Welcome to the Round 7 BBL06 preview. As we begin the final few matches of the home and away rounds, the points table is starting to take shape. The Scorchers, Heat and Sixers are all very well placed to make the top four at 4-2, while the Melbourne Stars are 3-2 with a game in hand and the highest net run rate. Amazingly, all sides are still in contention to make the finals with just eight matches to be played. The Hurricanes, Renegades, Strikers and Thunder all need to win their remaining home and away matches to keep the finals dream alive. We are entering the most interesting time of the tournament, which is exciting considering the cricket we’ve already witnessed.
Melbourne Stars Head to Head against Brisbane Heat
SYDNEY SIXERS ($1.70) VS SYDNEY THUNDER ($2.15)
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 14/01, 18:10 (Local)
The Sydney Sixers have an opportunity to secure a finals position with a victory against crosstown rival the Thunder, after a solid performance against the Renegades. While the Sixers conceded 170 on a slower wicket that suited its bowlers, drizzle changed conditions in its favour after the main break. The Sixers always looked in control as its top six all made starts and worthy contributions. That batting order will be given another boost with big hitting Kiwi Colin Munro recruited into the squad. He is coming off a T20I century against Bangladesh just over a week ago, but also made two ducks in the three game series. He is hit and miss, but extremely dangerous.
The Sydney Thunder produced its most comprehensive performance of the tournament against Hobart and more importantly kept its finals chances alive. It restricted the Hurricanes to an under par 161 and chased the target down with ease. Shane Watson looks to have hit form at the right time of the tournament by producing a match defining 55 from 31 balls which included five sixes. Englishman James Vince also looked classy at the top of the order. The Thunder have lost Patrick Cummins to the ODI squad and while Khawaja didn’t play in the first game against Pakistan, he too hasn’t been named for this clash.
The Sydney Sixers have played consistent all-round cricket in its last two encounters and look to be building toward another finals campaign. There does appears to be some bowling holes opening up in the Thunder squad.
Prediction: Sydney Sixers to win by 15-20 runs/5 wickets
PERTH SCORCHERS ($1.77) VS MELBOURNE STARS ($2.05)
AT THE WACA, SATURDAY 14/01, 18:15 (Local)
The Perth Scorchers are now favourites to take out BBL06 after its bowling attack again defended a below par score. Against a Brisbane side missing Chris Lynn, Perth struggled to accelerate during its innings which was highlighted and anchored by Michael Klinger’s 81. 5/156 looked underwhelming at the break, but it became competitive soon enough. Early wickets to Mitchell Johnson with the new ball set the tone, but the scalp of McCullum through the bowling of Jhye Richardson changed the momentum. Andrew Tye then took control with his many slower ball varieties, claiming figures of 4/22 and a late innings hat trick.
The Melbourne Stars scrapped through against Adelaide in a cliff hanger on the back of a Ben Hilfenhaus master class, not just with the ball, but also with the blade in hand! The Stars were extremely disciplined with the ball, restricting the Strikers to 8/152 from its 20 overs. Hilfenhaus bowled better lengths to claim 2/21, but it was Scott Boland’s short format expertise that rattled Adelaide with 4/30 from his four overs. Wright and Quiney started well at the top of the innings to be 0/44, but a collapse of 4/18 left the Stars looking a tad shaky. The loss of Hussey and Pietersen within 15 balls had the Stars teetering at 6/107 and the long tail was then exposed. Ben Hilfenhaus wouldn’t have batted higher than No.10 on many occasions in domestic cricket, but with Boland, Beer and Bowe to come, he was the obvious candidate. While bat on ball was a rarity early, a big over against Wes Agar lifted Hilfenhaus’ confidence and he was able to carry his side to victory in unusual circumstances.
The Scorchers are always very strong at home and with the Stars carrying an out of form middle order, a bowling attack of Johnson, Tye and Bresnan has the ability to strangle batsmen lacking confidence.
Prediction: Perth Scorchers to win by 20-25 runs/5 wickets
ADELAIDE STRIKERS ($1.90) VS MELBOURNE RENEGADES ($1.90)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, MONDAY 16/01, 19:10 (Local)
The Strikers almost stole two points from the Stars at the MCG last Tuesday night, but the loss has seen it fall to 2-4 while possessing a negative net run rate. Adelaide again were too slow during the middle overs, conjuring just 39 runs from the 7th to 14th over. Too many balls have been wasted during that period throughout the tournament, constantly leaving too much to be done in the final five overs. Although it made up for it with the ball, especially Ben Laughlin and new international Ish Sodhi. They combined for 5/44 from eight overs, but couldn’t claim the wicket of the unlikely hero Ben Hilfenhaus when it mattered.
I doubt there has been a time in Big Bash history that has seen a team applauded like the Renegades were at the end of its record breaking innings of 4/222, only for it to suffer extreme disappointment less than two hours later. It was an amazing game of cricket, but a target of 223 should never be chased down. The Gades looked unbackable when Hobart slumped to 2/19 in the third over, before Ben McDermott produced one of the best T20 innings you are ever likely to see. His 114 from 52 balls completely turned the momentum before Sunil Narine flipped the game back in the Renegades favour again with the wickets of McDermott, Webster and Bailey. Needing 16 runs from the final over with the tail at the crease, an obviously nervous Thisara Perara took the ball and couldn’t land the required areas that suited the set field. Chasing down record scores isn’t unfamiliar for Hobart, but the Renegades didn’t help themselves tactically or with execution.
Make or break for both sides. The loser will certainly miss on a top four position, making this a mini elimination final. The Renegades have been unlucky in tight results, but haven’t closed out games well. It appears to have the deeper squad for this match, although there are no guarantees away at Adelaide Oval.
Prediction: Melbourne Renegades to win by 5-10 runs/4 wickets
MELBOURNE STARS ($) VS BRISBANE HEAT ($)
AT THE MCG, TUESDAY 17/01, 19:40 (Local)
This is the Stars second game of the round, but I doubt the Perth result will change opinions on the potential of this encounter. The Melbourne Stars have a reputation of having a squad full of individuals, but hasn’t had a heavy reliance of any particular player throughout BBL06. Kevin Pietersen is probably the exception with 180 runs from four innings, but no other Stars player can be found in the top 15 run scorers. Luke Wright is usually high in the “most runs” lists and is yet to pass 50, while the middle order have only produced cameos at best. Yet despite many of its better players not firing, it has still managed three wins with minimal fuss. The Stars have the greatest scope of improvement, which will have other contenders concerned.
The Brisbane Heat certainly looked a different team without Chris Lynn. It lost Peirson and McCullum early in the innings and we didn’t get a great sample size of how they were going to attack as a partnership without the normal No.3. McCullum made his intentions known with two sixes, but it will be interesting to see how Peirson responds with more time at the crease. Unfortunately for the Heat and supporters of cricket, McCullum has been suspended for this game due to the bowling innings running six minutes overtime. The captain is responsible, but I don’t understand why everyone must be punished by such a minor indiscretion. Surely a fine is sufficient enough?
There are high confidence levels here on the Stars with the Heat missing its big guns Lynn, McCullum and Badree. There are far many holes of quality to fill there for Brisbane.
Prediction: Melbourne Stars to win by 25-30 runs/7 wickets