BBL02 Season Preview

The second installment of the Big Bash League is upon us with the Melbourne Derby opening proceedings on Friday December 7th. The 1st franchise based Big Bash season was deemed a major success with high attendance figures and excellent Pay TV ratings. It is now seen as one of the strongest Twenty20 leagues in the world, which was justified with 2011/12 Champions, The Sydney Sixers, going on the win the 2012 Champions League recently in South Africa. Its popularity is sure to grow again with an additional round included which will see the Melbourne and Sydney Derbies played twice and creating a larger period for regular Test and ODI players to take part in the competition.

After all players from the BBL1 were signed on one year contracts, some squads have a completely different look to them. Contracts now have a maximum of 3 years which sees almost all the star players stitched up with the one franchise for multiple seasons. I’ll be going through each squad, the changes, form players and predict to how the teams may perform.

The Fantasy Big Bash competition is also back, so I’ll also go through the “Fantasy Gun” and “Best Value” picks for each team.

(Please note that I’ve excluded regular Test players from the potential best XI lists)

ADELAIDE STRIKERS

Title Odds: $8.00

Captain: Johan Botha

INS: Saeed Ajmal, Cameron Boyce, Phil Hughes, Matt Johnston, Tim Ludeman, Andrew McDonald, Michael Neser, Kieron Pollard, Nathan Reardon, James Smith, Shaun Tait

OUTS:  Aiden Blizzard, Cameron Borgas, Lee Carseldine, Tom Cooper, Adam Crosthwaite, Brendan Drew, James Franklin, Bryce McGain, James Muirhead, Aaron O’Brien, Daniel Salpietro, Alfonso Thomas

Potential Best XI
Phil Hughes
Michael Klinger
Callum Ferguson
Nathan Reardon
Kieron Pollard
Tim Ludeman (w)
Johan Botha (c)
Michael Neser
Kane Richardson
Gary Putland
Shaun Tait

After finishing 6th on the points table in the first season, the Strikers needed to recruit well to be more competitive and it appears they have a far more consistent line up. Johan Botha being available for the whole Big Bash and becoming captain is a huge bonus. Not only is he one of the most economic bowlers in World Twenty20 cricket (career Econ rate of 6.19), but his experience in captaining South Africa in ODI and T20 will see him as one of the best decision makers in the competition.

The Strikers were devastated when Kieron Pollard was injured only days before last season’s tournament and will be pleased to see him return for 2012/13. He was the big hitting link that was sorely missed in the middle order. If he can perform close to his 160.43 strike rate, he is sure to be a favourite of the Adelaide Oval crowd.

The addition of Phil Hughes (who topped the English T20 Friends Life tournament scorers with 402 runs @ 100.5) at the top of the order and Nathan Reardon through the middle overs creates far greater depth to the batting order and will see more consistent scores recorded. Unfortunately the Strikers have lost Renegades/Bushrangers recruit Andrew McDonald for the entire BBL2, who would have been the perfect final touch on a much improved list as well as contributing with his medium pacers.

The pace bowling looks stronger with the return of Shaun Tait to Adelaide after an unsuccessfully year representing the Renegades. Michael Neser also can’t be underestimated after being one of the biggest improvers for both Queensland and Brisbane in domestic cricket last season. Gary Putland should be a regular fixture in this year’s team after his final over Ryobi Cup Final heroics. He has continued on his good form into the new season taking 12/92 in the recent Sheffield Shield game against Victoria.

The wildcard of the Adelaide attack is Saeed Ajmal. At this point in time it is unknown how many games Ajmal will be available for after the Pakistan Cricket Board had originally banned all of its players from participating in the BBL2, but has recently lifted the restriction. Ajmal strikes fear into most batsmen who risk coming down the wicket with his “Doosra” extremely difficult to pick. He is arguably the form spin bowler in the World with an average of 15.82 and economy rate of 6.13 at International level speaking for itself. Although it seems he’ll be the replacement international, when or if he does play games, he is sure to have an impact.

I have high hopes for the Strikers and think they are every chance to contend for the Top 4.

