The biggest hit of the summer is nearly here with the fifth edition of the Big Bash League (BBL05) kicking off on Thursday December 17th. A massive 35 matches will be played over 39 days of the 2015 Big Bash League schedule with the Final set for January 24th 2016.
In this piece, we’ll preview each of the eight teams and take a look at the BBL squads for 2015. Then, before the season kicks off, we’ll have another article with our pre-season Big Bash League betting tips.
Over the first four years, the Big Bash League has seen some great success from some franchises, and much disappointment from others. The inaugural season was won by the Sydney Sixers, before the Brisbane Heat upset the favourites to win BBL02. Both of those occasions were against the Perth Scorchers who clearly learnt from their mistakes as they would then go back-to-back to win the last two editions of the Big Bash League. Can they make it a hat trick in BBL05? Disappointments have come from the Melbourne Stars who have started each year as the pre-season favourites, only to stumble at the semi-final stage every season so far, while the Sydney Thunder have three wooden spoons in their cabinet and are the only team that has not reached the semi-final stage.
Let's take a closer look at the Big Bash league squads and team line-ups.
Last season - 1st (Lost in Semi-Final) (6 wins, 1 loss, 1 no result)
Squad – Travis Head (c), Jono Dean, Brad Hodge, Jon Holland, Hamish Kingston, Ben Laughlin, Tim Ludeman, Michael Neser, Gary Putland, Adil Rasheed, Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Craig Simmons, Kelvin Smith, Billy Stanlake
The Strikers were the team to beat last season as they powered through the season with only one loss before stumbling in the semi finals. They will be looking to continue that form in BBL05.
Their batting impressed with a strong combination of youth and experience with the likes of Alex Ross and Travis Head learning a lot from Craig Simmons and 40-year old Brad Hodge. Keeper Tim Ludeman is also a vital cog in the top order with his destructive hitting power.
The Strikers were soured by the off-season news of key weapon Kieron Pollard withdrawing from BBL05 due to a knee injury. At the time of writing, they are still looking to add a second international recruit to join English leg-spinner Adil Rasheed.
Kelvin Smith and giant Queensland pace bowler Billy Stanlake are also new additions to the squad. They have number of options with the ball with T20 specialist Ben Laughlin arguably their most important player. Kane Richardson, Gary Putland and Jon Holland round out a serviceable bowling unit.
The Strikers should once again be thereabouts in BBL05. A lot will depend on the form of their top order. If they fire then they will play finals, but if they put too much pressure on their middle order, then the Strikers could slip back to the pack.
Last season - 8th (2 wins, 6 losses)
Squad - Samuel Badree, Nick Buchanan, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Alex Doolan, Andrew Fekete, Luke Feldman, Jason Floros, Peter Forrest, James Hopes, Josh Lalor, Chris Lynn, Lendl Simmons, James Peirson, Nathan Reardon, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, Jack Wildermuth
Brisbane Heat coach Daniel Vettori was obviously very influential in getting New Zealand captain and dynamic T20 batsman Brendon McCullum to the Heat but unfortunately he won’t be playing any games for the Heat this season due to his commitments to the national side. However the Heat have landed a quality replacement with T20 specialist Lendl Simmons joining the squad with excellent credentials in the Indian Premier League. He joins fellow West Indian Samuel Badree as the two international recruits for the Heat.
The Heat are a team full of T20 talent but consistency has been a major problem. They will miss Joe Burns for large portions of the season due to Test commitments, but Chris Lynn is returning from injury and will be looking to use the BBL as a platform back towards higher honours. Expect a big season from Lynn. Any team with the dynamic hitting of Jimmy Peirson, Nathan Reardon and Ben Cutting is going to be dangerous, but their problems may be with the ball. Last season their bowling unit struggled, and the Heat ended up finishing dead last with a couple of terrible performances during the season. It’s hard to see where the improvement will come from. They don’t seem to have recruited strongly in the bowling department with a largely unheralded bowling line up, and again it might prove to be their weakness.
Last season – 5th (3 wins, 5 losses)
Squad - Tim Paine (c), George Bailey, Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Ben Dunk, Michael Hill, Joe Mennie, Dom Michael, Simon Milenko, Sam Rainbird, Jake Reed, Clive Rose, Darren Sammy, Kumar Sangakkara, Shaun Tait, Timm van der Gugten, Beau Webster, Jon Wells
The Hobart Hurricanes would be disappointed to have missed the finals last season after finishing runner-up in BBL03. Which way will the hurricane blow this season?
They are a team that battles with consistency, but they have recruited superbly in the off season to form one of the strongest squads ever seen on the Apple Isle.
