T20 Big Bash League 3 Preview

The Australian Domestic T20 Big Bash League is upon us again and the competition is set for an enormous popularity boost with the series being televised free to air for the first time. Network Ten have won the rights and will be airing all matches live and exclusively. It is a big win for Cricket Australia, who have traditionally struggled to make its domestic competitions marketable. In saying that, it will be interesting to see whether the free to air exposure will have an effect on gate attendances. Regardless, it is a win for the sport with rival summer competitions like the A League gathering momentum.

As the cricketing world is transfixed with the current Ashes series, the Big Bash has snuck up on both hardcore supporters and punters alike. Even though the BBL3 will be competing against the Ashes for 19 days, it does create an alternative to those who find Test cricket “slow paced” or “dull”. As the T20 format offers a big hitting and exciting change up for the fans, the betting experience carries a comparable description.  The odds on offer generally generate far greater potential for profit, especially in play. At certain stages during last year’s tournament, there were $1.00+ ball by ball fluctuations. There is some real money to be made for the quick minded punter who can successfully read a momentum shift.

There aren’t too many format changes for the third instalment of the competition, excluding a later start of two weeks. What this creates is the opportunity for most Australian limited overs International players to be available for the BBL3 Finals, with the last T20 against England scheduled for February 2nd and the first BBL3 Semi Final beginning on February 4th. The first Test against South Africa begins in Centurion on February 12th, so it is extremely unlikely that any Test stars will be available for the “Big Finals”.

The competition again kicks off with the Melbourne Derby and a crowd approaching the 50,000 mark will be expected. Can the Brisbane Heat back up its unexpected 2012-13 Title? Will the Melbourne Stars finally take advantage of its talented squad? We’ll take a team by team look across the competition to see who is up to standard for the BBL3.

ADELAIDE STRIKERS

Title Odds: $7.00
Captain: Johan Botha
INS: Jono Dean, Alex Hales, Trent Lawford, Ben Oakleigh, Adam Zampa, Jimmy Peirson
OUTS: Kieren Pollard, Nathan Lyon, Cameron Boyce, Theo Doropoulos, Matt Johnston, Saeed Ajmal, Brad Young, James Smith, Andrew McDonald
FANTASY GUN: Johan Botha $98,000
FANTASY BARGAIN: Andrew McDonald $49,200

Potential Best XI

Alex Hales
Michael Klinger
Phil Hughes
Callum Ferguson
Nathan Reardon
Tim Ludeman (+)
Johan Botha (c)
Michael Neser
Kane Richardson
Jon Holland
Shaun Tait

Darren Berry’s Adelaide Strikers were bitterly disappointed in missing out on the finals last season after holding a position in the top four for a majority of the tournament. It needed a Round 8 victory against the Perth Scorchers at the Adelaide Oval, but were ultimately humbled in an embarrassing 98 run loss.

This season, Adelaide has lost the services of its marquee player Kieren Pollard, but has managed to capture the signature of big hitting English opening batsman Alex Hales. Hales made a late season statement as the replacement for Marlon Samuels at the Renegades, most remembered for his barnstorming 89 against the Sixers at the SCG. His last T20I was a 94 against the Australians, while he scored the sixth most runs in the English T20 Friends Life tournament with 365 at a strike rate of 146.58. He is a quality inclusion. Unfortunately, former Australian and Victorian all-rounder Andrew McDonald has again gone down with a hamstring complaint, meaning he’ll miss the entire series for the second consecutive season for the Strikers. He has been replaced by young Queensland wicketkeeper Jimmy Peirson. Phil Hughes is likely to see some Australian action either through Test cricket or the ODIs after his outstanding Shield form, meaning the likes of Callum Ferguson and Nathan Reardon will be required to make much larger contributions than last season. The ever reliable Michael Klinger is a given to be at the top end of the Strikers runs scorers and is coming off his first ever T20 century for Gloucestershire earlier this year in England.