Predicted Finish: 4th
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN:  Johan Botha (All-Rounder) $112,900
BEST VALUE: Gary Putland (Bowler) $36,000

BRISBANE HEAT

Title Odds: $6.50

Captain: James Hopes

INS: Joe Burns, Cameron Gannon, Mitchell Johnson, Luke Pomersbach, Kemar Roach, Chris Sabburg, Dale Steyn, Shane Watson

OUTS: Ryan Broad, Nick Buchanan, Matthew Gale, Matthew Hayden, Brendon McCullum, Michael Neser, Steve Paulsen, Chris Swan, Roelof van der Merwe

Potential Best XI
James Hopes (c)
Luke Pomersbach
Chris Lynn
Dan Christian
Peter Forrest
Daniel Vettori
Mitchell Johnson
Chris Hartley (w)
Ben Cutting
Nathan Hauritz
Alister McDermott

The Heat started the 2011/12 season in horrible fashion, losing its first four games and being out of finals contention early. To their credit, it ended up winning the last three games to show the competition that they had quite a bit to offer for BBL2.

The real strength of the Heat is the bowling. Firstly, the pace depth runs deep. Alister McDermott, Ben Cutting, James Hopes, Dan Christian as well as the recruitment of Mitchell Johnson, Cameron Gannon, Shane Watson when free of Australian duties, West Indian tearaway Kemar Roach and a one game cameo from Dale Steyn is scary reading. Add that to the international standard spin attack of Daniel Vettori and Nathan Hauritz, the biggest issue will be trying to fit them all in the one side. There is going to be huge competition for spots with these names.

While the batting looks solid, it does appear to have some weaknesses. Matthew Hayden could well be a bigger loss than first expected as there isn’t a genuine opener to take his place. While Chris Hartley has been opening for Queensland in the Ryobi Cup, his season strike rate of 63.90 won’t cut the mustard in Twenty20 cricket. Perhaps the maligned Luke Pomersbach can revive his career and use his powerful stroke play at the top of the order. Of course when Shane Watson returns from National duties, the problem is solved.

Dan Christian looks to be the Brisbane’s most important bat once again. While he didn’t have the best BBL1 with only 163 runs, he has the stroke play that can dominate a bowling attack. He just needs a bit more support. I just think they may well be one gun bat short of being able to have a big influence on the competition. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, they’ll certainly need more batsmen getting 200+ season tallies to be contending for the title.

The Heat are hard to judge. Their bowling alone could be enough to push them to a finals position, but it will always be a question of how many runs they can make.

Predicted Finish: 5th
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Dan Christian (All-Rounder) $100,300
BEST VALUE: Ben Cutting (Bowler) $34,000

HOBART HURRICANES

Title Odds: $6.00

Captain: George Bailey

INS: George Bailey, Aiden Blizzard, Doug Bollinger, Ed Cowan, Ben Dunk, Scott Styris, Timm van der Gugten

OUTS:  Mark Cosgrove, Luke Feldman, Phil Jaques, Matt Johnston, Nick Kruger, Rhett Lockyear, Ashton May, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Tom Triffett

Potential Best XI
Aiden Blizzard
Tim Paine (w)
Ricky Ponting
Travis Birt
George Bailey (c)
Owais Shah
Scott Styris
Jason Kreja
Xavier Doherty
Ben Laughlin
Doug Bollinger

The Hurricanes were arguably the best performed side of the BBL1 round robin period. They should have chased down the Sixers score of 153 easily at home in the Semi Final but were restricted by a great Brett Lee spell.

Hobart has recruited well and will be a competitive force once again. They have pinched Australian T20 captain George Bailey back from the Melbourne Stars which makes the middle order look much stronger. The new opening partnership also looks threatening with the signing of Aiden Blizzard from the Adelaide Strikers and former Australian wicketkeeper Tim Paine back from a finger injury after missing the entire BBL1. Ricky Ponting retiring from Tests now means he’ll be available for the entire BBL2, strengthening the batting even further.

The main reason Hobart were so successful in BBL1 was due to the form of both Travis Birt and Owais Shah. Birt topped the competition charts with 345 runs at an average of 43.12 and striking at 168.29. Shah wasn’t too far behind with a total of 282 runs and a spectacular average of 70.50, striking at 149.20. They both were able to make valuable contributions to Hobart’s wins during the round robin phase, but failed during the all important semi final with Birt scoring 11 and Shah a globe. Shah has continued his good T20 form this year compiling 340 and 363 runs in the IPL and English Friends Life T20 tournaments. Birt hasn’t enjoyed as much success with a mediocre Sri Lankan Premier League and struggling to get domestic games for WA. But he always seems to leave his best for the Big Bash competition and I’d expect to see him perform again.

