The Australian Domestic T20 Big Bash League is upon us again after the successful sixth installment was taken out by the Perth Scorchers for a record third time. The competition was a yet again a massive winner on free to air television for Network Ten, who continued to enjoy great ratings throughout its duration. The popularity of the league appears to grow with every season, but BBL07 is set to be the biggest yet with the competition lengthened by a further eight games. Each side will play two more matches, with the extra home fixture another financial win for the franchises. It will see the competition expand outside of the major cities, with towns like Launceston, Geelong and Alice Springs given the opportunity to host matches.
Here we will run through the opening six matches of the season before Christmas and suggest some futures options to consider.
SYDNEY SIXERS HEAD TO HEAD @ $1.80 AGAINST SYDNEY THUNDER
THUNDER ($2.05) VS SIXERS ($1.80)
AT SPOTLESS STADIUM, TUESDAY 19/12, 19:45
After winning the BBL05 title, it was back to what we had become accustomed to in the early years for the Thunder. It would claim a fourth wooden spoon, an extraordinary drop in output after the exciting cricket it produced the year before. Unfortunately, things don’t look like becoming much easier for the team from Sydney’s west. It’s internationals from last season in Russell, Morgan and Brathwaite won’t be returning for varying reasons and while Jos Butler and Mitch McClenaghan are solid replacements, they certainly don’t possess the same x-factor.
Last year’s runners up the Sydney Sixers are always in the mix and will be looking to make amends after a disappointing performance in the final last year. It has made minimal changes to its BBL07 squad with Englishmen Jason Roy and Sam Billings retained and Brad Haddin the only local omission of note retiring. Sean Abbott was the star last year with 20 wickets and will need to carry a heavy load again in the absence of many listed Australian stars. There is improvement in the Sixers though and that will be expected to come from the extremely talented, but under achieving Nic Maddinson.
If the Thunder had Khawaja and Cummins available, you’d have to give them a shout. Although the Test duties of those two give the Sixers a clear advantage and they must be considered at the generous $1.80 odds.
SYDNEY SIXERS TO WIN BY 20-25 RUNS/6 WICKETS
HEAT ($1.95) VS STARS ($1.85)
AT THE GABBA, WEDNESDAY 20/12, 19:40
The Brisbane Heat were one of the most exciting teams to watch during BBL06, mostly due to its dynamic batting duo of Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum. Quickly referred to as the “Bash Brothers”, the pair combined for 632 runs from just 363 deliveries to almost single handedly lift Brisbane to second on the table. Lynn would be crowned player of the tournament from just five games, but he wasn’t available for the Heat’s heartbreaking Super Over loss in the Semi-Final. Samuel Badree has been replaced by promising Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan, while fellow leggie and countryman Yasir Shah will provide cover should his young teammate be required for international duty.
The Melbourne Stars enter BBL07 off a sixth consecutive finals appearance, but it again failed to perform when it mattered most. The Stars were rattled by one of the most memorable T20 spells of all time by Mitchell Johnson in the Semi-Final and couldn’t recover. The MCG based team still believes it possesses a list that can win the title and has made minimal changes, retaining key internationals Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright. It has managed to sign BBL06 leading run scorer Ben Dunk from the Strikers, who is likely to open the batting and keep wicket.
There are plenty of “what ifs” about this game and they start with Chris Lynn. He has declared himself fit from his ongoing shoulder concerns and has apparently looked comfortable in the nets, but it is worth having a look at first. As usual, he is likely to make or break the game. Both teams are coming off poor trial results, so treat this as a watch and learn scenario.
BRISBANE HEAT TO WIN BY 1-5 RUNS/2 WICKETS
HURRICANES ($2.14) VS RENEGADES ($1.71)
AT BLUNDSTONE ARENA, THURSDAY 21/09, 19:40
The Hobart Hurricanes are one of the great mysteries of the upcoming Big Bash season, mainly on the back of its two international signings Jofra Archer and Tymal Mills. After poor results from bigger name players like Kumar Sangakkara, the Hurricanes have punted on a couple of make or break types who are likely to define the season. Both are players who can generate serious heat with the ball, while Archer is also capable of hitting a long ball. Matthew Wade also joins the “Cane Train”, while key players Bailey, Christian, Boyce and Short are unlikely to be taken away for Australian duty.
