The Big Bash League is one round down and we already have a surprise competition leader. The Melbourne Renegades shocked many by comfortably defeating the much fancied Melbourne Stars thanks largely to a magnificent unbeaten 111 from skipper Aaron Finch with 10 balls to spare.
While the Finch knock was most likely the most memorable highlight of the first four games, the action certainly didn’t end there. Travis Birt and Owais Shah again produced a sparkling match winning partnership (95 from 52 balls) to get the Hobart Hurricanes a handy away win against the Brisbane Heat. They are fast becoming one of the most damaging batting combinations in world T20 cricket. But the match of the round was saved for last with recently selected Australian Test squad member Phil Hughes continuing his outstanding domestic form hitting 74 from 48 balls before former Renegade Nathan Reardon smashed 3 sixes on his way to 42, helping the Strikers to a final over victory.
Round 2 is likely to be highlighted by the introduction of the West Indian signings, after finishing national duties against Bangladesh on Monday. The likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Kemar Roach are sure to add some extra wow factor to the tournament.
Perth Scorchers ($2.18) vs Melbourne Stars ($1.69) at the WACA, Wednesday 12th December.
Starting times: 17:00 (local)
Perth Scorchers lead all encounters 2 wins to 0.
Last Encounter (21st January 2012, BBL01 1st Semi Final)
Perth Scorchers 3/174 from 20 overs (Gibbs 71, M Marsh 41, Collingwood 31, Wright 1/14)
Melbourne Stars 8/163 from 20 overs (Faulkner 38, Wade 37, Wright 33, Hogg 2/17, M Marsh 2/17)
Perth won by 11 runs.
Both teams will be looking to get their seasons underway after each suffering underwhelming losses in round 1. The Stars in particular will be looking to bounce back after being short favourites against the Renegades and being beaten convincingly. Despite the disappointing loss, it is unlikely that there will be mass team changes. Matthew Wade is the only certain out returning to the Test squad and is likely to be replaced by Peter Handscombe. John Hastings will also come into the side if fit.
The Scorchers went into round 1 with a batting order lacking depth and that is sure to be tested even further with Michael Hussey on Test duty and Shaun Marsh suffering a hamstring injury. Shaun Marsh’s injury in particular is a massive blow, after finally looking to have regained some form against Adelaide with a classy 57 from 45 balls. Marcus North is a certainty to come back into to line up while one of all-rounders Ashton Agar, Tim Armstrong or Hilton Cartwright will be required to fill the extra batting void. Alfonso Thomas has finished his T20 commitments with the Nashua Titans but isn’t a likely starter.
It’s hard to see the Scorchers being able to make enough runs against the Stars bowling line up, especially with Marsh being a confirmed out.
Prediction: Stars by 30 runs/7 wickets
Adelaide Strikers ($1.80) vs Brisbane Heat ($2.00) at the Adelaide Oval, Thursday 13th December.
Starting Time: 19:00 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (January 3rd, 2012)
Adelaide Strikers 4/166 from 20 overs (Klinger 53, Cooper 43, Botha 28, McDermott 2/31)
Brisbane Heat all out for 135 from 18 overs (Paulsen 35no, Richardson 2/2, Muirhead 2/17, Drew 2/27)
Adelaide won by 31 runs.
The Strikers will be going into this game with plenty of momentum after a tight final over win against Perth. The loss of Phil Hughes to the Test Squad will hurt after being the catalyst for the win at the WACA. It certainly makes the batting order look weaker and a suitable replacement to open with Michael Klinger will be difficult to find. Kieron Pollard should be a welcome addition after completing his West Indies duties. Saeed Ajmal won’t be seen for the rest of the tournament after his one off Perth appearance.
Brisbane were a little unlucky against Hobart, getting a competitive 172 on a two paced pitch. As the game went on, the wicket got easier to bat on which saw Birt and Shah took full advantage. Watson will go to Hobart to join the Test squad and is likely to be replaced by Chris Lynn, while West Indies spearhead Kemar Roach should be also be available. Brisbane have also had a squad change with the injury riddled Ryan Harris being replaced by Matthew Gale for the rest of the tournament.
This is an extremely tight game. The loss of Phil Hughes has me leaning slightly in the Heats favour.
Prediction: Heat by 10 runs/ 4 wickets
Sydney Thunder($2.15) vs Melbourne Renegades ($1.71) at ANZ Stadium, Friday 14th December.
Starting Time: 19:00 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (December 30th, 2012)
Melbourne Renegades 8/140 from 20 overs (Hodge 44, Finch 41, Abbott 2/21, Doran 2/26, Butterworth 2/27)
Sydney Thunder 7/134 from 20 overs (Gayle 75, Afridi 3/21, Harwood 2/26, Tait 2/31)
Melbourne won by 6 runs.
The Renegades had the best victory of its short existence last Friday night by knocking off the cross town rivals. Aaron Finch produced one of the great T20 knocks with 111 not out, including 4 sixes and 12 fours while striking at 170.76. While it was a one man show, Finch did receive encouraging support from Ben Rohrer late in the innings. Faf Du Plessis has gone home after his one game stint, but has a worthy replacement in the brilliantly inform Marlon Samuels, who scored 85 from 43 balls against Bangladesh on Monday night.
The Thunder will be ecstatic to have the services of Chris Gayle again. While there are still question marks as to whether Gayle has enough batting support, Ryan Carters and Sean Abbott showed there is talent in the middle order producing 55 runs from 28 balls. Abbott must bat higher than 7 to take full advantage of his clean striking. Dirk Nannes led an inexperienced bowling attack well against the Sixers despite not taking a wicket, having the lowest round one economy rate (4 per over). Expect him to aggressively target Finch.
It could well end up being a contest of who gets Finch and Gayle cheapest. The Renegades look to have more batting and bowling depth.
Prediction: Melbourne by 15 runs/ 5 wickets.
Melbourne Stars ($1.70) vs Hobart Hurricanes ($2.12) at the MCG, Saturday 15th December.
Starting Time: 19:00 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (January 9th, 2012)
Melbourne Stars 3/203 from 20 overs (Wright 117, Quiney 62, Naved-ul-Hasan 2/38)
Hobart Hurricanes 9/184 from 20 overs (Shah 55, Birt 51, Lockyear 23, Triffitt 21, Faulkner 4/46, Warne 2/23, Hussey 2/28)
Melbourne won by 19 runs.
The Melbourne Stars become the first team to play twice in the one round. The three day turnaround from Perth is unlikely to have any factor on the game as the modern cricketer is well adapted to frequent travel.
The Hobart Hurricanes were again led home by the Birt/Shah partnership against Brisbane. If you fail to get either of these two out early, any score is capable of getting chased down. Ponting and Krejza are both chances of returning to the team, creating an extremely daunting line up. Doug Bollinger and Ben Laughlin need to tighten up and leak less runs if they want to restrict the Stars. They had economy rates of 11.75 and 12.25 respectively on Sunday night which were some of the highest for the first round.
This is the match of the round. Expect a high scoring contest.
Prediction: Stars by 5 runs/3 wickets
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