While the Hurricanes have done well to retain a majority of their key players, Rana Naved is a massive loss. The cult figure who famously wears a mullet made of hair extensions created just as many headlines with his performances on the field as he did with his theatrics. His tournament leading 15 wickets at 17 a piece will be a large hole to fill. Doug Bollinger has been recruited to help fill that void and his international/domestic figures suggest he should be able to do so successfully despite patchy form for NSW.

Scott Styris is a solid international signing who will have an impact in the middle order and with the Kookaburra. Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza complete a well balanced list as key spin bowlers which are always an important ingredient for a successful T20 side.

The Hurricanes will be looking to go one better after a disappointing semi final performance at home. Despite the loss of Rana Naved, they have made key signings that should see them well and truly in the mix for a run at the title.

Predicted Finish: 3rd
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Travis Birt (Batsman) $109,600
BEST VALUE: Tim Paine (Wicketkeeper) $46,500

MELBOURNE RENEGADES

Title Odds: $10.00

Captain: Aaron Finch

INS: Fawad Ahmed, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Brendon Drew, Daniel Harris, James Muirhead, Muthiah Muralidaran, Peter Nevill, Aaron O’Brien, Darren Pattinson, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Rohrer, Marlon Samuels, Faf Du Plessis

OUTS: Andrew McDonald, Abdul Razzaq, Ryan Carters, Shane Harwood, Aaron Heal, Brad Hodge, Brenton McDonald, Graham Manou, Glenn Maxwell, Dirk Nannes, Nathan Reardon, Shahid Afridi, Shaun Tait

Potential Best XI
Daniel Harris
Aaron Finch (c)
Tom Cooper
Marlon Samuels
Peter Nevill (w)
Ben Rohrer
Aaron O’Brien
Nathan Rimmington
Jayde Herrick
Darren Pattinson
Muthiah Muralidaran

The Renegades have been hurt most by the BBL1 one year contracts having managed to retain only 5 players from its inaugural season. After gathering an impressive list of mainly Twenty20 specialists for the 2011/12 season, the Renegades had high expectations and delivered next to nothing with only two wins. Most of the big names struggled with consistency and lacked patience, generally finding a way of getting themselves out.

While the Renegades list certainly needed an overhaul and an inclusion of stability, no one would have been expected the mass exodus of big name players, Simon Helmot and James Brayshaw included. The above list of “OUTS” is sure to make any Renegades supporter cringe, with the departures of gun Victorian T20 players Brad Hodge, Glenn Maxwell, Andrew McDonald and Dirk Nannes hurting the most.

Thankfully the Renegades have managed to retain inform ODD Bushrangers batsman Aaron Finch for 3 seasons. His Ryobi Cup form has been nothing short of scintillating having scored 451 from his 5 games (next best is 323) at 99.40 while striking at just under 100. But for the Renegades to have any success, there will be a huge reliance for its new captain to contribute in most matches. It will be interesting to see if Finch can translate his recent form into T20 runs under such constant pressure.

Tom Cooper originally appeared to be the pick of the Australian based recruits having represented Australia A against the England Lions during the English Summer. But since the start of the domestic season, he has struggled to score any significant runs and has subsequently been dropped by South Australia. Former Victorian wicketkeeper Peter Nevill and batsman Ben Rohrer are great pickups from the victorious Sydney Sixers and will add the required stability to the middle order.

Marlon Samuels and Muthiah Muralidaran are very good International signings. Samuels finished the recent T20 World Cup 3rd on the run scoring list with 230 runs at 38.33 and a strike rate of 132.94 for the victorious West Indian side. He has continued churning out runs scoring a mammoth 260 against Bangladesh in last week’s Test Match. He can also have an impacting with his darting off spinners which have been known to reach speeds of 130kmph. Murali has now become a worldwide freelancing T20 specialist after calling a day on his highly successful Sri Lankan career. His recent T20 form hasn’t been spectacular after not taking a wicket in his four Sri Lankan Premier League matches, but his economy rate was solid and it’s hard to see him not taking wickets throughout the BBL2.

