Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Behind the the Indian Premier League, the KFC Big Bash is probably the world's most popular club / franchise T20 tournament. With some of the biggest names in cricket on display throughout December and January, cricket fans are in for a festive feast when the competition gets underway on 17 December.
Adelaide Strikers 8/1
Jonathon Dean, Travis Head, Brad Hodge, Jon Holland, Mahela Jayawardene (Overseas), Alex Keath, Hamish Kingston, Ben Laughlin, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Michael Neser, Gary Putland, Adil Rashid (Overseas), Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Craig Simmons, Kelvin Smith, Billy Stanlake.
The Adelaide Strikers enjoyed a decent season last time out in which they made it all the way to the semi-finals where they were comprehensively beaten by the Sydney Sixers. They’ll be looking to go one better this season, and with the acquisition of some quality players, they are more than capable of doing just that.
In terms of their overseas players, the Strikers will have to do without big-hitting West Indian, Kieron Pollard. They have managed to retain the services of Sri Lankan legend, Mahela Jayawardene whilst also securing the services of English off-spinner, Adil Rashid.
Not much needs to be said about Jayawardene, his stats alone are enough to worry even the most accomplished of bowlers. The opener boasts an incredible T20 record at international level, playing 55 games with an average of 31.76 at a 133.18 strikerate.
Rashid will come into this tournament after a decent showing with England against Pakistan earlier this year. Having bowled eight overs in that particular T20 series, he grabbed three wickets and only conceded 47 runs. He will need to be at his brilliant best if he’s to keep the wealth of attacking batsmen in this competition quiet.
One to Watch: Brad Hodge
Brad Hodge has been nothing short of sensational for the Strikers over the last few seasons, and at the age of 41, shows no signs of slowing down. A massively destructive batsman on his day, the Aussie also offers Jason Gillespie’s side a solid off-break option.
The Strikers don't have the worst squad in the world, however, they do lack the quality to make a real splash at this year's competition. They'll finish towards the bottom of the table.
Brisbane Heat 9/1
Chris Lynn, Samuel Badree (Overseas), Nicholas Buchanan, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Alex Doolan, Andrew Fekete, Luke Feldman, Jason Floros, Peter Forrest, James Hopes, Josh Lalor, James Peirson, Nathan Reardon, Mark Steketee, Lendl Simmons (Overseas)
Having won the second edition of the KFC Big Bash back in 2012/13, the Heat have struggled to mix it up with some of the bigger teams in the competition. They finished last on the log, having only won two of their eight games. They’ll be looking to improve on that this season, although I simply don’t think they have the firepower to make the semi-finals.
The Heat will have been bitterly disappointed to lose out on the services of Brendon McCullum. The belligerent New Zealander had initially signed for the Brisbane outfit, however, commitments to the national team meant that he was forced to pull out.
He was replaced, however, by Lendl Simmons. The wiry West Indian enjoyed a fine IPL campaign last season with the Mumbai Indians, finishing the season’s as joint second-most run scorer along with Ajinkya Rahane. Both players finished 22-runs short of Dave Warner.
He’s joined by fellow West Indian, Samual Badree. The leg-spinner’s career stuttered initially before he established himself as one of the best T20 bowlers in the world. His international T20 statistics speak volumes. In just 22 matches he’s managed to take 31 wickets at an average of 14.96. He’ll need to be at his best if the Heat are to have any chance of making it to the final.
One to Watch: Matt Steketee
Looking through the local players, nothing really jumps out at you. Matt Steketee remains an interesting player, though. While he’s not the most experienced player in the world, he’s a quality new ball bowler and will look to make early inroads into opposition batting line-ups. At just 21-years-old, he definitely looks one for the future.
The Heat are going to be far too reliant on their overseas players. As good as Simmons and Badree are, they’re going to struggle to carry the rest of their team against some dangerous-looking squads.
Hobart Hurricanes 7/1
Kumar Sangakkara (Overseas), Tim Paine, Ben Dunk, Cameron Boyce, Beau Webster, George Bailey, Clive Rose, Timm van der Gugten, Michael Hill, Darren Sammy (Overseas), Jake Reed, Shaun Tait, Daniel Christian, Simon Milenko, Jon Wells, Sam Rainbird.
After reaching the final in the third edition of the tournament, the Hurricanes will have been disappointed to miss out on a semi-final berth last season after finishing fifth. They do, however, have enough quality in their ranks to make a splash during this campaign although I don’t really think they’ll make the final.
