Welcome to the BBL05 Round 4 preview. After three rounds of cricket we have a new favourite for the BBL05 title, as the Sydney Thunder remain the only undefeated side in the competition. The success starved Western Sydney based franchise has been the ugly duckling of the Big Bash, producing multiple wooden spoon finishes and generally uncompetitive results. But this side has finally turned it around and is now attracting big crowds to its new home base at the Sydney Showgrounds. The Thunder has shortened to $3.75 for the title, clear favouritism to Perth at $5.00. There is still a long way to go, but the Thunder are superbly set to participate in its maiden Big Bash finals series.
Perth Scorchers head to head against the Renegades @ $1.95
MELBOURNE RENEGADES ($1.85) VS PERTH SCORCHERS ($1.95)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, WEDNESDAY 30/12, 19:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Scorchers 3/192 (Klinger 105no, Harris 53) defeated Renegades 9/157 (Russell 43, Ferguson 39, Behrendorff 2/16, Agar 2/22, Tye 2/36) by 35 runs at the WACA.
The Melbourne Renegades have started really well with bat in hand having lost only 7 wickets and posting two 170+ totals in its opening couple of games, but we never doubted their batting talent. The bowling however is seriously lacking depth with Pattinson and Siddle on national duty. Nathan Rimmington was outstanding with 4/26 against the Sixers, but he didn’t get much support. Tremain took two wickets but was expensive, while the rest just didn’t look like taking wickets. The Renegades batting line up will win games singlehandedly this competition, but it desperately needs a consistent bowling performance.
The Perth Scorchers got its BBL05 campaign off the mark with a comprehensive victory against the struggling Heat. Despite losing four key players to the Test squad and injury, Perth never looked threatened, mainly on the back of an outstanding bowling performance. All of its five bowlers had an impact, whether it be consistently hitting economical areas or taking perfectly timed wickets. They never gave Brisbane a chance and had it not been for Chris Lynn’s 75, the total would have been under 100. Shaun Marsh returns to the Scorchers for the match after being released by Cricket Australia.
If Perth can replicate its disciplined bowling effort at Etihad Stadium, they’ll win this game. Containing the likes of Finch and Gayle is vital and these bowlers possess the short format skills to produce errors. Marsh strengthens the Perth batting too, adding further pressure on the Renegades bowling depth.
Prediction: Perth Scorchers to win by 20-25 runs/6 wickets
ADELAIDE STRIKERS ($1.62) VS SYDNEY SIXERS ($2.31)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, THURSDAY 31/12, 19:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Sixers 4/181 (Maddinson 85, Lumb 32) defeated Strikers 94 (Bollinger 3/21, Abbott 2/14, O’Keefe 2/16, Lyon 2/26) by 87 runs at Adelaide Oval (BBL04 Semi Final)
The Adelaide Strikers ran into a red hot Thunder outfit and which ultimately led to its first defeat of BBL05. The Strikers couldn’t have started much worse as Ludeman edged Andre Russell off the first ball of the match. Simmons then lost his wicket the very next over and from 2/3, the Strikers were playing catch up for the rest of the game. The Strikers have lost early wickets every game during BBL05 and the likes of Hodge and Ross couldn’t recover the innings this time around. They are still very well placed with two wins on the board, but coach Jason Gillespie will be looking to work with his top three to ensure the middle to low batting order isn’t left with as much work to do.
The Sydney Sixers look value on first glance, but the loss of Moises Henriques to a likely season ending calf injury is going to create balance issues for his side. Henriques had been in good form with 114 runs from three innings, on top of a decent bowling performance against the Renegades. With the likes of Johan Botha already batting high at No.6, it puts greater pressure on the top three of Lumb, Haddin and Maddinson to get a solid start.
I’d be avoiding the Sixers until we get a better idea of what its new batting structure will be. I’m happy to just sit and watch this game with no commitment.
