The KFC Big Bash has lived up to its billing as one of the world's best domestic T20 competitions with some outstanding individual and team performances over the first week of proceedings.
There are now only two matches left before the competition takes a three day break for the the players to spend Christmas with their families before returning to action on Boxing Day.
Hobart Hurricanes 7/10
Brisbane Heat 11/10
The Hurricanes were absolutely steamrolled by the Sixers in their first fixture of the season. The Australian duo of Nathan Lyon (5-23) and Brad Haddin (72) ensured that the men from Hobart got nowhere near their target of 187.
If we're going to be frank, the Hurricanes were rubbish last time out, however, they do possess more than enough quality to bounce back against a decent looking Heat side. A poor bowling performance last time out saw the likes of Haddin and Jordan Silk power the Sixers to 186-7 in their 20 overs.
In response, the Hurricanes were only able to muster 91 in which George Bailey top scored with a 45-ball 62. Nathan Lyon was the chief destroyer claiming career-best figures 5-23 in 3.5 overs, which included two wickets in as many balls in his first over. Steve O' Keefe returned figures of 2-17 off his four overs.
The Heat on the other hand, gave a good account of themselves against the Renegades, who I believe could go all the way this season. The Brisbane outfit won the toss and elected to bat on a good wicket, and even though they set a decent enough total of 180-5, they’ll be kicking themselves after only amassing 33 in the power play.
A strong late performance by James Hopes and Ben Cutting meant that the visitors would still require 181 for victory. In response, easily one of the most belligerent opening pairs world cricket has ever seen – Chris Gayle and Aaron Finch - walked into the middle. The burly West Indian scored a quick-fire 23, dispatching the ball with ease with his gold-coloured bat. The middle overs were to belong to Finch and Aaron White though, putting on a 111-run second-wicket partnership.
Some late fireworks from Dwayne Bravo, who smashed 22 off just nine balls ensured that the game was just about sewn up, leaving the visitors with just five to get off the last over. Matthew Wade would eventually score the winning runs with a boundary, lifting a short delivery over midwicket for four.
The Hurricanes are going to need a massively improved performance when they welcome The Heat to Hobart on Tuesday. It’s always difficult to gauge how well a team will do after watching just one game. The Hurricanes are a better side than their opening defeat suggests, although I don’t think they’ll have enough to get past the Scorchers who put in an excellent display against the Renegades last week. Back the away side at 11/10.
Melbourne Renegades 7/10
Sydney Sixers 11/10
Wednesday’s clash between the Renegades and the Sixers will pit the best batting unit against the strongest bowling attack in what’s sure to be an absolute cracker of a match. Both sides will head into this game having claimed contrasting victories in their last matches.
The Renegades will be in confident mood having chased down the Heat’s total of 180-5 in their last encounter with four balls to spare. Big performances from big players are what wins these tournaments, and in Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Cameron White; the Renegades have some of the biggest names in world T20 cricket.
The Sixers reacted beautifully to their surprise opening day defeat to the Thunder by trouncing the Hurricanes by 95 runs over the weekend in a game which saw Nathan Lyon bag career-best figures of 5-23 in 3.5 overs.
If the Sixers are to get one over this dazzling Renegades side, Lyon and co will need to be in top form. They will need to restrict the scoring against the likes of Finch, Gayle and Bravo, who if given an inch will take a mile. Compound this with the fact that failure to take early wickets against such a strong top order could see the hosts wrack up a massive total.
As tempted as I am to back the Sixers here, I just can’t see them getting one over this immensely strong Renegades side – back the home team to claim a hard-fought win on Wednesday morning.