Welcome to the Round 8 Big Bash League Preview. As we enter the last round of finals qualification, the Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers can rest easy knowing that they all have secured top four positions. The Stars also have a guaranteed home semi final at the MCG, while the Sydney Sixers are in prime position to host the second semi final with a final round clash against the struggling Sydney Thunder. The Perth Scorchers will have to beat the undefeated Stars away to secure a home semi final at the WACA, should the results fall as expected.
The match with most at stake is Hobart vs Brisbane. This is basically an elimination final, with the winner given the likely right of taking on the Melbourne Stars in the first semi final. The Hurricanes and Heat have developed an entertaining rivalry, regularly providing high scoring encounters and thrilling finishes. Let’s hope we are all spoilt with another 400+ run contest and final over heart stopper like earlier in the season.
The Australian Test squad for the tour of South Africa has been named as below:
Michael Clarke (C) (Sydney Thunder)
Brad Haddin (VC) (Sydney Sixers)
Jackson Bird (Melbourne Stars)
Alex Doolan (Melbourne Renegades)
James Faulkner (Melbourne Stars)
Ryan Harris (Brisbane Heat)
Mitchell Johnson (Brisbane Heat)
Shaun Marsh (Perth Scorchers)
Nathan Lyon (Sydney Sixers)
James Pattinson (Melbourne Renegades)
Chris Rogers (uncontracted)
Peter Siddle (Melbourne Renegades)
Steve Smith (Sydney Sixers)
David Warner (Sydney Thunder)
Shane Watson (Brisbane Heat)
All these players will be unavailable for the Big Bash finals, with the plane to South Africa leaving on January 29th. The majority of the squad will leave on that date with the exception of James Faulkner, who will play in the international T20s against England, but he still won’t represent the Stars. The Sydney Sixers are the hardest hit with no obvious replacements for Steve Smith or Nathan Lyon, while the unexpected selection of Shaun Marsh will put added pressure the Scorchers newest sensation Craig Simmons. Nathan Coulter-Nile can consider himself unlucky not to be in the 15 man touring party, but it does give him the opportunity to compete for a title with Perth in the BBL.
Adelaide Strikers ($1.67) vs Melbourne Renegades ($2.22)
Wednesday 22/01/2014, at the Adelaide Oval, 7:10pm (local)
Melbourne Renegades 6/155 (Cooper 59, Rohrer 35, Young 2/37) defeated Adelaide Strikers 10/107 (Botha 31, Neser 29no, Klinger 24, Samuels 3/16, Muralitharan 3/18, Rimmington 2/22) by 48 runs at Etihad Stadium.
Unfortunately, this game is as good as a dead rubber with Hobart and Brisbane playing each other. The Strikers require that game to be abandoned, tied or tightly won by Hobart, on top of defeating the Renegades by a large margin to steal a position in the top four. It is as close to an impossibility as you’ll get. For mine, the Adelaide Strikers have been the most disappointing franchise of the season. It has only registered two 160+ totals and scored below 100 twice despite having a full strength squad for a majority of the tournament. It just isn’t enough runs for such an attacking bowling line up to defend.
It just hasn’t been the Renegades season. The fortunes of the franchise have barely improved since the drubbing from cross-town rivals the Melbourne Stars in the opening game of the season. Aaron Finch has again been the main man with the bat scoring 262 runs, but the remaining batsmen haven’t even tallied half the amount of runs he has for the competition. It appears if Finch fails or is on national duties, the Renegades are uncompetitive. The unavailability of Hafeez has hurt, but it is an unsatisfactory answer to the disappointing results. Peter Siddle will make his debut for the Renegades.
The form of both sides has dropped away dramatically. Adelaide are still close to full strength and should deal with the undermanned Renegades comfortably.
Prediction: Adelaide Strikers to win by 20 runs/5 wickets
Hobart Hurricanes ($1.85) vs Brisbane Heat ($1.95)
Thursday 23/01/2014, at Blundstone Arena, 7:40pm (local)
Brisbane Heat 3/209 (Christian 70no, Burns 69, Kieswetter 50) lost to Hobart Hurricanes 7/210 (Dunk 67, Wells 36no, Birt 27, Vettori 2/32, Gannon 2/36) by 3 wickets at the Gabba.