The signing of the season has to be Sri Lankan superstar Kumar Sangakkara.
One of the world’s best batsmen in any format, and only recently retired from the top level, Sangakkara will be available for the full season and should provide plenty of highlights for the Hurricanes. He’ll slot into the top order, alongside one of the best opening batting combinations in the competition in Ben Dunk and skipper Tim Paine. Throw in former Australian captain George Bailey and one of the most devastating hitters in the game in Dan Christian, and the Hurricanes have the strike power to do major damage.
The cream on the cake is their second international recruit in Darren Sammy. A hugely popular personality and talented with both bat and ball, he’s perfect for a fun competition like the Big Bash League. Fans will come out to watch this guy play. Even more importantly, both Sammy and Sangakkara will be available for all games of the season.
The Hurricanes have lost a couple of bowling options with Ben Hilfenhaus and Xavier Doherty moving on to greener pastures, and with Shaun Tait’s schedule likely to be closely managed, a lot of the bowling responsibilities will fall on to youngsters Jake Reed and Sam Rainbird. Expect spinners Cameron Boyce and Clive Rose to also make an impact.
The Hurricanes have a fantastic squad and if they can get some early season momentum then they will definitely be contenders for the title.
Last season – 6th (3 wins, 5 losses)
Squad - Aaron Finch (c), Tom Beaton, Dwayne Bravo, Tom Cooper, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, Chris Gayle, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Nevill (wk), James Pattinson, Nathan Rimmington, Matthew Short, Peter Siddle, Chris Tremain, Matthew Wade (wk), Guy Walker, Cameron White, Nick Winter
The Melbourne Renegades have shaken off the tag of easy beats but they will be keen to improve on the sixth place finishes of the past two seasons. Do they have the squad to do it?
They have made big changes to their squad, losing some big international recruits in Ben Stokes, Shakib Al Hasan, Jesse Ryder and Andre Russell. They have picked up a few decent replacements, headlined by Jamaican rock star Chris Gayle. He’s a man who can win games off his own bat, but his record in the BBL isn’t great, so we’ll have to see if the Renegade’s gamble pays off.
Cameron White also jumps across town to the Renegades and he’ll be an important cog in a squad that is hurting from injuries and national duties. Matthew Wade is recovering from a broken collarbone and is in doubt for the first match, and with Peter Nevill in the Australian team, wicketkeeping duties might be up for grabs.
Skipper Aaron Finch is also on the comeback trail and he will be keen to use this series to get himself back in Australian colours. Throw in Tom Cooper, Callum Ferguson and West Indian Dwayne Bravo, and the Renegades certainly have some weaponry.
However with recent injuries to Australian fast bowlers, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle both appear set for a stint with the national side which will most likely restrict their involvement in BBL. Nathan Rimmington and Chris Tremain will be left to lead the bowling attack with big reliance on spinners Nathan Hauritz and former Hurricane Xavier Doherty who joins the squad this season.
The Renegades have some quality batting options in their squad, but their bowling looks weak and lacks depth which may be exposed as a real weakness this season.
Last season – 3rd (Lost in Semi-Final) (5 wins, 3 losses)
Squad – David Hussey (c), Michael Beer, Scott Boland, James Faulkner, Evan Gulbis, John Hastings, Peter Handscomb, Sam Harper, Ben Hilfenhaus, Glenn Maxwell, Kevin Pietersen, Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Tom Triffitt, Daniel Worrall, Luke Wright, Adam Zampa
For the fifth season in a row, the Melbourne Stars will start the Big Bash League tournament as the favourites. But favouritism on paper doesn’t equate to trophies in the cabinet. In fact, the Stars haven’t even managed to reach the final as yet, losing in the semi-finals in each of the first four BBL seasons. They will be desperate to rectify that in BBL05.
As you would suspect, their squad looks excellent on paper and batting is their strength. They have lost Cameron White, but Englishmen Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen will be leading the charge, with Rob Quiney, Peter Handscomb and skipper David Hussey in support.
The x-factor of the Stars is with their all-rounders in James Faulkner and “The Big Show” Glenn Maxwell. Both are capable of absolutely anything. Faulkner has won multiple games off his own bat, while Maxwell will be looking to do a little better than this effort:
It’s with the ball where the Stars may be vulnerable. They’ve lost Jackson Bird and Clint McKay who are a solid new ball combination. Scott Boland and John Hastings will need to stand up, while Adam Zampa and Michael Beer will shoulder a lot of responsibility as a quality spin duo.
The Stars will once again be right in contention and a semi-finals berth looks a pretty safe bet. But can they go further this time around?