The bowling looks a bit weak having lost Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes, Shane Harwood, Andrew McDonald and Shahid Afridi. Nathan Rimmington is a decent signing from the Perth Scorchers and is a proven wicket taker in T20 cricket with 42 wickets from 34 matches at 19.88. Aaron O’Brien’s left arm orthodox spinners will form a tidy combination with Murali, while the remaining seam positions are likely to be shared throughout the tournament between Jayde Herrick, Darren Pattinson, Brendon Drew and Will Sheridan.

Despite having a much more discipline line up, the Renegades have most likely lost too many established players to be a serious threat for the title. They are lacking 1-2 first class bats and are looking too thin on match winning seam bowlers.

Predicted Finish: 7th
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Aaron Finch (Batsman) $81,800
BEST VALUE: Peter Nevill (Wicketkeeper) $42,100

MELBOURNE STARS

Title Odds: $4.75

Captain: Shane Warne

INS: Brad Hodge, Lasith Malinga, Glenn Maxwell, Clive Rose, Scott Henry

OUTS: George Bailey, Jade Dernbach, Jon Holland, Peter Siddle, Chris Simpson, Adam Voges

Potential Best XI
Rob Quiney
Luke Wright
Brad Hodge
David Hussey
Cam White
Glenn Maxwell
Peter Handscombe (w)
James Faulkner
John Hastings
Lasith Malinga
Shane Warne (c)

The popular opinion of most cricket experts was that the Melbourne Stars underperformed in the BBL1, despite making the competition semi finals. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but once going through the strength of the list, you can see why they are placed with the lofty expectations. You can now argue with the additions of Brad Hodge, Glenn Maxwell and Lasith Malinga that the expectations have raised further for the BBL2.

Firstly, the Stars list management has been outstanding by retaining a majority of their high profile players and having the least turnover of all the competing teams. The only significant losses have been George Bailey and Adam Voges who have both decided to return to their states of birth. But the signatures of Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell will cover those departures and arguably make the middle order stronger.

One of the biggest talking points for the Stars last year was the form of skipper Cameron White. He had an awful tournament finishing with 55 runs at an average of 7.86. To his credit, he worked hard to get himself back in form and had an outstanding winter overseas. At the IPL, his scored 479 runs for the Deccan Chargers, averaging 43.54 and striking at 149.68. He then went to Northamptonshire for a short English T20 Friends Life tournament stint and spanked 228 runs at 57, re-establishing a spot back in the Australian T20 World Cup team. He has now relinquished the Stars captaincy to Shane Warne so he can solely focus on his batting. If he can continue the form of the last 6 months, it will be another area of improvement gained for the Stars.

The bowling is extremely strong. The recruitment of Lasith Malinga is gigantic, especially after the failure of Jade Dernbach last season. Malinga is arguably the best T20 bowler in the world. He has 178 wickets from 130 games and has an incredible economy rate of 6.66 for such an attacking bowler. John Hastings is a big bonus after returning from 18 months on the sidelines. His return to domestic cricket has been dynamic taking 22 wickets at 19.09 in the Sheffield Shield and 11 wickets at 25.45 in the Ryobi Cup. Those numbers have been good enough to see him get a call up to the Test squad in Perth. The scary part is there wasn’t enough room to fit Clint McKay or Jackson Bird in my predicted best XI. They are certain to get opportunities throughout the tournament.

Last but not least is Shane Warne. While he has no recent form to assess, we all know what he is capable of. But it is decision making as a captain that he could have his biggest impact. His attacking style will ensure no rock is unturned. It will surely be intriguing viewing.

If the Stars can perform at their best, there is no team who will much them. They are extremely well rounded and have the depth to match.

