Welcome to the BBL06 semi-final preview. After the tightest home and away series the Big Bash has ever seen which ended with just four points separating first from eighth, we are left with Perth, Brisbane, the Sixers and the Stars to fight it out for the silverware. The Perth Scorchers had a comfortable victory against Hobart to claim top spot and set up a fifth semi-final encounter against the Melbourne Stars. The Brisbane Heat couldn’t get the job done against a late finishing Renegades, but its great net run rate was enough to secure a home final against the Sixers. It has been arguably the best Big Bash competition to date with close encounters, a tight table and unpredictable results, which hasn’t entirely suited the punters. The toss has been a deciding factor in BBL06, with 19 of the last 27 matches won by the team batting second. If you can, hold your bet off until after the toss, unless of course the value is too good to refuse.
Perth Scorchers to win Head to Head @ $1.74
PERTH SCORCHERS ($1.74) VS MELBOURNE STARS ($2.20)
AT THE WACA, TUESDAY 24/01, 16:40 (Local)
The Perth Scorchers defeated the Hobart Hurricanes with genuine ease on Saturday afternoon, securing top spot on the table and a sixth consecutive finals berth. It was again a disciplined bowling effort that did the job for Perth, as Mitchell Johnson created early momentum with the wickets of Paine and McDermott. Wickets steadily fell until the 14th over before Wells and Rose put their heads down and survived the remaining overs to give the bowlers something to defend. 134 was never going to be enough though and to the Scorchers delight, Shaun Marsh returned to form with a well-timed half century. Perth go into this finals series as the team to beat and $2.88 tournament favouritism.
The Melbourne Stars began its innings against the Sixers in outstanding fashion, with Quiney and Wright racing off to a flyer. The scoreboard was ticking over at a rate of nine to ten runs an over for a majority of the first 15 overs and it appeared a score of 200 was well in sight. Although with international duty depleting the Stars middle order, there was always a heavily reliance on its top three of Quiney, Wright and Pietersen. While 1/130 after was a dream start, a quick flurry of wickets would soon make the innings a disaster for the Stars. From that position it would lose 7/25 in 26 balls to post a disappointing 156. It looked in control again when the Sixers fell to 6/97 in the 15th over, but a partnership of 59 off 28 balls from Botha and Abbott on the back of some questionable bowling tactics cost the Stars a home final.
Amazingly, this is the fifth semi-final encounter between these two sides with Perth holding a 3-1 record, while each match has been won by the home side. The Melbourne Stars had a confidence boasting win in Perth little over a week ago, but the scenario has changed since then. Handscomb and Stoinis created a far stronger middle order and less pressure on the top three. They still aren’t available due to Australian duties, again creating an order reliant on inexperience if early wickets fall. Perth step up this time of the year and are in the box seat to go into the final.
Prediction: Perth Scorchers to win by 20-25 runs/6 wickets
BRISBANE HEAT ($1.81) VS SYDNEY SIXERS ($2.00)
AT THE GABBA, WEDNESDAY 25/01, 18:40 (Local)
A loss isn’t the best lead in to a do or die semi-final and despite the negatives, the Brisbane Heat will be able to take some confidence from the results positives. The biggest concern would be how vulnerable the bowling attack looked against the Renegades. Finch and Harris got off to a flyer to be 0/106 after nine overs and while they both played big shots, the risk to execute successfully was minimal. The pace attack of Steketee, Wildermuth, Cutting and Buchanan were destroyed, especially when the ball was coming onto the bat. While Chris Lynn has obviously been the most notable loss, the influence of Samuel Badree out of the side has been underrated and Brisbane will be desperate for him to return on Wednesday night. The Heats batting was the highlight of the night as it admirably attempted to chase a target of 200 and fall short by just one run. The innings of McCullum, Heazlett, Burns and Cutting are sure to build confidence without Lynn.
The Sydney Sixers have been the rollercoaster team of BBL06 and despite clearly possessing the worst net run rate, it conjured five wins to finish third on the ladder. Its best is outstanding and worst absolutely dire as we witnessed a little bit of each extreme against the Stars. The Sixers looked down and out twice, but fought back on each occasion. The Stars were set for a target of close to 200 when 1/130 early in the 16th over, before Nathan Lyon and Ben Dwarshuis sparked a collapse of 7/25. A target of 156 looked below par at the start of the innings, but by the start of the 14th over the Sixers had lost its top six to be reeling at 6/97. While Sean Abbott has had great success with the ball to be the leading wicket taker, his obvious talent with the bat had never produced anything of significance in this format. Finally he came to the party when it mattered, hitting 33 from 17 balls to share a match winning 59 run partnership with Johan Botha.
I’m finding it very difficult to predict a firm winner for the match, mainly due to the fact that you just don’t know what the Sixers are going to produce. There is an enormous range in output, creating low confidence levels. The Sixers chased down a target of 187 against the Heat on January 3rd due mainly to a brilliant Daniel Hughes innings, but minimal can be taken from the game. Brisbane also haven’t had a happy time at home, losing its last three games at the Gabba. I’ll be happy to sit back and watch without commitment during this game.
Prediction: Brisbane Heat to win by 1-5 runs/3 wickets