Coming into the penultimate round of the Big Bash League, we have only one team guaranteed a finals birth and a log jam of five others all fighting for the remaining three positions.
The Renegades are the only team to have reached double figure points with the Stars and Hobart Hurricanes on their tail with 8 a piece. The Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane results will be fascinating considering they are all on 6 points and separated by only 0.311 net run rate, you can’t get much tighter than that. This has set up an exciting final two rounds with only the Sydney teams too far behind to make up ground.
Round 1: 3-1
Round 2: 4-0
Round 3: 1-3
Round 4: 3-1
Round 5: 3-1
Round 6: 3-1
Total to date: 17-7
Perth Scorchers ($1.50) vs Sydney Thunder ($2.60) at the WACA Ground, Friday January 4th.
Starting Time: 18:00 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (January 11th, 2012)
Sydney Thunder all out for 99 from 19.2 overs (Armstrong 25, Gayle 20, Coulter-Nile 3/9, Hogg 2/8)
Perth Scorchers 1/103 from 14.1 overs (Marsh 64no, North 38no)
Perth Scorchers won by 9 wickets.
This is a must win game for the Scorchers after their mini streak of victories ended against the inform Hobart Hurricanes. A win is likely to set up an elimination final type situation against the Strikers at the Adelaide Oval for the final round.
The Scorchers were in a good position against Hobart, being 3/115 after 15 overs with Katich and Voges both well set and looking in good form. But the popular opinion that the middle to low batting order lacks serious depth was proven genuine with Perth losing 5 wickets in the last 5 overs for a disappointing return of 37 runs. That coupled with the poor start saw Hobart cruise to victory. Leading run scorer Shaun Marsh will be in doubt after a nasty hit on the thumb from Doug Bollinger.
There’s not much positive to say about the Sydney Thunder, although they probably put up their best performance of the competition against the Sixers. With away games against Perth and the Melbourne Stars to finish their campaign, they are highly likely to end the season winless. The only shining light has been Dirk Nannes who has taken 10 wickets and given 100% every outing.
Perth need to win and should do convincingly.
Prediction: Perth by 30 runs/7 wickets.
Hobart Hurricanes ($1.67) vs Adelaide Strikers ($2.16) at Blundstone Arena, Saturday January 5th.
Starting Time: 19:00 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (December 28th, 2012)
Hobart Hurricanes 4/171 from 20 overs (Birt 44, Jaques 41, Shah 36no, Wells 31, Botha 2/28)
Adelaide Strikers 8/157 from 20 overs (Cooper 43no, Klinger 36, Borgas 31, Blizzard 20)
Hobart Hurricanes won by 14 runs.
This is another finals defining match. Both teams are in danger of losing their top 4 positions if defeated, especially with major threats, the Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat, both up against the lowly Sydney teams.
The Hurricanes have put together 3 consecutive wins after a tough early fixture. Ben Laughlin has been the one of the main reasons for the turnaround of fortunes, having taken 9 wickets in the three wins and is now the equal leading wicket taker of the tournament with 13. Tim Paine has been consistently giving Hobart good starts and is now 3nd overall for total tournament runs (204), while Ricky Ponting has produced 160 runs over the last three rounds. They’ve been impressive.
The Strikers have now lost two in a row and are losing momentum at the wrong time of the tournament. The fixture has put them up against the Stars, Renegades, Hobart and Perth for the final four games, coincidently all teams still well and truly in contention for the top 4. This game will be Kieron Pollard’s last of the tournament due to Trinidad & Tobago T20 commitments, so the Strikers will be desperate to see some closing fireworks from him.
The form lines suggest these teams are heading in opposite directions, while Blundstone Arena has been a fortress once again. Hobart will be hard to beat.
Prediction: Hobart Hurricanes by 30 runs/6 wickets.
Melbourne Stars ($1.70) vs Melbourne Renegades ($2.12) at the MCG, Sunday January 6th.
Starting Time: 19:00 (local)
All Encounters level at 1-1.
Previous Encounter (December 7th, 2012)
Melbourne Stars 5/167 from 20 overs (Wright 53, Hussey 42, Hodge 28, White 20, O’Brien 2/27)
Melbourne Renegades 2/168 from 18.2 overs (Finch 111no, Rohrer 34no)
Melbourne Renegades won by 8 wickets.
The second Melbourne derby comes with the Renegades having secured a top 4 position and the Stars still needing another victory. It certainly isn’t a dead rubber for the Renegades with a win guaranteeing a home final.
Lasith Malinga was again the talking point for the Stars after having figures of 3/0 from 1.4 overs at one stage. When he gets his lines right, he is close to impossible to get away consistently. Although we finally saw a minor capitulation, with his last two overs going for 27 runs (including extras). It included a mixture of half volleys and wides which have been rare part of Malinga’s arsenal throughout the tournament. It gave Brisbane the extra 10-15 required runs to make the chase difficult.
The Renegade spinners continue their love affair with Etihad Stadium. Murali and Samuels shared another 6 wickets while O’Brien was again economical. Another positive sign was the form of the middle order after Finch and Samuels failed. Cooper was crisp with 59 from 46, Will Sheridan finished off nicely and Ben Rohrer continued his impressively consistent season with 35. If the Renegades secure a home final, they should win the title considering the squad attributes that suit the Etihad drop in wicket. The $4.00 outright odds look generous.
The Renegades match up well against the Stars. The main concern is the form on the faster pitch, but $2.12 is great value, especially considering the emphatic result from earlier in the season.
Prediction: Renegades by 15 runs/5 wickets.
Brisbane Heat ($1.57) vs Sydney Sixers ($2.35) at the Gabba, Monday January 7th.
Starting Time: 18:30 (local)
Only Previous Encounter (December 16th, 2012)
Brisbane Heat 8/139 from 20 overs (Christian 32, Hayden 29, Robinson 22, MacGill 2/21, Hazlewood 2/24, Starc 2/28)
Sydney Sixers 3/140 from 18.4 overs (Haddin 76, Maddinson 28)
Sydney Sixers won by 7 wickets.
The Brisbane Heat are all of a sudden a genuine finals chance after upsetting the highly touted Melbourne Stars. A home game against the struggling Sydney Sixers is an opportunity they must take full advantage of.
The return to form of James Hopes is a major relief for the Heat. His all-round effort of 49 at the top of the order and 3/28, including the key wickets of Wright, Hodge & Maxwell saw him earn the man of the match award. There will be added pressure on Hopes to perform with Sri Lankan recruit Thisara Perera no longer available due to ODI commitments. He has been a handy replacement for the injured Daniel Vettori gathering 91 runs at a strike rate of 178.43 and 6 wickets.
The Sydney Sixers had a nice win against the cross town rivals, with young gun Daniel Hughes guiding them to victory with an impressive 51 not out from 36 balls. But the Sixers don’t have a lot to play for the remainder of the competition, so expect to see more young players like Hughes blooded.
The Heat have developed strong form, have plenty to play for and will possess greater intensity.
Prediction: Brisbane by 35 runs/7 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. Odds quoted are from Sports Bet.
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