Adelaide’s bowling has taken a bit of a depth hit on paper, with Nathan Lyon, Cameron Boyce, Brad Young and Saeed Ajmal all either moving on or not being offered new contracts. But it isn’t as bad as it looks. Fortunately, the Strikers three leading wicket takers in Johan Botha, Shaun Tait and Kane Richardson are ready to roll for the new season. Jon Holland will be a key addition to the XI after missing the entire BBL2. Since his return for Victoria, he claimed the third most wickets in the Ryobi Cup, with his 12 strikes coming at a respectable 4.82 runs per over. Michael Neser and Gary Putland are decent back up seam options, while the signing of upcoming leg spinner Adam Zampa from the Thunder lessens the loss of Lyon and Boyce.

The Strikers look a solid prospect for the coming season. There is a nice balance in squad, but the middle order needs to produce some more consistent runs. They are definitely in the hunt for a top for berth.

Predicted Finish: 3rd

BRISBANE HEAT

Title Odds: $6.50
Captain: James Hopes
INS: Craig Kieswetter, Nick Buchanan
OUTS: Kemar Roach, Dale Steyn, Thisara Perera, Matthew Gale, Andrew Robinson
FANTASY GUN: Ben Cutting $101,900
FANTASY BARGAIN: Daniel Vettori $72,200

Potential Best XI

Craig Kieswetter (+)
Luke Pomersbach
Shane Watson
Dan Christian
Chris Lynn
James Hopes (c)
Daniel Vettori
Mitchell Johnson
Ben Cutting
Nathan Hauritz
Alister McDermott

Brisbane Heat were the surprise titlists of the second Big Bash League, after spending a majority of the season at the bottom half of the ladder. An upset Round 8 victory in Hobart saw Brisbane leap frog the Hurricanes and Strikers to becoming unlikely semi finalists. It then went on to defeat the much fancied Renegades at their Etihad Stadium fortress, before comfortably dealing with the Scorchers in Perth to become the BBL2 champions. It was an extreme change in fortunes for the Heat, who at one stage were paying an attractive $15.00 to win the competition.

The Brisbane best XI is as good as any in the competition. Unfortunately, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson will only make limited appearances for the Queensland based franchise due to Australian commitments in both the Test and ODI arenas. Even with the exclusion of Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson in the lower to middle order, the batting looks strong. Luke Pomersbach was the revelation of the 2012-13 season after being given a lifeline by now Australian coach Darren Lehmann. He finished the competition second for runs with 397 at a spectacular strike rate of 139.78. Even though Aaron Finch had an enormous season, there was genuine evidence to suggest that Pomersbach was robbed of being named Man of the Series. One of the best new signings of the league is sure to be wicketkeeper/opening batsman Craig Kieswetter. The Englishman was the leading run scorer in the Friends Life T20 with 517 runs and hit five half centuries over his eleven innings. Dan Christian, Chris Lynn, Joe Burns and James Hopes offer great middle order resistance, while the lower order possesses some of the better bowling all-rounders in the country. I have Ben Cutting listed No.9 in the potential best XI, but expect the more than occasional order promotion after his Ryobi Cup heroics saw him average 97.50 at an amazing strike rate of 174.10 for the 50 over tournament.

The bowling looks like a real strength once again. Cutting, McDermott, Hopes, Christian and Gannon are all genuinely talented seam options, while Nathan Hauritz is a high quality spin alternative. The real bonus is that Daniel Vettori is available for the entire series. He has produced some solid performances with bat and ball in both T20 and first class cricket since his return in New Zealand for Northern Districts on the 31st of October. He is the wild card that could see this side improve further.

The Brisbane Heat are well and truly on the right track for back to back titles. The slow home and away starts to both Big Bash Leagues would have been identified as major KPI to change. If this can be improved, a home Semi Final is in sight.

Predicted Finish: 2nd

HOBART HURRICANES

Title Odds: $6.00
Captain: George Bailey
INS: Cameron Boyce, Shoaib Malik, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Joe Mennie, Sam Rainbird
OUTS: Ricky Ponting, Ed Cowan, Scott Styris, Scott Boland, Mark Higgs, Jason Krejza, Michael Hogan
FANTASY GUN: Ben Laughlin $95,400
FANTASY BARGAIN: Owais Shah $54,000

Potential Best XI

Tim Paine (+)
Travis Birt
Aidan Blizzard
George Bailey (c)
Owais Shah
Shoaib Malik
Evan Gulbis
Ben Laughlin
Xavier Doherty
Ben Hilfenhaus
Doug Bollinger

Much like the Adelaide Strikers, the Hobart Hurricanes would have been disheartened by missing the Big Bash finals last year. It had set itself up well with two home games remaining and only one win required for a guaranteed position in the top 4. Unfortunately, two disappointing batting displays sealed the Taswegians fait. The final match in particular saw a bizarre performance with the bat, where Hobart reached a paltry 150 with 7 wickets remaining in the shed. The Brisbane Heat reached the target with 35 balls to spare, proving that the risk free attitude of the Hurricanes was completely unjustified.