The Hobart Hurricanes are somehow still alive with the opportunity to secure the last finals position despite only winning 2 games in 7 matches. It also has the home ground advantage against the Brisbane Heat in which the winner earns a top four spot and semi final berth. The Hurricanes have been inconsistent with the bat throughout the tournament and too much has been left to Ben Dunk at the top of the order. He has provided 261 runs in a breakout season and is now sure to be considered for an IPL contract, especially considering his ability to keep wicket.
The Brisbane Heat are once again peaking late and pushing to steal that fourth and final position. Its form has improved drastically over the last three games with 2 comfortable wins and a more than competitive effort against the undefeated Stars. You would think that the sides at the top end of the table would be feeling slightly nervous with Brisbane hovering around that fourth position as it still possesses a side that can go all the way in similar circumstances to last season. Cameron Gannon just continues to take scalps and has an incredible strike rate of 8.9 balls per wicket. He is the leading wicket taker for the tournament with 15.
This is do or die with the winner claiming fourth position and the opportunity to take on the Stars at the MCG. The Heat has the much more impressive form with Hobart winning only one from its last 5 games and that was against the Sydney Thunder.
Prediction: Brisbane Heat to win by 15 runs/4 wickets.
Sydney Thunder ($2.31) vs Sydney Sixers ($1.62)
Saturday 25/01/2014, at ANZ Stadium, 7:15pm (local)
Sydney Thunder 6/166 (Khawaja 66, Warner 50, Henriques 2/24) lost to Sydney Sixers 4/167 (Maddinson 61, Henriques 28no, Bopara 27no) by 6 wickets at the SCG.
Finally, the Sydney Thunders 19 game losing streak has ended with a comprehensive victory against the struggling Melbourne Renegades. The Thunder now have the opportunity to get off the bottom of the table should it defeat the Sixers in the Derby and the Renegades continues its own losing streak. Unfortunately, the Thunder have lost Ajantha Mendis who has been called back home to Sri Lanka to complete a national training programme. His 2/15 from 4 overs helped destroy any momentum the Renegades could muster and will be sorely missed.
A win here to the Sydney Sixers and it gives itself a great chance of hosting the second semi final. It will be the last time that Test stars Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon will be able to represent the franchise, leaving enormous holes to be filled for the finals. Smith in particular has had an immediate impact since arriving to the squad three games ago, stabilising a middle order that was beginning to look shaky. Don’t expect the Sixers to hold anything back despite knowing it is guaranteed a finals berth.
The loss of Mendis weakens the Thunders bowling flexibility dramatically. I can’t see the Sixers giving up a great opportunity for a home final like this.
Prediction: Sydney Sixers to win by 20 runs/6 wickets
Melbourne Stars (???) vs Perth Scorchers (???)
Monday 27/01/2014, at the MCG, 1:45pm (local)
Melbourne Stars 2/183 (White 88, Hodge 70no) lost to Perth Scorchers (S.Marsh 68, Voges 36no) by 8 wickets (D/L method) at the WACA.
The Melbourne Stars secured a home semi final at the MCG with a comfortable win against the Hobart Hurricanes. The Stars now have the opportunity to be the first BBL side to finish the qualifying rounds undefeated. The depth of the Stars will again be tested with Faulkner, Wade, McKay, Maxwell and Malinga all missing from the best XI. Like Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga has been told to return to Sri Lanka by SLC to complete a training regime. The Stars have requested that he be cleared for the finals, but he is no guarantee to return.
The Perth Scorchers have also secured a guaranteed position in the top four, but have a monumental task to earn a home semi final with victory against the undefeated Stars required. The feel good story of the tournament thus far came from Round 7 with journeyman Craig Simmons scoring the fastest BBL hundred in only 39 balls. After being plucked from Perth grade cricket to counter the lack of top order options and only producing three single figure scores to start the season, no one expected the onslaught that was to come. His 102 runs from 41 balls included 8 sixes and he is sure to gain the attention T20 franchises around the world. In a major blow for the Scorchers, leading wicket taker Yasir Arafat has been ruled out for the rest of the BBL due to a ruptured ligament in his thumb.
The Melbourne Stars have the opportunity to experiment if need be, so don’t commit your money until the final teams and toss have been announced. In saying that, they’ll be hell bent on finishing the qualifying rounds 8-0.
Prediction: The Melbourne Stars to win by 15 runs/6 wickets
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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