In Darren Sammy and Kumar Sangakkara, the Hurricanes have two of the most destructive batsmen in the competition.
Sangakkara has had an illustrious T20 International career and will look to leave his mark on this competition. Averaging 31.40 with the bat at a strikerate of around 120, he’ll look forward to playing in Australian conditions where the ball should come on to the bat quite nicely. He’s also a world-class wicketkeeper whose experience behind the stumps could well prove invaluable.
Darren Sammy has quickly established himself as one of the best T20 players the world has ever seen. Frighteningly destructive with the bat and more than handy with the ball, his skillset and experience will be desperately needed if the Hurricanes are going to book their place in the semi-finals.
One to Watch: Ben Dunk
Ben Dunk’s remarkable 2013/14 Big Bash season was capped off by the Queensland native being named the player of the series. In that season, he scored a remarkable 395 runs at an average of 43.88. His unbelievable stats would lead to contracts in the IPL as well as the CPL. If he can rediscover that sort of form again, we could well be seeing the Hurricanes in the play-offs.
The Hurricanes don't really have the best balance in the world with the men from Hobart too reliant on one or two star names. If those stars fail to get going, it's difficult to see who will step up.
Melbourne Renegades 9/2
Cameron White, Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Tom Beaton, Matthew Short, Nick Winter, Xavier Doherty, Chris Gayle (Overseas), Dwayne Bravo (Overseas), James Pattinson, Callum Ferguson, Nathan Rimmington, Tom Cooper
Despite all of their obvious talent, the Renegades have only qualified for the play-offs on one occasion back in the second edition of the tournament. On paper, they look as though they could go all the way this season with a great balance between ball and bat.
As far as international stars go, they don’t come much bigger than the West Indian duo of Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle.
Dwayne Bravo, like Kevin Pietersen of the Stars, spent November and December in South Africa with the Sunfoil Dolphins where they reached the final, eventually losing to the Titans. He’s devastating with the bat and more than capable with ball in hand, look to him for a few big performances this season.
When it comes to international T20 stars, they don’t come much bigger than Chris Gayle. The West Indian is widely recognised as the most belligerent batsman on the planet. He averages 44.24 at strikerate of 149.47 in domestic T20 Cricket. If he gets in and gets going, he will single-handedly win games for his side.
One to Watch: Aaron Finch
Aaron Finch is probably one of the most accomplished batsmen in world T20 cricket. He hits it a mile and will look to take opposition bowling attacks apart with Gayle at the top of the order. Look for him to hit the ceiling of the Etihad Stadium again this season – something he’s done on two occasions.
Verdict: 1st (Winning finalists)
I’m sticking my neck out here, but I really think that the Renegades can go all the way this year. They possess an abundance of talent with bat as well as ball and will more than likely be the team to beat in the round-robin stage.
Melbourne Stars 4/1
Michael Beer, Scott Boland, James Faulkner, Sebastian Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Sam Harper, John Hastings, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey (c), Glenn Maxwell, Kevin Pietersen (Overseas), Robert Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Tom Triffitt, Daniel Worrall, Luke Wright (Overseas), Adam Zampa.
The Stars have never failed to reach the semi-finals of the KFC Big Bash, however, even after reaching the play-offs for four seasons on the trot; they’ve never managed to make a final. They’ll be looking to go one better this season, and with an insanely strong batting line-up, they might just do so.
The Stars’ overseas contingent is made up of two Englishmen, Kevin PItersen and Luke Wright. Both are extremely accomplished players with Pietersen routinely destroying bowling line-ups around the world while Luke Wright has become an indispensable cog in the Stars’ top order.
Kevin Pietersen comes into this season’s Big Bash off the back of an incredible T20 campaign with the Sunfoil Dolphins in South Africa. He was the Stars’ top scorer last season, bagging 293 at an average of 41.85. He loves this form of the game and will no doubt be one the competition’s most exciting batsmen to watch in 2015/16.
Luke Wright is a fantastic player who is perhaps unlucky to have never been selected for England’s T20 side. England’s loss, however, was the Stars’ gain. He remains the club’s only centurion in the competition after scoring a magnificent 44-ball hundred in the Big Bash's inaugural season.
One to Watch: Glenn Maxwell
Is there anyone more fun to watch in world cricket than Glenn Maxell? Unlikely. The Aussie’s unorthodox approach to batting has seen him involved in some magnificent innings and one or two comical dismissals. Who can forget his comical leave last season against Ryan Duffield which saw his castled by a straight delivery on a good length.