On paper, the batting looks like it has the balance of a top side. But the loss of Ricky Ponting is obviously significant. He averaged just under 40 at a strike rate of 121.02 in the BBL2 and was the main stay of most Hobart innings. On top of the Ponting retirement, George Bailey is unlikely to play much cricket in the Hurricanes purple attire now he has cemented himself in all three formats of the Australian cricket teams. Australian selector John Inverarity has also given indications that he wants to give some ODI opportunities throughout the summer to Tim Paine, who was the leading run scorer for Hobart in last season’s Big Bash. Add Ed Cowan and Scott Styris to the list of deletions and you have some serious depth question marks. Much improvement will be asked of BBL1 hero Travis Birt, whose unsatisfactory average of 16.57 left many disappointed last season. Positively, the recruitment of Pakistani international Shoaib Malik creates some excitement, after scoring the most runs in the Caribbean T20 Premier League. His flexibility in being capable of batting in all positions and situations will be a major asset. Owais Shah returns for his third season with the Hurricanes and is coming off an outstanding season in the English Friends Life T20 competition for Essex where he averaged 51.83.

The bowling is certainly a strength for the Hobart Hurricanes. A seam attack of Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Ben Laughlin and Evan Gulbis is quality and more importantly unlikely to be raided for international duties. Laughlin was the leading wicket taker for the 2012-13 Big Bash season, capturing 14 wickets. His recent trip over the ditch for the New Zealand domestic T20 competition also delivered resounding results, taking 10 wickets in 4 matches for Northern District, including career best figures of 6/28. Xavier Doherty compliments the pace perfectly with his accurate left arm spinners that rarely produce an economy rate of more than a run a ball.

The Hurricanes batting is certainly the concern, especially if Bailey and Paine are consistently representing Australia. The bowling has enough strike power, but may find itself defending lower totals than desired. $6.00 looks quite short to me.

Prediction: 6th

MELBOURNE RENEGADES

Title Odds: $7.50
Captain: Aaron Finch
INS: Mohammad Hafeez, Jos Buttler, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Matthew Gale
OUTS: Faf du Plessis, Marlon Samuels, Alex Hales, Meyrick Buchanan, Brendan Drew, James Muirhead, Darren Pattinson
FANTASY GUN: Aaron Finch $117,400
FANTASY BARGAIN: Peter Nevill $36,000

Potential Best XI

Aaron Finch (c)
Mohammad Hafeez
Alex Doolan
Ben Rohrer
Tom Cooper
Peter Neville (+)
Aaron O’Brien
James Pattinson
Peter Siddle
Fawad Ahmed
Muthiah Muralidaran

The Renegades were the form side of last year’s league, finishing two games clear on top of the ladder. It was undefeated at Etihad Stadium during the qualifying rounds, but a brilliant Luke Pomersbach century in the semi final made the big chase on a slow wicket a very difficult task. The mass changes of big name personnel between BBL 1 & 2 was originally seen as a negative, but the new squad suited the slow characteristics of the Etihad Stadium pitch. A bowling attack based around spin has been strengthened further, creating some positive competition for spots in the XI.

The star of the Renegades batting line up is of course skipper Aaron Finch. He was man of the series for last season’s Big Bash with 332 runs and a strike rate of 125.75. The problem for the Renegades is that his form was so good that he has now found himself as a regular in both the T20 and ODI Australian teams. The first ODI against England is scheduled for January 12th, meaning it is unlikely he’ll be available again until the Big Bash Finals. The surprise packet for the Renegades was New South Welshman Ben Rohrer who singlehandedly won games off his own bat. His strike rate of 152.06 was the highest of all top 20 leading scorers in last year’s competition.  It will be big competition for Netherlands international Tom Cooper. He is one of the form players of this year’s domestic competitions, scoring the fourth most runs in the Sheffield Shield with 512 runs at an average of 51.20 and plummeting 294 runs in the Ryobi Cup. The Renegades have lost Faf du Plessis, Marlon Samuels and Alex Hales as internationals, but Mohammad Hafeez and Jos Buttler are quality replacements.

Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are the high profile bowling recruits, but expect the Renegades to keep the familar spin focused strategy, especially at the slow drop in Etihad Stadium wicket. Champion off spinner Muthiah Muralidaran returns after taking the most wickets (11) for the franchise last year, while recent Australian T20 debutante Fawad Ahmed is as good as a new recruit having only played a minimal role in the past. Aaron O’Brien will play the same economic role with his finger spinners and Mohammad Hafeez has the potential to have just as much impact with the ball as with the bat. Don’t be surprised to see Hafeez opening both batting and bowling.

Losing Finch for three weeks is a massive blow, but Hafeez offers similar striking power at the top of the order. It is a bit surprising for some to see the Renegades on the fifth line of betting after such an impressive second season, but it is a relatively accurate assessment of where the side is at.

Prediction: 4th

MELBOURNE STARS

Title Odds: $5.00
Captain: Cameron White
INS: Scott Boland, Marcus Stoinis
OUTS: Shane Warne, James Pattinson, Scott Henry, Dimitri Mascarenhas
FANTASY GUN: Lasith Malinga $110,300
FANTASY BARGAIN: John Hastings $45,800

Potential Best XI

Rob Quiney
Luke Wright
Brad Hodge
Cam White (c)
David Hussey
Glenn Maxwell
Matthew Wade(+)
James Faulkner
John Hastings
Clint McKay                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Lasith Malinga

Are the Melbourne Stars the biggest under achiever of the first two Big Bash Leagues? While the franchise has reached consecutive semi finals, you get the feeling that a squad of such talented and proven performers should be going deeper in such tournaments. Admittedly, the Stars drew the short straw in last season’s rain interrupted semi final against the Perth Scorchers. Cameron White and Brad Hodge smashed 5 sixes each to bump the Stars to 183 from a reduced 18 overs and a seemingly match winning position. The rain continued to pour and the Scorchers were left with 13 overs to chase a generously calculated total of 139. Brilliant innings from the experienced trio of Marsh, Hussey and Voges, coupled with a late 27 run over conceded by youngster Alex Keath sealed another disappointing result. The Stars know they have a squad capable of winning the title and that has been justified by minimal list changes.

The batting line-up looks amazing on paper. The Stars contain a wrath of genuine batsmen or all-rounders that have all had success at International level. Englishman Luke Wright returns for his third season and is likely to partner the exciting Rob Quiney. Matthew Wade has been overtaken by Brad Haddin in the national setup and will be seen in the green far more regularly. Cameron White is coming off an enormous few months domestically with the bat, both in England and Australia. 417 runs in the Friends Life T20 competition, 387 from 6 innings in the Ryobi Cup and 540 from 11 innings in the Sheffield Shield indicates that he is in the form of his life. Let’s hope that Greg Shipperd enforces his skipper to bat in the top 4 as a minimum after regularly being left at 5 last season, before he was finally promoted to open in the semi final and reaped the rewards with 88 not out. David Hussey has been in poor form for Victoria this season, but is an experienced campaigner in the T20 format, while Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner will provide plenty of highlights before leaving for ODI duties in early January. Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis offer great depth to an imposing top order.

Lasith Malinga was the chief destroyer with ball for the 2012-13 season and opposition sides will again fear the constant threat of 150kmph thunderbolts directed at their toes. His stats were nothing short of incredible in his first season for the Stars. He collected 13 wickets at an average of 10.69, unbelievably conceding a miserly 4.96 runs per over. His figures of 6/7 against Perth were a domestic record and probably considered the most damaging spell of bowling in T20 history. McKay, Hastings and Faulkner are brilliant limited over bowlers all in their own right and add to the long list of star studded names. If there is a weakness, it is in the spin bowling department. Shane Warne has now retired, leaving a majority of the responsibility with exaggerated part timers David Hussey and Glenn Maxwell. If the selectors do feel the need to play an accredited spinner, Clive Rose is the first cab off the rank.

The Melbourne Stars are justifiable favourites of the BBL3, despite failing to exceed the semi final in previous seasons. Their time is now.