Prediction: Adelaide Strikers to win by 10-15/5 wickets
HOBART HURRICANES ($2.15) VS SYDNEY THUNDER ($1.70)
AT BLUNDSTONE ARENA, FRIDAY 01/01, 19:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Thunder 7/77 (Reed 4/11) lost to Hurricanes 5/84 (Sandhu 2/17, Kallis 2/18) by 5 wickets at Spotless Stadium (17 over game)
The Hobart Hurricanes have responded perfectly from being bowled out for 91 in its first game, posting totals of 3/184 and 4/194 consecutively against the Brisbane Heat. Both chases from Brisbane got closer than the Hurricanes would have liked, but their set scores ended up being too large. Hobart’s seam bowlers can be inconsistent, but I doubt they’ll be overlooking Jake Reed again after his 3/31 from four overs. He overcame a rampaging Chris Lynn and mixed his pace perfectly against Cutting late. Boyce was outstanding with 2/22 for four overs, all in the second ten, slowing Lynn’s influence and therefore Brisbane’s momentum.
As I said during the introduction, the Sydney Thunder have completely changed its past fortunes during BBL05, already recording its greatest amount of wins in a single season. The new Big Bash title favourites are undefeated on top of the table, as a more balanced squad has shared the load throughout its three matches. The introduction of Andre Russell has been vital as well, as his pace is constantly rushing top order bats and creating uncertainty. The greater bowling depth means the fourth and fifth bowling options are no longer releasing the pressure of strike bowlers, which is helped by possessing three world class all-rounders. They look the team to beat early on, but there is plenty of water to pass under the bridge.
I think this is a 50/50 contest. Hobart probably have a slightly better batting line up, but Sydney Thunder have the greater bowling options which has me just in their corner with minimal confidence.
Prediction: Sydney Thunder to win by 1-5 runs/3 wickets
MELBOURNE STARS ($1.80) VS MELBOURNE RENEGADES ($2.00)
AT THE MCG, SATURDAY 02/01, 18:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Renegades 6/153 (Wade 71, Beaton 34, Faulkner 3/19) lost to Stars 7/154 (Maxwell 66, Pietersen 49, Stokes 2/22) by 3 wickets at the MCG.
The Melbourne Stars are finally off the mark after three games with a relatively comprehensive victory against the Sixers. The Stars produced an all-round bowling performance to restrict the Sixers to 6/139 from 20 overs and despite a poor start, half centuries to Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscombe saw their team home with 8 balls to spare. Without Kevin Pietersen, it proved that the batting order is flexible enough to adjust should it lose key contributors. Pietersen will return for this clash though, with the Stars likely to be fielding a near full strength team. That will be determined by the fitness of John Hastings, who is expected to have recovered from a shoulder injury by then.
The Renegades will be looking to turn around a poor record against cross town rival the Melbourne Stars. They had a demoralising couple of encounters against the Stars last year, firstly getting bowled out for a competition low 57 at Etihad Stadium, before being beaten on the final ball of the innings for the return game at the MCG. Cameron White will be looking to perform against the team he once captained after crossing to the Renegades this season, adding further intrigue to this rivalry.
The Stars have the wood over the men in red, but wouldn’t have come up against a Renegade batting order this strong. Derbies always bring out extra emotion and are difficult to predict. The Stars do have far more bowling options though.
Prediction: Melbourne Stars to win by 5-10 runs/4 wickets
PERTH SCORCHERS ($) VS SYDNEY SIXERS ($)
AT THE WACA, SATURDAY 02/01, 21:15
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Sixers 5/147 (Henriques 77, Carters 35no, lost to Scorchers 6/148 (S.Marsh 73, Klinger 33, Lee 3/25, Lyon 2/34) by 4 wickets at Manuka Oval.
Perth will have fond memories of the last time these two teams met, which resulted in it claiming a second consecutive Big Bash title from the final ball of its innings. A very solid opening stand from Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger of 70 looked to give the Scorchers a perfect platform to chase down the Sixers 147, before constant wickets made the task a whole lot more difficult. A Moises Henriques fumble ultimately gifted them the winning run, but it is a reminder that the Scorchers middle order depth can be a weakness.
During that final the Sixers were struggling at 4/49 from 9.2 overs, but were saved by a near match winning 77 from Henriques. During the semi-final beforehand against Adelaide, it was Maddinson who produced a defining 85 from 48 balls. The Sixers have had to rely on big contributions from its top four to beat the best teams and last year’s finals are perfect examples of that. It makes the loss of Henriques even more daunting, with an inexperienced replacement likely to fill the void.
It is always difficult previewing a game when both sides have matches to play before this particular encounter. Each franchise will be without the Test squad members, costing both franchises their best players. Perth look to have the greater depth.
Prediction: Perth Scorchers to win by 10-15 runs/5 wickets