Verdict: 4th (Losing semi-finalists)
The Stars have more than enough quality in their ranks to finish in the top four. Whether or not they’ll be able to push on from there remains a different story.
Perth Scorchers 9/2
Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, James Muirhead, Joel Paris, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Adam Voges, Sam Whiteman, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Brad Hogg, Michael Klinger, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Simon Mackin, David Willey
The Perth Scorchers are the most successful team in the history of the KFC Big Bash reaching the final in every edition of the tournament, winning on the last two occasions. They have an immensely strong pace attack and will look to knock over their opposition on quick, pace-friendly decks.
Although he’s just 25-years-old, David Willey has been part of the general cricketing world’s consciousness for a long time now. He comes into the Big Bash in decent form having played well in the limited overs’ legs of England’s tour of the UAE against Pakistan. He will bolster an already strong bowling attack which includes the likes of Mitch Marsh, Brad Hogg and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
One to Watch: Brad Hogg
Brad Hogg has been around forever, and nearing his 45th birthday is still as good a player as ever. His enthusiasm for the game is as strong as ever and he could well find himself amongst the wickets and the runs when the competition gets underway.
Verdict: 3rd (Losing semi-finalists)
I don’t think that the Scorchers have what it takes to win the competition this season. While their bowling attack looks as frightening as anything, they may struggle a bit with the bat. They still possess more than enough quality to make the top four, though.
Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Doug Bollinger, Johan Botha (Overseas), Ryan Carters, Ben Dwarshius, Michael Edwards, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques (c), Trent Lawford, Michael Lumb (Overseas), Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Stephen O'Keefe, Jordan Silk, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc
The Sixers have enlisted the services of former Protea T20 captain, Johan Botha. He will join Stephen O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon in arguably the best spin attack in the competition. He brings immense experience to the side and will make scoring difficult in the middle overs with his tight bowling.
Michael Lumb has been with the Sixers since the inception of the Tournament and currently leads the run-scoring charts for the Sydney club having scored 904 in 35 matches. The big-hitting left hander will be key to the Sixers chances of winning this tournament – if he fires, the entire team tends to do well.
One to Watch: Jackson Bird
After the retirement of Brett Lee at the end of last season’s campaign, the Sixers management needed to fill the void left by one of Australia’s finest fast bowlers. The signing of Jackson Bird will go a long way in filling that void. Bird joins the Sixers from the Stars where he bagged 28 wickets with the Melbourne club. He’s sensational with the new ball and has a bit of a penchant for getting early movement off the seam – keep an eye out for him.
Verdict: 2nd (losing finalists)
The Sixers have managed to maintain most the squad that got the job done for them last season. This continuity will stand them in good stead going into the new season, and I think they’ll get all the way to the final once again.
Sydney Thunder: 10/1
Michael Hussey (c), Fawad Ahmed, Ahillen Beadle, Aiden Blizzard, Patrick Cummins, Jake Doran, Chris Green, Chris Hartley, Jacques Kallis (Overseas), Usman Khawaja, Alister McDermott, Andrew McDonald, Clint McKay, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell (Overseas), Gurinder Sandhu, Shane Watson.
The Thunder are the rank outsiders in this season’s Big Bash, and for good reason. They’ve never managed a finish better than 7th place – which they achieved last season. In the three seasons prior, the men from Sydney finished dead last.
Jacques Kallis has been a magnificent signing for the Thunder and has performed admirably with both bat and ball in the last few seasons. Known as a bit of an accumulator during his days with the Proteas, Kallis has managed to reinvent himself. Expect fireworks when he opens the batting with Michael Hussey.
A bit of a coup for the Thunder was the signing of Andre Russell. The athletic West Indian will bring heaps of experience with both bat and ball. If he has himself a decent season, he could well lead the side to their first ever play-off spot. He does come into this tournament fresh off a decent enough campaign with the VKB Knights in South Africa in which he came into some good form toward the end of the campaign.
One to Watch: Mike Hussey
Mr Cricket himself will be opening the batting with Jacques Kallis for the Thunder this season. Although he’s almost 40, he still possesses more than enough talent to lead the men in lime green to their first ever play-off spot. An absolute legend in Australia, expect a few memorable knocks this season.
The Thunder look as though they’ll be a lot stronger this season than last – especially with the inclusion of Andre Russell in the side. Expect them to claim a few big scalps, but I just don’t think they have what it takes to finish in the play-off places.
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