Prediction: 1st

PERTH SCORCHERS

Title Odds: $7.50
Captain: To be announced
INS: Dwayne Smith, Joel Paris, Sam Whiteman, Ashton Turner, Liam Davis
OUTS: Marcus North, Michael Hussey, Herschelle Gibbs, Albie Morkel, Marcus Stoinis, Ben Edmondson, Tim Armstrong, Joe Mennie
FANTASY GUN: Shaun Marsh $113,900
FANTASY BARGAIN: Sam Whiteman $32,000

Potential Best XI

Dwayne Smith
Shaun Marsh
Adam Voges
Simon Katich
Mitch Marsh
Sam Whiteman (+)
Ashton Agar
Nathan Coulter-Nile
Alfonso Thomas
Brad Hogg
Michael Beer

The Perth Scorchers have arguably been the best performed side over first two Big Bash League seasons, despite not winning a title. It has progressed to the Grand Final in both seasons and won the most games combined since the franchise concept began. The 2012-13 season was probably seen as a slight over achievement for the Scorchers, especially considering some favourable Duckworth/Lewis method results, including the semi final where a charitable target was recalculated. This tournament looks set to be a tougher task for Perth, especially with some key players not signing on.

The batting is certainly lacking some depth this time around. Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Herschelle Gibbs and Marcus Stoinis were all key pieces of the Scorchers puzzle at certain times last season, but all have moved on for the 2013-14 competition. That is a lot of fire power and experience to make up. Dwayne Smith isn’t the highest profile signing to take up the slack, but he is coming off some impressive recent T20 form. He hit 418 runs at a strike rate of 122.58 at the Indian Premier League for Mumbai and backed that up at the recent Champions Trophy, averaging 55.75 and striking at an impressive 142.94. He’ll open the innings with Shaun Marsh, the man who will make or break the Scorchers season. After leading the BBL2 runs list with 412 and producing numerous heroic/match winning feats, even more responsibility will be placed on his shoulders. Fortunately, his talented brother Mitch is fit and will add needed stability to the middle order, especially if Adam Voges keeps his position in the ODI side. Wicketkeeper Sam Whiteman has overtaken Tom Triffett in the WA set up after strong domestic results and that is likely to be the case at the Scorchers as well.

The bowling is definitely the strength of this year’s Perth squad. South African Alfonso Thomas will return to the West, after being the highest wicket taker with 12 for the Scorchers last year and operating at a consistently low economy rate. Nathan Coulter-Nile will be his usual, aggressive self (pending International selection), while Jason Behrendorff continues to improve. Patrick Cummins has been playing grade cricket in Sydney as a batsman only and will be looking to make his long awaited bowling comeback at some stage during the Big Bash. The spin stocks speak for themselves. Ashton Agar, Michael Beer and Brad Hogg would be hotly sort after individually, let alone as a three pronged package. Whether all three play in the one team remains to be seen, but considering Agar’s ability with the bat, structurally there shouldn’t be a problem.

If Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges play consistent limited overs cricket for Australia, the batting depth is hurt significantly. The losses of Gibbs, Hussey and North will be too much to match last season’s highs.

Prediction: 7th

SYDNEY SIXERS

Title Odds: $8.00
Captain: Brad Haddin
INS: Ravi Bopara, Chris Tremlett, Nathan Lyon, Sean Abbott, Mark Cosgrove, Marcus North, Jordan Silk, Trent Copeland, Ben Dwarhuis
OUTS: David Warner, Sunil Narine, Jeevan Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake, Luke Feldman, Daniel Hughes, Ian Moran, Josh Lalor, Kurtis Patterson, Dominic Thornely
FANTASY GUN: Mitchell Starc $82,800
FANTASY BARGAIN: Nic Maddinson $41,800

Potential Best XI

Michael Lumb
Brad Haddin (c) (+)
Nic Maddinson
Steve Smith
Ravi Bopara
Moises Henriques
Sean Abbott
Stephen O’Keefe
Mitchell Starc
Brett Lee
Nathan Lyon

The Sydney Sixers were the disappointment of the BBL2. After the winning the title in the Big Bash League’s inaugural season, the SCG based franchise had an enormous fall from grace by finishing 2nd last on the table. In saying that, the gap between 7th and 4th was only one victory, suggesting that some improvement and a change of luck could have been the difference between a finals berth or not. At the end of the day, Brisbane only had one extra win and obviously went on to bigger and better things. It is an accurate indication of how tight the competition actually was.