Predicted Finish: 1st
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: David Hussey (All-Rounder) $120,000
BEST VALUE: John Hastings (All-Rounder) $55,200

PERTH SCORCHERS

Title Odds: $8.50

Captain: Simon Katich

INS: Ashton Agar, Tim Armstrong, Jason Behrendoff, Patrick Cummins, Albie Morkel, Tom Triffitt, Adam Voges

OUTS: Paul Collingwood, Tom Beaton, Liam Davies, Ryan Duffield, Luke Pomersbach, Nathan Rimmington, Luke Ronchi, Mark Cameron, Mitchell Johnson

Potential Best XI
Shaun Marsh
Herschelle Gibbs
Marcus North
Adam Voges
Simon Katich (c)
Tom Triffitt (w)
Nathan Coulter-Nile
Alfonso Thomas
Brad Hogg
Ben Edmondson
Michael Beer

The Perth Scorchers had a fantastic inaugural season finishing atop of the points table after the round robin period but would have been disappointed to not go on and win the home final at a sold out WACA. By finishing 2nd, they did qualify for the T20 Champions League in South Africa where they won 1 of 4 games. But it wasn’t the performances on the field that had the media talking after it emerged a majority of the players had an incident filled boozy night in Cape Town. It led to captain Marcus North and coach Lachlan Stevens resigning from their roles with the Scorchers and WA. Stevens has since been replaced by Justin Langer. Not the ideal lead up to the BBL2.

Unfortunately, the Scorchers have also suffered two huge injury blows in the lead up to BBL2, with both Mitch Marsh and new recruit Pat Cummins ruled out for the entire competition. Mitch Marsh’s long term hamstring injury in particular is a shattering loss after finishing 2nd on the run scoring list with 309 runs at 51.50. His lively seamers also provided a handy bowling rotation that will be sorely missed. The Scorchers were hoping South African international Albie Morkel would be able to immediately fill the void of Marsh with his big hitting and effective medium pace variations, but has recently pulled out of his contract by request of the South African Cricket Board. Perth were salivating at the prospect of Pat Cummins bowling on the bouncy WACA wicket but will have to hold their excitement for another year.

Another worry for the Scorchers is the form of top order batsman Shaun Marsh. He has started the season in poor form and been dropped for WA in both Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield matches. He has an outstanding T20 record averaging 40.77 over 85 games and is vitally important for the Scorchers in form.

Herschelle Gibbs returns to the Scorchers after dominating the BBL1 and being a main reason to it reaching the final. If he can replicate the 302 runs at 43.14, Perth will go a long way to being successful again. But he needs help. Adam Voges is a welcome return to the west coast after spending the inaugural season with the Melbourne Stars. He definitely strengthens an aging batting order that is lacking a bit of depth with the injury to Mitch Marsh and the late withdrawal of Albie Morkel.

The bowling looks solid with two quality spinners in Brad Hogg and Michael Beer. Alfonso Thomas replaces Albie Morkel as the Scorchers second international and comes with a proven T20 record all around the world. Nathan Coulter-Nile is sure to continue his development as a future potential Australian player and Ben Edmondson was the unsung hero of the Scorchers 2011/12 campaign, collecting 14 wickets at 21.21 to finish second on the competition wicket taking list. Nathan Rimmington and Mitchell Johnson will be losses but the emergence of Jason Behrendorff will offer enough depth for rotations.

Losing Mitch Marsh, Pat Cummins and Albie Morkel pre-tournament are definitely raising question marks. Add that to the poor form of Shaun Marsh and an aging/depthless middle order, the Scorchers could well tumble out of the Top 4.

Predicted Finish: 6th
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Herschelle Gibbs (Batsman) $109,900
BEST VALUE: Adam Voges (Batsman) $50,000

SYDNEY SIXERS

Title Odds: $5.50

Captain: Brad Haddin

INS: Luke Feldman, Daniel Hughes, Sunil Narine, Kurtis Patterson, Daniel Smith, David Warner

OUTS: Dwayne Bravo, Ed Cowan, Patrick Cummins, Stuart MacGill, Peter Nevill, Ben Rohrer, Shane Watson

Potential Best XI
Michael Lumb
Brad Haddin (c) (w)
Nic Maddinson
Steve Smith
Moises Henriques
Dominic Thornley
Steve O’Keefe
Mitch Starc
Brett Lee
Sunil Narine
Josh Hazlewood

The Sydney Sixers have completed a fantastic 12 months of existence by becoming the inaugural Champions of the Big Bash League and backing it up by winning the T20 Champions League in South Africa. The Sixers will go into the BBL2 knowing they have won more trophies than the majority of competing teams  have played tournaments. They look like being a competitive force once again.

