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‘He was one of the first on the list’: The forgotten star who could turn around BBL

After a disastrous Big Bash campaign in 2021, the Melbourne Renegades were desperate to turn their fortunes around.

The set their sights on one man. But rather than focus on a high profile Australian star or a big-name international to target at the inaugural draft, it was a largely overlooked and undervalued veteran they turned to — Jono Wells.

The 34-year-old shined in the last Big Bash competition, but it was hardly a one off.

It is easy to forget just how good Wells has been since the tournament’s inception.

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The Tasmanian has played 111 BBL games, the second most of any player ever behind Dan Christian, and has consistently performed when his team has needed it most.

T20 cricket has traditionally highlighted the flashy top-order players who destroy bowling attacks in the power play.

Not the middle order men who steer the ship and do the hard yards.

Renegades coach David Saker told foxsports.com.au when the opportunity arose to sign a player of Wells’ calibre they went all in, and even had him flagged as a top recruitment target during last year’s nightmare campaign.

“In the last two to three years, success hasn’t been close for us, we have changed our list quite dramatically, and halfway through last year we were putting names together regarding who we could recruit,” Saker said.

“We put a list of names together and Wellsy was one of the first on that list, and everybody that was involved in management we jumped at that opportunity.

“You don’t get the opportunity to get guys like that very often, proven players are usually secured with a contract, so to find out he was out of contract and wanted a move was a huge plus for us.

“We’ve done well to get him and hopefully he can make a huge difference.”

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Renegades captain Nic Maddinson echoed his coaches’ sentiment and couldn’t speak highly enough of Wells.

“A great signing, I was really excited when the idea came about of recruiting him, he does go a bit under the radar,” Maddinson told foxsports.com.au.

“When teams are struggling, he always gets you to a score that’s competitive and I think that’s going to be a massive thing for us, having that experience in the middle order.

“He can bat anywhere from three to six or seven and play a huge role.”

Last season the Renegades recorded five of their 16 lowest totals in the history of the BBL franchise.

Aaron Finch scored 386 runs at an average of 38.60 in BBL11, with only two other players scoring more than 200 – Mackenzie Harvey and Shaun Marsh.

Meanwhile, the eventual winners of the tournament, the Perth Scorchers, had five players who tallied over 350 runs.

The Melbourne side in red this season boast some of the most destructive top order batsmen the BBL has ever seen in Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Nic Maddinson.

Throw in the mix Mackenzie Harvey and Sam Harper, as well as international recruits Andre Russell and Martin Guptill and the Renegades have scary batting stocks.

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However, even Maddinson acknowledges that someone has to be the glue that allows the Gades’ heavy hitters to flourish

“Having him (Wells) there will allow the top order to play nice and aggressively, challenge teams that way and hopefully we can come up with a game plan that can fit the mould we want to play in,” Maddinson said.

“Bit of planning to do, but I imagine he’d be in that middle to upper order, sort of around that four or five spot.”

Across 111 games, Wells has scored a staggering 2554 runs to sit fourth on the all-time BBL leaderboard and also scored the second most runs in BBL11 with an impressive 501 at an average of 38.53

But what makes his achievements all the more mind-blowing is the company that surrounds him.

Of the top 10 highest run scorers in BBL history, nine consistently are positioned in the top three of the batting order – but not Wells.

Above him are T20 superstars Chris Lynn, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell.

Below him D’Arcy Short, Shaun Marsh, Moises Henriques, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade and Ben McDermott – and all nine have featured for Australia.

The tag of being an “underrated” player isn’t thrown around lightly, but Saker believes that is the exact reason the Renegades were able to secure his signature.

“That’s why he probably came out of contract, because he didn’t get the rewards he deserved,” Saker said.

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“If you are batting at four, five and six in T20 cricket it is probably the hardest place to bat, and to have the numbers he gets, it is extraordinary.

“Most of the guys in the list bat at one, two or three in the batting order, if you gave those guys in the top five or six to bat down the order for a few years they wouldn’t have the numbers like Wells produces.

“That’s a testament to Jono that he can do that in that position.

“It’s not an easy place to bat five and six, and to get the numbers that he does batting at that position, it is quite extraordinary.”

Saker also said early last week that his gun recruit was “hitting the ball as good as anyone in our group”.

Delivering on his coaches’ faith, Wells blasted an unbeaten 102 off only 53 deliveries in the Renegades’ warm-up clash against the Stars.

Their attack included English international Luke Wood, Victorians Brody Couch and Cam McClure as well as stalwarts Marcus Stoinis, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Beau Webster.

Wells belted a staggering six maximums and nine fours to strike at 192.45 in an innings that saw the Melbourne side in red chase down the Stars’ 7/220 in only 18.5 overs.

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