Last season - 2nd (Won BBL04 Title) (5 wins, 3 losses)
Squad - Adam Voges (c), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Michael Carberry, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Brad Hogg, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, James Muirhead, Joel Paris, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, David Willey, Sam Whiteman
The reigning back-to-back Big Bash League champions, the Perth Scorchers are looking for a hat trick of titles when BBL05 kicks off. They again have a quality squad but perhaps national duties will test their depth more than ever before.
Adam Voges and Mitch Marsh are now established in the Test side, while Shaun Marsh and Nathan Coulter-Nile are in the current squad. Cameron Bancroft and Michael Klinger also appear next in line if there are further injuries, so the Scorchers' depth could really be tested this season.
English import Michael Carberry was, at times, a little subdued at the top of the order but his output was crucial in the success of the Scorchers, and he’ll be joined this season by countryman David Willey. The up and coming all-rounder has opened both the bowling and batting in T20 cricket at county level, so he’ll be a really valuable addition to support young all-rounders Ashton Agar and Ashton Turner.
Incredibly, at 44 years young, Brad Hogg is back again to spin some magic. He skips around like an 18-year old, but his wrist spin is probably still the best in the country, so he's a key player in their outfit.
The Scorchers will again be tough to beat in BBL05, especially with a distinct home ground advantage in Perth. Do they have the batting fire power without their top line batsmen? Injuries and national duties may cause some problems for the champs and they'll need to be on their game to ensure a finals berth.
Last season – 4th (5 wins, 3 losses – lost in Final)
Squad – Moises Henriques (c), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Jackson Bird, Johan Botha, Ryan Carters, Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazelwood, Michael Lumb, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Stephen O’Keefe, Jordan Silk, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc
The Sixers are always a strong unit and last year they managed to reach the final from fourth position before falling at the final hurdle. In 2015, the Sixers again have assembled a high-quality squad with plenty of match winners.
Michael Lumb will again wear the magenta for the fifth straight year as one of the Sixers’ imports. He’s had some up and down seasons, but at his best, he’s extremely dangerous. However it’s his opening partner Nic Maddinson who is an even more exciting prospect for Australian cricket. We’ve been saying for several seasons that Maddinson looks set to make the jump to the next level, and that seems the case now more than ever.
Brad Haddin’s experience and striking power will be a nice addition for the Sixers for the full season, while Ryan Carters, Ed Cowan and Jordan Silk add some depth to the batting.
Skipper Moises Henriques is a valuable T20 cricketer and leads a strong all-round brigade that includes versatile Stephen O’Keefe, Sean Abbott and new recruit Johan Botha. The wily South African will add plenty of experience and a cool head during the high intensity of BBL05.
The Sixers have also added Jackson Bird to their squad this year to create some genuine new ball strike power in combination with big Doug Bollinger. It’s expected that Australian squad members Steve Smith, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazelwood won’t be available for the series, while Mitch Starc is on the sidelines through injury.
The Sixers are contenders once again with some useful additions to the squad to support those that will miss due to national commitments.
Last season – 7th (2 wins, 5 losses, 1 no result)
Squad – Mike Hussey (c), Ahillen Beadle, Aiden Blizzard, Pat Cummins, Jake Doran, Chris Hartley, Jacques Kallis, Usman Khawaja, Andrew McDonald, Clint McKay, Jonte Pattison, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell, Gurinder Sandhu, Shane Watson
The under-achievers of the Big Bash League, the Thunder managed to avoid a fourth-straight wooden spoon last year with a couple of upset victories. They’ll be hoping to improve on that this year and make a run at their first finals series.
The improvement came largely off the back of Mike Hussey and South African Jacques Kallis. Two of the world’s finest cricketers in their prime, they have shouldered most of the responsibility of giving this franchise some hope. However they are both now another year older, so we’ll have to see if they have lost any of that spark.
The Thunder also feature a couple of other aging players with Andrew McDonald a shadow of his former self and Shane Watson who retired from the Australian side earlier this year. No doubt Watson is capable of destroying opposition and he’ll probably enjoy playing a full season with the Thunder, but he hasn’t shown his best for a long time.
Aiden Blizzard is another player capable of doing damage but lacks consistency while Jake Doran provides a little youth to the mix.
With the ball, the Thunder have picked up another veteran in Clint McKay, while Gurinder Sandhu is an under-rated bowler on the rise. Andre Russell has also come across from the Renegades to provide some x-factor with both bat and ball.
Injuries have hampered Australian prospects Pat Cummins and Usman Khawaja but if either can play some BBL games it will certainly help the Thunder challenge some of the bigger franchises. They are a bunch of chocolate all sorts, but if they can gel together, then they should surprise with a few wins. However finals may yet prove to be beyond them.
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