The Sixers have managed to sign two of the world’s best performed T20 players in David Warner and West Indian off spinner Sunil Narine. While Warner will be spending most of his time in the Australian Test Team, Narine has the potential to be the most influential recruit of the season. He put his name in the lights with an outstanding debut IPL season for KKR. Not only did he collect 24 wickets at 13.5, but his economy rate of 5.47 per over was the best of any bowler who took 12 or more poles. He then continued his great form in the T20 World Cup for the victorious West Indies, taking 9 wickets at 15.44 and was again extremely difficult to get away with an incredible economy rate of 5.63. The Sixers already had a great bowling line up and the addition of Narine will make it very difficult for opposition teams to score competitive totals.

If there is one potential negative that you can question about the Sixers, it’s that they lack a bit of batting depth. While some might say I’m clutching at straws, the loss of Ben Rohrer, Peter Nevill, Dwayne Bravo, Ed Cowan and Shane Watson is a fair chunk of talent. While Warner is a fair swap for Watson in both ability and availability, the other four have no obvious replacements. Englishman Michael Lumb has been retained as an international after a lean BBL1. Although he may have earned himself a new contract with an excellent Champions League tournament, leading the run scorers with 226 runs at 56.50 and helping the Sixers to the title.

As discussed earlier, the Sixers have a strong bowling attack. Brett Lee is going around once again and forms a brilliant partnership with Mitch Starc. Starc has become an extremely frequent T20 wicket taker. He took 14 wickets in 6 games at the Champions League (1st overall), 10 from 6 in the T20 World Cup (3rd overall), 21 from 10 in the Friends Life T20 (1st overall), along with 13 from 6 in BBL1 (3rd overall). Strangely enough, he has never taken more than 3 wickets in an innings. That is as consistent as you can get. Depending on his potential Test duties, he is certain to be in the wickets again.

The Sydney Sixers will be around the business end of the competition once again. Despite the lack of batting depth outside their best XI, the inclusion of Narine with Lee, Starc, Hazlewood and O’Keefe will ensure that there won’t be too many big totals to chase anyway.

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Sunil Narine (Bowler) $86,500
BEST VALUE: Brad Haddin (Wicketkeeper) $55,800

SYDNEY THUNDER

Title Odds: $11.00

Captain: Michael Clarke

INS: Michael Clarke, Cameron Borgas, Ryan Carters, Mark Cosgrove, Adam Coyte, Rhett Lockyear, Azhar Mahmood, Dirk Nannes, Chris Rogers, Gurinder Sandhu, Chris Tremain

OUTS: David Warner, Tim Armstrong, Nicholas Bills, Doug Bollinger, Luke Butterworth, Tim Cruikshank, Matthew Day, Ben Dunk, Fidel Edwards, Phil Hughes, Craig Philipson

Potential Best XI
Chris Gayle
Matt Prior (w)
Usman Khawaja
Mark Cosgrove
Cameron Borgas
Sean Abbott
Chris Rogers
Jason Flouros
Scott Coyte
Luke Doran
Dirk Nannes

The Sydney Thunder will be looking at making a bigger impact in the BBL2 after finishing stone cold last in its first season. The weaknesses were obvious, if Chris Gayle didn’t make runs, the Sydney Thunder didn’t make runs. Gayle scored 31% (252 at 42) of the Thunders total runs in BBL1, while David Warner contributed 12.5% in one innings (102 against the Stars). 406 runs came from the bats of every other listed player combined! It is fair to say the Chris Gayle needs support and he needs it desperately.

Thankfully, the middle order does look stronger than BBL1. Despite losing David Warner to the cross town rivals, the Thunder have managed to secure Mark Cosgrove, Cameron Borgas, Chris Rogers, Rhett Lockyear and Michael Clarke when free from national duties. Usman Khawaja and Sean Abbott will be looking at improving on their below average contributions from the previous season. They both have too much talent to be getting season totals of only 106 and 65.

Interestingly, the Thunder have signed 4 international players. Matt Prior, Martin Guptill, Azhar Mahmood and of course Gayle will all be donning the green at some stage of the tournament. Chris Gayle will play all matches while the other three will rotate around each other due to the maximum of 2 internationals per XI and differing playing schedules around the world. They all have the ability to make significant run making contributions whether it be the in the top or middle order.

