Round 1 of the Big Bash League commences on Thursday night and if the hype is any indication, we’re in for the biggest BBL series of all time.
Last year we definitely got a little burnt in the early stages of the season with quite a few upsets in the early rounds before teams found their feet and form lines could be established. We’re going to be a little cautious to start the season, but there are definitely a couple of games where we think there’s value.
For the latest news and discussion of the Big Bash League this season, make sure you follow me on Twitter at @MrCricketBYB
Spotless Stadium, Thursday December 17th 7:40pm AEDST
A danger game for the Sixers to start their campaign as they take on the Thunder in the Sydney Smash! It may not seem that way if you look at the record between the two teams with the Sixers winning all seven of the previous encounters between the two teams. However the Thunder are a rejuvenated bunch this year with some good recruits and could catch the Sixers fresh out of the gates.
The Sixers rely heavily on Michael Lumb, Nic Maddinson and Brad Haddin at the top of the order, especially with Steve Smith being rested from the BBL and Moises Henriques missing through suspension from a slow over rate in the BBL04 final. They have some serviceable depth batsmen in Ed Cowen, Ryan Carters and Jordan Silk but after that, they will turn to their strong all-round brigade that includes Sean Abbott and former Strikers skipper in Johan Botha. I think many are underestimating the value Botha brings to the team as a three-dimensional player with excellent leadership abilities. Nathan Lyon will also be making a rare appearance in the Magenta with fellow tweaker Steve O’Keefe rested.
The Thunder will fancy their chances of claiming an early scalp after recruiting well in the off-season. Andrew Russell showed he hasn’t lost any touch in a video that was posted showing him smoking Shane Watson over the roof at Spotless Stadium during a practice session. Mike Hussey, Jacques Kallis, Aiden Blizzard and Watson himself, give the Thunder some real match winners, although they would be disappointed that Usman Khawaja hasn’t recovered from his hamstring injury in time for this match.
It’s with the ball where the Thunder may be exposed with Gurinder Sandhu and Clint McKay leading an attack that may struggle to contain.
Odds: Sydney Thunder $2.35 vs Sydney Sixers $1.60 (Sportsbet)
Verdict: Our tip is the Sixers but I am reluctant to back them first up at that price against an improved Thunder outfit. There has been some horrible weather around Sydney in the days leading up to this match, so it will be interesting to see how the pitch and outfield pull up. Perhaps it may be a low scoring contest.
Bet: NO PLAY
Adelaide Oval, Friday December 18th 7:40pm AEDST
This match should be a beauty. The Strikers were superb last season, losing only one preliminary round match before falling in the semis. The do have a few key personnel changes, but the majority of last year’s team remain, yet most have written off their chances this season. At their best, they will certainly be pushing for finals.
The Strikers have a lethal top order in Craig Simmons, Tim Ludeman and Travis Head, and then some experienced warriors in Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene and veteran Brad Hodge who has been named as captain. However they will greatly miss the x-factor of Kieron Pollard this season. It’s with the ball where they look vulnerable. Ben Laughlin is a standout T20 bowler but there’s not a lot of depth with Kane Richardson and import Adil Rashid needing to stand up.
The Stars are again the pre-season favourites for the BBL title. A familiar role for them that has so far landed them a total of zero titles. However on paper, they are star-studded and if it all comes together for them, they will be hard to beat this season. Perhaps this will be their year.
England’s Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright will lead the way with the willow, well supported by power hitters Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Hussey and all-rounder James Faulkner. There are no real weaknesses with the ball either, with Ben Hilfenhaus, John Hastings and Scott Boland all wicket takers, to support a great spin duo of Michael Beer and Adam Zampa. I love it when Beer opens the bowling – he’s extremely crafty and underrated in this format.
Odds: Adelaide Strikers $2.28 vs Melbourne Stars $1.60 (Sportsbet)
Verdict: The Stars will be keen to get their campaign off to a fast start so they won’t want to be dropping this game. Our tip is the Stars but again, the price seems about right, so we’ll be sitting and watching this one rather than getting involved.
Bet: NO PLAY
GABBA, Saturday 19th November, 7:10pm AEDST
The Brisbane Heat will kick off their Big Bash League season by hosting the Melbourne Renegades on Saturday night. The Heat won the wooden spoon last season with some insipid performances, and they’ll be desperate to avoid a repeat.
With Joe Burns in their side early in the season, it may be their best chance to grab a win. He’ll tee off at the top of the order, in a batting line up that has some fire power with Chris Lynn, Jimmy Pierson, Nathan Reardon and West Indian Lendl Simmons all destructive batsmen. Ben Cutting is also capable of some power hitting, but they’ll need him to improve his output with the ball this season as their bowling remains a weak link.
How are the Heat bowlers going to be able to contain the Renegades? Answer is, I don’t think they can. Chris Gayle (pictured) and Aaron Finch are a supreme top order, with Cameron White to bat lower in the order and Dwayne Bravo to bring the x-factor. The Gades have been hurt by an injury on the eve of the BBL to Callum Ferguson who appears to have done his knee again, but they have enough depth to cover the loss.
Odds: Brisbane Heat $2.21 vs Melbourne Renegades $1.71 (Sportsbet)
Verdict: After sitting on our hands in the first two games, we’re happy to jump on the price here for the Renegades. Many pundits have them rated very highly this season, and while we don’t have them that high, we have the Heat much lower. If the Renegades dismantle the Heat top order, then it will be hard to see them posting enough runs to defend. Gades for a big win.
SCG, Sunday 20th November, 4:20pm AEDST
The Sixers back up again for their second match in four days against the Hurricanes. The extra game may be an advantage as the Hurricanes do have a tendency to be a little rusty at times. Assuming the Sixers get an early win under their belt, they’ll come into this game with some confidence and form in the T20 format. They will also have Moises Henriques back following suspension, and Steve O’Keefe is likely to be included after resting from the first match.
It will be a tough ask for the Sixers coming up against a quality Hurricanes outfit who we predicted to finish top of the table. The Hurricanes need to find a new level of consistency this season and Kumar Sangakkara is probably the ideal man to help with that. A batting line up of Paine, Dunk, Sangakkara, Bailey, Christian and Sammy is as dangerous as it comes.
The Canes will be keen to ensure their bowlers come to the party as well to take pressure of their batting. Wickets from Shaun Tait and Jake Reed will be crucial to their success, while Cameron Boyce is a quality spin option.
Odds: Sydney Sixers $1.60 vs Hobart Hurricanes $2.30 (Sportsbet)
Verdict: I think the market has this game wrong. I’m not sure how the Thunder have the same chance of beating the Sixers this round as the Hurricanes. There is value in that price for the Hurricanes.
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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