Welcome to the preview of the opening five BBL05 matches. The glitz, glamour and hard hitting of the Big Bash is back. After a start to the international summer that has struggled to gain the interest of the cricket public, the Big Bash is sure to produce a more exciting spectacle. It is faster paced, more family friendly and a consistently more entertaining product. The first four seasons have been a raging success and that trend is set to continue.
The first few matches of the Big Bash are always difficult to predict, as there has been no form lines to assess for 11 months. It can also be difficult to know exactly what structures the franchises are going to run with until the first one-two games are completed. All we can go by is individual state form, trial games, media and our cricket instincts. In saying that, there can be value at this time of the year with odds heavily focused on last season’s results and an exaggeration to list changes. It is a tough few games to identify a solid best bet, but there are some attractive odds.
On value, Sydney Thunder head to head against the Sixers @ $2.35
*Consider the Hobart Hurricanes after the Sixers first result.
SYDNEY THUNDER ($2.35) VS SYDNEY SIXERS ($1.60)
AT SPOTLESS STADIUM, THURSDAY 17/12, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Thunder 4/154 (Kallis 56, Blizzard 51no, Delport 30, Lyon 3/19) lost to Sixers 6/155 (Silk 69no, Wessels 30, Lalor 4/29) by 4 wickets at the SCG.
The Sydney Thunder will be looking to begin its new full time association with Spotless Stadium by turning around its awful win/loss record with a victory against crosstown rival the Sixers. The pitch at Spotless has been prepared to generate greater bounce and pace than the dead drop in wickets at ANZ Stadium of the past. This will not only give the bigger hitters like Russell, Blizzard and Watson reason to smile, but encourage aggressive bowling as well. The Thunder have named 6 debutants for the game and may need time to gel, but the big names in Hussey, Kallis, Watson, Russell and Sandhu have all been selected. They will be near full strength, excluding the unavailability of Usman Khawaja.
After going so close to claiming its second Big Bash Title during BBL04, the Sixers will be determined to go one better this season after its heartbreaking loss in the Final against Perth. The Sixers won’t be fielding anything near its best side to start the season with a number of international players rested, while Moises Henriques is suspended. In saying that, some handy cricketers come into the side with Bird and Botha making their debuts for the Sixers, while Brad Haddin will play his first Big Bash game for 3 years. Nathan Lyon has been released by Cricket Australia to play, but Steve O’Keefe has been rested after a heavy domestic workload.
The odds don’t quite justify the squads that have been selected. The Thunder have to overcome a losing culture, but appear to have the stronger XI on paper. They are value at $2.35.
Prediction: Thunder to win by 10-15 runs/5 wickets
ADELAIDE STRIKERS ($2.28) VS MELBOURNE STARS (1.60)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, FRIDAY 18/12, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Stars 7/148 (Pietersen 66, Wright 45, Richardson 2/20, Laughlin 2/34) lost to Strikers 2/149 (Ludeman 92no, Simmons 30, Hastings 2/31) by 8 wickets at Adelaide Oval.
The corresponding game last season set up an impressive home and away season for the Strikers during BBL04, with Ludeman’s 92 not out creating belief in his squad. The Strikers will be looking to produce another confidence boosting performance as it yet again begins the season as underdogs against the Stars. The Strikers have lost some key players from last year, but look forward to having captain Brad Hodge for an entire season, on top of new internationals Mahela Jayawardena and Adil Rashid. Jayawardena has been in great form during the New Zealand Georgie Pie Smash for Central Districts with three half centuries in four innings, while Rashid hit 55 and took 2 wickets in the recent Strikers trial game.
The Melbourne Stars enter yet another Big Bash season as short priced favourites after four consecutive Semi-Final losses. The Stars started BBL04 with three losses, including two in the opening three days of the competition. While the Stars produced some good cricket after that, they never quite played at their full potential. A flat start and constant expectations may have been the reason for the overall performance drop, but new coach Stephen Fleming can’t afford to let that happen again.
Adelaide’s win last season against the Stars was set up beautifully with the ball, but it could have easily been a tricky chase if not for Ludeman’s individual heroics. Expect the Stars to be better prepared.
Prediction: Stars to win by 15 runs/5 wickets
BRISBANE HEAT ($2.10) VS MELBOURNE RENEGADES ($1.71)
AT THE GABBA, SATURDAY 19/12, 19:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Heat 80 (Cutting 30, Shakib 4/13, Pattinson 2/23) lost to Renegades 5/81 (Beaton 31no, Christian 2/13) by 5 wickets at Etihad.