One of the greatest challenges facing the Sydney Sixers is the inevitability of large Australian representation throughout its squad. Captain Brad Haddin is certain to miss a majority of the competition, while Steve Smith is likely to hold his Test position for the remainder of the Ashes. The Sixers have recruited for depth though. Marcus North, Mark Cosgrove and Jordan Silk are new inclusions who are all likely to benefit when national honours call existing members of the best XI. They will compliment the likes of Nic Maddinson and Moises Henriques nicely. Nottinghamshire opener Michael Lumb is back for the Sixers after a more fruitful contribution than his first season. Fellow Englishman Ravi Bopara is the new International signing for Sydney, coming straight from the Dhaka Premier Division in Bangladesh where he has been in rare form. From 10 innings, he has pounded 670 runs at just under a run a ball in the 50 over competition and managed to take 16 handy wickets. Sean Abbott is an underrated inclusion from cross town rivals the Sydney Thunder. He had an outstanding Ryobi Cup, averaging 32.25 with the bat, as well as picking up 16 wickets, 3 more than any other player for the tournament.

The bowling looks to be strong. Mitch Starc (pending injury recovery), Brett Lee and Josh Hazlewood head an impressive pace division, which will eventually have Englishman Chris Tremlett added to it. Stephen O’Keefe will be the number one spinner, but will be joined by Nathan Lyon once the Ashes have concluded, crossing from the Adelaide Strikers last year. The Sixers have an abundance of bowling options within its batting line up, with Smith, Henriques, Abbott and Bopara all likely to bowl their fair share of overs. They have a very flexible configuration.

I expect the Sixers to improve on last year’s disappointment and challenge for a top 4 position. David Warner and Sunil Narine are big losses on paper, but their impact was next to irrelevant last season. There is genuine value there at $8.00 for the title.

Prediction: 5th

SYDNEY THUNDER

Title Odds: $7.50
Captain: Michael Clarke
INS: David Warner, Michael Hussey, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Eoin Morgan, Luke Feldman, Daniel Hughes, Kurtis Patterson, Jake Doran, Jeremy Maher, Ajantha Mendis, Chris Woakes
OUTS: Chris Gayle, Martin Guptill, Matt Prior, Azhar Mahmood, Sean Abbott, Chris Rogers, Mark Cosgrove, Adam Coyte, Simon Keen, Rhett Lockyer, Adam Zampa
FANTASY GUN: Dirk Nannes $83,300
FANTASTY BARGAIN: Michael Hussey $80,000

Potential Best XI

Tillakaratne Dilshan
David Warner
Michael Hussey
Michael Clarke (c)
Usman Khawaja
Daniel Hughes
Ryan Carters (+)
Luke Feldman
Ajantha Mendis
Gurinder Sandhu
Dirk Nannes

It may sound like a harsh statement, but the Sydney Thunder have been the laughing stock of the Big Bash thus far. In its inaugural season, only 2 wins were registered which saw the franchise languishing at the bottom of the table. Somehow, the Thunder managed to produce an even more humiliating display on the field by failing to register a single victory throughout the whole BBL2 season. Chris Gayle was the big name signing that held the hopes of all Thunder supporters, but his disastrous performances only created headlines to the detriment of the side. The sticky drop in wicket simply didn’t suit Gayle’s explosive style, collecting 137 runs at a strike rate of 96.47, an amazing 55 runs per 100 balls less than his career T20 average! Things can only get better for the ANZ Stadium based side.

The Thunder have thankfully managed to add some much needed batting depth to the list, after averaging a miserable 129.38 runs per innings. Michael Hussey, David Warner, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Eoin Morgan are outstanding inclusions and will all have some impact throughout the tournament. If anyone thinks that Michael Hussey is past his best, it needs to remembered that he was the leading run scorer in this year’s IPL with 733 runs and six half centuries. Tillakaratne Dilshan will offer the required fire power at the top of the innings and should be suited to the slower drop in wicket that will share characteristics to that of Sri Lanka. Usman Khawaja is a key re-signing after being the leading run scorer for the Sydney Thunder last season. He has some recent short format form to consider as well, hitting 426 runs from 7 knocks in the recent Ryobi Cup. Sean Abbott is a disappointing loss to the Sixers after developing admirably in the other domestic competitions.   Michael Clarke, David Warner and Eoin Morgan will only make limited appearances for the Thunder due to International commitments.

