Welcome to the BBL05 Round 8 preview. As we enter the final three games of the BBL05 home and away season, we have only two teams locked into top four positions and another four still fighting for those final two positions. Even though Brisbane and Hobart have won three matches, having already played all eight fixtures and possessing the two worst net run rates, neither can now make the finals. The Renegades win last Monday night has opened the table right up, as it denied the Thunder an opportunity of securing a top four position. The main fight is between the Stars, Renegades and Thunder, but even the Sydney Sixers have a sneaky mathematical chance of trumping them all. The Stars have gone from semi-final certainties to a chance of missing should it lose, on top of both the Renegades and Thunder winning. The final three games are set to be fascinating and most importantly, every encounter is live. There will be no dead rubbers and the final top four position will be determined during the last home and away game between the Renegades and Strikers. Betting wise, the last three matches have variables that must be considered. Some teams don’t necessarily have to win to achieve their goals, so beware safe targets being set. As I stated earlier in the season, ensure you bet with a bookmaker that offers the 160 run refund. 13 of the 27 games to date have involved scores of 160+.
Adelaide Strikers head to head @ $2.00
SYDNEY SIXERS ($2.15) VS SYDNEY THUNDER ($1.70)
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 16/01, 18:10
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Thunder 4/158 (Hussey 80no, Rohrer 30) defeated Sixers 122 (Lumb 34, Russell 3/13, Watson 3/13, McKay 2/11) by 36 runs at Spotless Stadium.
A loss to the bottom placed Brisbane Heat has diminished the Sydney Sixers top four chances, but the Renegade’s win against the Thunder has opened up a minor opportunity. If the Sixers have a significant enough victory against the Thunder and the Renegades fall to a solid loss against the Strikers, the men in magenta can steal that last semi-final position. The Sixers have been hurt by injury and Australian duty, especially with the loss of Moises Henriques and more recently Nic Maddinson. The latter is due to return from an ankle injury though.
The Sydney Thunder had a golden opportunity to secure a top four spot with a win against the Renegades, but as I stated earlier, their loss has completely opened that last semi-final position up. The Thunder were cruising at 1/95 after 10 overs, as Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson looked in the midst of setting up a 200+ total. Despite having 9 wickets in hand and a long batting order, the Thunder could only manage 78 runs in the final ten overs. It must be said that they were unlucky too, as the slippery conditions in the second innings made batting much easier. The Thunder have been on the wrong end of some coin tosses, but good sides need to find a way to win in any conditions. Usman Khawaja is off to the ODI squad, while the loss of Jacques Kallis to injury hurts the Thunders batting stocks further. New Zealand’s Henry Nicholls has replaced Kallis as the Thunder’s second international.
The Thunder have lost four games in a row and are sure to have lost some vital confidence. The Sixers are still depleted and will struggle with batting depth again, but the Thunder have their own concerns with the blade. This will be tighter than many expect.
Prediction: Sydney Thunder to win by 5 runs/3 wickets
PERTH SCORCHERS ($1.58) VS MELBOURNE STARS ($2.35)
AT THE WACA, SATURDAY 16/01, 19:15
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Scorchers 7/144 (Carberry 50, S.Marsh 35, Hastings 3/27, Beer 2/25) defeated Stars 126 (Wright 31, Pietersen 31, Tye 4/18, Arafat 2/22, Coulter-Nile 2/31) by 18 runs at the WACA.
The Perth Scorchers have guaranteed themselves a fifth consecutive top four position and are now very close to securing yet another home semi-final after a heart stopping one run victory against the Hobart Hurricanes. The Stars upset loss to the Heat means that this game isn’t must win anymore for the Scorchers, with two points and a net run rate differential of +0.562 in hand between the two. It gives Perth flexibility to restrict or chase its own safe calculation, which could mean a real match target is ignored. The return of Michael Carberry and a confidence boosting 62 runs off 35 balls has given the Scorchers batting order much needed depth, which will be vital if the Marsh’s aren’t available come finals time. The Scorchers bowling depth will be stretched with Jason Behrendorff’s troublesome back flaring up again.
The Melbourne Stars went into the clash against Brisbane believing its trip to Perth would be for the right of a home semi-final. It has now become a fight for survival as the Heat gave the Stars an almighty hiding at the MCG. The 56 run loss has seen the Stars net run rate drop below that of both the Renegades and the Thunder, after originally holding a comfortable margin on the two. Should the Thunder and Renegades win and the Stars go down in Perth, the Melbourne team in green will slide out of the top four and miss the semi-finals for the first time in its history. There is so much at stake for the Stars. John Hastings has joined Maxwell, Faulkner and Boland in the one day squad.
We’ll know much more about the final makeup of the top four after this game. The Stars will be desperate for the win, while Perth will be comfortable doing enough to ensure it secures a home final. With so many factors in play, I wouldn’t risk money on this match.
Prediction: Perth Scorchers to win by 5-10 runs/4 wickets
MELBOURNE RENEGADES ($1.80) VS ADELAIDE STRIKERS ($2.00)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, MONDAY 18/01, 19:40
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTER: Strikers 5/166 (Head 71, Smith 41no, Botha 32, Rimmington 2/40) defeated Renegades 7/144 (Stokes 33, Laughlin 2/24, Zampa 2/31) by 22 runs at Etihad Stadium.
The Melbourne Renegades have pulled off an upset win against the Thunder that could have huge ramifications for the final makeup of the top four. The Renegades now sit inside the top four and should results fall their way, they may not even need to beat Adelaide to hold that last semi-final position. Obviously they’ll be looking for the win, but like Perth with a home semi-final, the Renegades will know exactly what they have to achieve with this encounter being the last home and away fixture. A 91 run partnership between White and Bravo was match defining against the Thunder, but they had the benefit of batting when dew made the ball damp. Chris Gayle has been underwhelming on the field and now would be no better time for him to explode in red. James Pattinson is a massive inclusion for the Renegades.
The Adelaide Strikers are the first team to secure a home semi-final, after Jake Lehmann hit a six off the final ball of the match to end Hobart’s season. The Strikers almost made a meal of the chase though, as Hodge and Ludeman looked like cruising to victory needing only 12 runs from the final 8 balls with 8 wickets in hand. 7 balls and 2 wickets later, Jake Lehmann found himself needing to hit a four off his first T20 delivery to win the game. He went one better and smashed the ball over the rope instead. Lehmann now possesses the quirky statistic of a 600 run career strike rate, which probably deserves a Cricinfo profile screenshot.
The Renegades had the best of the conditions in Sydney against the Thunder and still lack bowling depth. The Strikers dealt with a much stronger Renegade’s bowling attack last year at Etihad Stadium and are value at $2.00, even with the inclusion of Pattinson. Expect the captain who wins the toss to bowl first with the Renegades possessing a 100% BBL05 chasing record.
Prediction: Adelaide Strikers to win by 15 runs/5 wickets