There isn’t much the Brisbane Heat need to do to improve on last season’s output, but there will be an immediate focus on how their bowling plans are implemented. 36 wickets in an 8 match season isn’t good enough and expect the Heat bowlers to be hitting straighter and fuller lines. International signing Samuel Badree is a very economical bowler, but will require more than his wicket a match domestic average. It will be interesting to see if the improvement of Mark Steketee can translate into T20 wickets or not.
Everyone will be tuning into this game on Saturday night to see the superstar opening partnership of Gayle and Finch for the first time in red. Let’s hope the return of Chris Gayle to the Big Bash is a more enjoyable experience than his time at the Thunder, but a recent 92 not out for Barisal in the BPL suggests it will be. Cameron White will make his debut for the Renegades too, but will be seen further down the order than his time at the Stars. Matthew Wade proved his fitness with 44 runs against the Stars in a practice game at Geelong, but unfortunately Callum Ferguson has torn his ACL and now won’t be seen this season after impressive domestic form.
Both teams don’t appear to have brilliant bowling depth for the first game, which suggests the match could be won or lost with the bat. The Renegades possess the most dangerous batsmen on paper and have the potential to take full advantage of a recently flat Gabba deck.
Prediction: Renegades to win by 15 runs/4 wickets
SYDNEY SIXERS ($1.60) VS HOBART HURRICANES ($2.30)
AT THE SCG, SUNDAY 20/12, 16:20
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Hurricanes 8/154 (Bailey 71, Paine 36, Lee 3/34, Henriques 2/22) lost to Sixers Lumb 44, Silk 31no) by 7 wickets at Blundstone Arena.
It is always difficult to assess a side for its second game before it has actually played its first, but here goes. Firstly, expect the odds of this game to change significantly between now and Sunday, especially if the Sixers lose to the Thunder. There are some known changes to the Sixers side with Moises Henriques back having served his suspension, while Steve O’Keefe is also likely to be available. Those two immediately give the Sixers greater depth in both key disciplines of their structure. Nathan Lyon will be given another opportunity with the white ball to push for Australian limited overs selection.
The Hobart Hurricanes are a side that is splitting pre-tournament expert opinions, but there is no denying that its batting order has serious potential. It will need to perform much better than it did last season to be a contender, but the inclusion of Kumar Sangakkara and Dan Christian is sure to help that consistency. There are queries on the bowling attack’s ability to contain runs. Tait and Reed offer plenty of pace and strike potential, but aren’t necessarily consistent. Boyce is a quality T20 spin option, but there will be a heavy reliance on all-rounders Christian and Sammy. The Hurricanes will be fun to watch though.
Wait and see the Sixers first match before committing to this result, but the Hurricanes look value early on. My confidence range will tighten up once the first Sixers result is known.
Prediction: Hobart Hurricanes to win by 10-20 runs/3-7 wickets
MELBOURNE STARS ($1.40) VS SYDNEY THUNDER ($2.90)
AT THE MCG, SUNDAY 20/12, 19:25
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Thunder 8/106 (Blizzard 45, Beer 2/14, McKay 2/14, Bird 2/15, Hastings 2/23) lost to Stars 2/107 (Pietersen 67no) by 8 wickets at Spotless Stadium
The Melbourne Stars have produced some impressive numbers during its preseason trial games. The Stars easily dealt with the Melbourne Renegades in Geelong on December 11th, chasing down 144 with 15 balls to spare. Although it was a practice game against a Victorian Premier Cricket All-Stars XI at Casey Fields that got the people talking, as the Stars smashed 3/282 from its 20 overs. Luke Wright was the highlight with a 48 ball century, building important confidence despite the lower quality opposition. The Stars probably couldn’t have hoped for a better preparation, but must now translate that form into results. Two games in three days to start the season can make or break a short tournament like the Big Bash.
The Sydney Thunder are long odds at $2.90, but expect that to come in after its encounter against the Sixers. It has been announced that Usman Khawaja will play in this game to prove his fitness for the Boxing Day Test, which certainly creates an impressive top six for the Thunder. A win against the Sixers will boost confidence for this historically success starved franchise, but a trip to the MCG against the Stars is a difficult prospect at the best of times.
The Thunder vs Sixers result won’t change my opinion match on this game, I expect the Stars to win comfortably. I’m confident that you’ll get a more attractive price for the Stars closer to the weekend.
Prediction: Stars to win by 25 runs/4 wickets