The bowling still looks to be light on for the Thunder. Far too much was left on the shoulders of veteran Dirk Nannes who took 11 wickets, nearly double the amount of any other bowler in the squad. The signing of Luke Feldman will help lessen the load, while the talented Gurinder Sandhu continues to improve for NSW. The spin department has always been a weakness, but the signature of Sri Lankan mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis will help fill that void. His List A and T20 statistics are incredible, averaging under 18 with the ball in both formats throughout his whole career. Mendis will be available for selection from January 3rd. Englishman Chris Woakes will be a handy addition for the first two games with his accurate seamers and middle to late order hitting. After the mentioned five bowlers, the depth looks worryingly thin.

It can’t get any worse for the Sydney Thunder, but it still looks like being a lowly finish. A win would be the main goal after two seasons of mediocrity.

Prediction: 8th

TOP TOURNAMENT RUN SCORER

The Odds

$13: Shaun Marsh, Alex Hales, Michael Hussey
$14: Rob Quiney
$15: Michael Klinger, Brad Hodge, Dwayne Smith
$17: Luke Pomersbach
$18: Luke Wright
$21: Tim Paine, Nic Maddinson, Michael Lumb, Phil Hughes, Cam White

Prediction

ALEX HALES (ADELAIDE STRIKERS) – $13.00

Hales is the perfect signing for the Adelaide Strikers. The batsman friendly wicket and short side boundaries of the renovated Adelaide Oval suits the tall English opener to a tee. We all saw what he is capable of conjuring when disposing the Sydney Sixers bowlers to all parts of the SCG when he kitted up for the Melbourne Renegades late last season. He was one of the highest run scorers in the English Friends Life T20 competition and is England’s highest International T20 run scorer for 2013. Take note that he will miss one or two of late round matches due to England T20 commitments.

Value

CAMERON WHITE (MELBOURNE STARS) – $21.00

This is based mainly on my desire for White to get greater opportunities in the top 3 or 4 of the batting order. His form with the bat is impossible to ignore. 417 runs in the Friends Life T20 (3rd most overall), 387 runs in the Ryobi Cup (3rd most overall) and 556 runs in the Sheffield Shield (currently 2nd overall). He returns as captain of the Melbourne Stars, replacing Shane Warne. Let’s hope he gives himself the deserved chances to produce his best with the bat.

TOP TOURNAMENT WICKET TAKER

The Odds

$9: Lasith Malinga
$12: Muttiah Muralidaran
$15: Ben Laughlin
$17: Kane Richardson
$18: Mitch Starc, Ben Cutting
$19: Josh Hazlewood
$21: Dirk Nannes, Fawad Ahmed
$23: Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alfonso Thomas, Alister McDermott, Luke Feldman

Prediction

BEN LAUGHLIN (HOBART HURRICANES) – $15.00

Last year’s leading BBL2 wicket taker (14 from 8 games) is in great form and I feel he can back up his achievements from 12 months ago. He had a solid Ryobi Cup with 9 wickets from 6 games, but it was his short stint in New Zealand that has proven him to be in ominous touch. He took 10 wickets in 4 matches, including a 6 wicket haul. He gives himself every chance to get wickets by bowling full and straight, while the death role gives him the tendency of picking up late, sometimes cheap scalps.

Value

JOHAN BOTHA (ADELAIDE STRIKERS) – $34.00

The Adelaide Strikers captain was one of the shorter priced bowlers at the beginning of the BBL2 for this market, but was disappointing with only 5 wickets. This year he finds himself at $34.00, but is coming off some impressive form. Admittedly, he had a poor Ryobi Cup, but finished the competition with 5 wickets from the last two games. His Shield form has been outstanding, taking the equal most wickets with 24. He is guaranteed to bowl 4 overs every game and just looks too long at that price. He is worth a sneaky $5.00 or $10.00.

 

Author

mm

Mr Century

Covering all things T20 Big Bash Cricket for The Profits.

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