As we enter the final rounds of the home and away fixture, there are still seven teams fighting for a top four berth. The Sydney Sixers are the big risers after two huge wins against the Stars and Brisbane consecutively, leaving the SCG based franchise just two points away from fourth position. The Sixers looked dead and gone, but the introduction of Nathan Lyon, Carlos Brathwaite, Moises Henriques, Joe Denly and the return to form of both Sean Abbott and Nic Maddinson has turned its season around dramatically. It makes middle of the road teams like the Renegades and Heat extremely nervous, particularly the latter who only has one game remaining and a negative net run rate.
SYDNEY THUNDER HEAD TO HEAD @ $1.81 AGAINST MELBOURNE STARS
STARS ($2.00) VS THUNDER ($1.81)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 20/01, 18:10
The Melbourne Stars’ season is as good as over after losing to the Sixers by eight wickets and falling two games behind in last position. It produced another mediocre batting display that saw wickets fall at regular intervals, again resulting in batsmen at the crease with no momentum. There are minimal answers for the Stars and even if there was, a net run rate of -0.917 means that if it did win all remaining games and four wins is enough sneak into the top four, it would need huge results to overtake teams in the positive.
With a game in hand of both the Sixers and Brisbane, the Sydney Thunder have a great opportunity to become the major threat of stealing that final top four spot off the Renegades. It has been a week since the Thunder last took the field, but the opportunity to take on a confidence drained Stars outfit couldn’t have been better timed. Usman Khawaja will be key for the Thunder, but the bowling suspension of Arjun Nair for a suspect action will make a strong spin partnership between he, Green and Fawad four overs weaker. It may mean that seam will have to make up the difference, which isn’t ideal after such successful spin plans throughout the tournament from all teams.
The loss of Arjun Nair is significant, but the Thunder should have more than enough bowling and batting options to deal with a poor Stars squad.
SYDNEY THUNDER TO WIN BY 15-20 RUNS/6 WICKETS
SCORCHERS ($1.70) VS HURRICANES ($2.15)
AT THE WACA, SATURDAY 20/01, 21:20
After a week off the field, the Perth Scorchers still sit pretty in second position and are brilliantly placed for yet another home semi-final. It went into its break on a positive note, easily overcoming title rival and hype team of the time the Adelaide Strikers in Alice Springs. It was again the bowling that got the job done, but this time from players that were depicted as weaknesses coming into the game. Bresnan, Kelly and Bosisto claimed five wickets between them, while Ashton Agar continued his good form with 3/19. Whiteman and Voges return for Perth.
A Hobart Hurricanes squad on a high of five consecutive wins travelled to Adelaide confident it could knock off its fellow top two contender. Although an Alex Carey and Jake Weatherald record partnership of 171 quickly dulled the mood and a difficult chase of 187 was on. D’Arcy Short was always going to be the game breaker, but when he departed for 28 off 24 balls, Hobart needed a miracle. After crabbing the first half of his innings, Alex Doolan finally got going late to strike some clean hits and finish 70 not out from 55 balls, but too many balls were wasted in the power play.
I feel the Hurricanes are a bit of value here as it will only take a D’Arcy Short master class, but it is a really low confidence game. Keen to see if Perth’s depth bowlers can back it up.
HOBART HURRICANES TO WIN BY 5-10 RUNS/4 WICKETS
RENEGADES ($2.00) VS STRIKERS ($1.81)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, MONDAY 22/01, 19:40
The Melbourne Renegades produced its worst performance of the competition against the Stars over a week ago now, falling 23 runs short against the competition cellar dweller. The loss of Finch, White and Hodge hurt immensely and it will have to get used to being without the first two. Hodge will return, but tournament sensation Mohammad Nabi is a huge exclusion with both ball and bat. Kieron Pollard is the international replacement, but it is difficult seeing him having the same impact with the ball. By the time Monday rolls in, it will be ten days since the Renegades last played and it could be a tad rusty.
The Adelaide Strikers got itself back on the winners list with an impressive victory against an inform Hurricanes line-up. Having relied upon a very consistent bowling attack for a majority of its campaign, it was the batsmen who made their mark. While Alex Carey had more than contributed his fair share of runs beforehand, an outstanding century from 56 balls further enhanced a growing reputation. His 171 run partnership with Jake Weatherald was obviously the defining period of the match, but having been called to the national squad to replace an ill Tim Paine, the Strikers are unlikely to have their star run maker on Monday night.
The Strikers bowling attack should be far superior, but interested to see how it handles the potential loss of Carey and how the Renegades look with its changes.
ADELAIDE STRIKERS TO WIN BY 10-15 RUNS/5 WICKETS