The bowling looks lean and is likely to be an issue. Dirk Nannes is a great pick up from the Renegades while Scott Coyte was the Thunders leading wicket taker in BBL1 with 9 wickets and a great economy of 6.31. Sean Abbott has shown his seamers can be effective for NSW while Luke Doran has played no domestic cricket this season and will be expected to take the bulk of the spin workload. Azhar Mahmood’s seamers will be valuable if he can play a majority of games which is unlikely with three other listed internationals to compete with. He took plenty of wickets in the recent Champions League for Auckland including a 5/24 which he backed up with 55 not out. After that, inexperienced trio Gurinder Sandhu, Chris Tremain and Adam Zampa will be next in line.

The Thunder have definitely made improvements to its batting depth, but still lack enough hitting power after Chris Gayle. The bowling appears too weak to compete with the stronger teams. It may well be another season of pain.

Predicted Finish: 8th
Fantasy Big Bash
FANTASY GUN: Chris Gayle (Batsman) $95,000
BEST VALUE: Usman Khawaja (Batsman) $38,300

FUTURES BETTING

Top Tournament Runscorer

TOP 5 FAVOURITES:
Chris Gayle (Sydney Thunder) $8.00
Aaron Finch (Melbourne Renegades) $13.00
Ricky Ponting (Hobart Hurricanes) $15.00
Phil Hughes (Adelaide Strikers) $15.00
Brad Haddin (Sydney Sixers) $15.00

BEST VALUE PICKS:

David Hussey (Melbourne Stars) $21.00: Last year’s “Player of the Tournament” rarely has a lean Australian domestic competition. Although the Australian ODIs begin before BBL2 ends, Hussey has recently been on the nose of the selectors and is every chance play a full Big Bash tournament.

Cameron White (Melbourne Stars) $51.00: After a horrible BBL1, White found outstanding form in the IPL and English Friend’s Life T20 comp. At $51, it appears this price is based on performances from a year ago.

Dan Christian (Brisbane Heat) $151.00: Although he is likely to be part of the ODI squad from January 11th, $151.00 is ridiculous odds. He is one of the vital parts of the Heat’s batting structure and is capable of scoring big. Worth a sneaky $10.00.

MY PICK:

Phil Hughes (Adelaide Strikers) $15.00: I was going to select Aaron Finch, but there is talk he will get called up for ODI duties. Hughes is in great form after being the leading run scorer in the English version of the Big Bash with 402. He has continued that form with 323 runs (2nd overall) in the Ryobi Cup. He’ll open for the Strikers and is every chance to accumulate some big scores. Chris Gayle is also likely to be right up there again.

Top Tournament Wicket Taker

TOP 5 FAVOURITES:
Sunil Narine (Sydney Sixers) $11.00
Lasith Malinga (Melbourne Stars) $11.00
Doug Bollinger (Hobart Hurricanes) $15.00
Kemar Roach (Brisbane Heat) $15
Shaun Tait (Adelaide Strikers) $17.00

BEST VALUE PICKS:

Johan Botha (Adelaide Strikers) $26.00: Genuinely one of my Top 3 picks, so I’m very surprised to see him at $26.00. Australian domestic players have already shown struggles against Botha, having snared 11 wickets from his 5 Ryobi Cup games this season. Impossible to score runs from which means batsmen take unnecessary risks. Very solid bet.

Nathan Coulter-Nile (Perth Scorchers) $34.00: The number one strike bowler at the Scorchers who continues to develop well. Leading wicket taker in the Ryobi Cup this season with 12 from 5 games at a strike rate of 28. Can be expensive, but always bowls to take wickets.

Jayde Herrick (Melbourne Renegades) $51.00: Only played the one game in BBL1, but is likely to feature in most games with the departures of Nannes, Tait and Harwood. Another quick who is happy to give up runs to get wickets. Averages 1.66 wickets a game for the Bushrangers in Ryobi Cup games.

MY PICK:

Sunil Narine (Sydney Sixers) $11.00: He is just about the most in form T20 bowler in the world. He was outstanding in his debut IPL and T20 World Cup Tournaments. He gets a T20 wicket every 15.3 balls he bowls. Not many Australian batsmen would have faced him which makes it even more likely that he’ll continue his success. I expect Lasith Malinga and Johan Botha to finish just behind him.

Please Note:
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Author

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Mr Century

Covering all things T20 Big Bash Cricket for The Profits.

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