase before Priest was well-caught in the deep by Lanning for 19 off the bowling of Molly Strano, who took a second scalp by bowling Naomi Stalenberg for 28.
In between those wickets, veteran Alex Blackwell was cruelly run out for one after her bat bounced diving for a tight run. Blackwell, 36, received a warm ovation as she made her way off the ground in what was her final professional match.
The batter played 251 matches for Australia between 2003 and 2017.
Strano, who finished with 3-26 from her four overs, then bowled Thunder skipper Rachael Haynes for 14, ending a miserable tournament for the Australian vice-captain in which she managed just 166 runs at 15 with a strike rate of 86.
Thunder finished 7-122 from their 20 overs.
The Renegades join Brisbane Heat, the Adelaide Strikers and Perth Scorchers in the WBBL finals.