The Melbourne Renegades have been one of the underachieving teams of the competition, but have moved to change that by being the most active side this off-season. It has brought in a raft of short form capable locals, including Tim Ludeman, Kane Richardson, Jack Wildermuth, Jon Holland and the ageless Brad Hodge. Unfortunately it has lost Sunil Narine on the eve of the competition, but has acted quickly by signing Afghan skipper Mohammad Nabi and the ever dangerous Kieron Pollard to collectively fill the void. On top of retaining Dwayne Bravo, the Renegades come into BBL07 with high expectations.
This is an interesting game, as I feel the odds should be tighter. Both franchises are coming off very strong practice match results and despite the game being in Tasmania, Hobart are seen as outsiders. The Canes are a risky proposition, but are the Renegades any safer? Low confidence, but certainly some value for Hobart.
HOBART HURRICANES TO WIN BY 5-10 RUNS/4 WICKETS
STRIKERS ($1.81) VS THUNDER ($2.00)
AT ADELAIDE OVAL, FRIDAY 22/12, 19:40
The Strikers were one of the disappointments of BBL06 and based on its post season list management, it is difficult to see where the improvement is going to come from. The names it has lost are significant with Dunk, Hodge, Richardson, Ludeman and Pollard all moving east to Melbourne. In saying that, Adelaide has managed to sign one of the world’s most exciting young stars in Afghanistan’s teenage prodigy Rashid Khan. He has outrageous short format numbers, including 42 wickets in 27 T20Is at an average of 14.35 while operating at less than six runs an over. Rashid has also taken a ridiculous 70 wickets in just 32 ODIs. He is joined by experienced and big hitting South African Colin Ingram, who holds an outstanding T20 record and is capable of being one of the competitions leading run scorers.
Like the first encounter, Cummins and Khawaja won’t be released from Test duties which make the Strikers a justified favourite. Take a close look at the Thunder before committing to this game, but I’d be surprised if the Sydneysiders shorten below $2.00.
ADELAIDE STRIKERS TO WIN BY 15-20 RUNS/5 WICKETS
SIXERS ($1.90) VS SCORCHERS ($1.90)
AT THE SCG, SATURDAY 23/12, 16:10
After a third Big Bash title, the Perth Scorchers go into BBL07 as a $4.00 outright favourite and is internally expecting more success. Justin Langer is so confident of his squad that he has only bothered signing the one international, with popular Englishman David Willey returning to the west. When all players are available, it is difficult to list a best XI without omitting some very talented short format cricketers. The franchise has proven over many years now that it is capable of covering for injuries and national selection, injecting depth players with a plan and the required knowledge to become like for like performers.
This is an extremely tight looking game on paper, as the Sixers get the advantage of its home facilities and an opener without travel. You couldn’t openly predict any side with great confidence this early in the piece, but Sydney will certainly benefit with a game under its belt.
SYDNEY SIXERS TO WIN BY 1-5 RUNS/4 WICKETS
RENEGADES ($) VS HEAT ($)
AT ETIHAD STADIUM, SATURDAY 23/12, 19:25
Both teams would have played a game each up to this point, so it is pointless going into too much detail on the encounter itself without assessing those performances. The Renegades will be looking to make an early statement at Etihad Stadium though, as this is a list selected to excel on the slower drop in wicket. Like every Brisbane Heat game, it is just a matter of if Lynn and McCullum get going or not. The short boundaries will suit them, the lack of pace may not.
MELBOURNE RENEGADES TO WIN BY 10-15 RUNS/5 WICKETS
Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades, Brisbane Heat, Sydney Sixers.
Top Tournament Runscorer:
Chris Lynn @ $8.00
Jake Weatherald @ $26.00
Top Tournament Wicket Taker
Rashid Khan @ $10.00
Michael Neser @ $51.00