Saturday 19 December
Brisbane Heat 12/10
Melbourne Renegades 13/20
Saturday’s only KFC Big Bash fixture will see The Renegades travel to Brisbane to take on the heat.
The Melbourne Renegades probably have one of the strongest looking squads in the tournament this season. Their two World T20 winning West Indians, Dwayne Bravo and the Chris Gayle, are supported by a strong local cast featuring Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Nick Winter, James Pattinson and Xavier Doherty.
If Finch and Gayle settle down and start to hit their straps, they’ll tear this inexperienced Heat side to shreds. Much will hinge on whether or not Samuel Badree can restrict the scoring and grab a few sticks in the process. The West Indian, who is the number two ranked international T20 bowler, will be key to the Brisbane side’s hopes of doing well this season.
Lendl Simmons was another late addition to the Heat’s roster after Brendon McCullum was forced to withdraw because of international commitments. In Simmons, the Heat have a belligerent batsmen, who was the second-highest run scorer at last year's IPL. The West Indian opener finished level with Dave Warner on 540 – 22 runs behind the eventual Orange Cap winner, Ajinkya Rahane.
Verdict: Renegades 13/20
The Renegades simply have too much quality in their ranks for this Heat outfit. Back the away side to win comfortably at 13/20.
Sydney Sixers 7/10
Hobart Hurricanes 11/10
The Sixers will have been bitterly disappointed to lose their first game of the tournament to their Sydney rivals, the Thunder. Michael Hussey scored a 59-ball 80 to lead the underdogs to a vital win over their cross-town rivals on Thursday morning.
The Sixers could only muster 122 all-out in reply to the Thunders’ 158-4. The men in pink’s chase got off to a solid enough start with Brad Haddin and Michael Lumb taking the visitors to 28 off just 3.3 overs before Andre Russell castled the former Australian wicketkeeper with a stonking yorker that crashed into middle and leg.
From then on, the men in pink lost wickets regularly and never looked as though they’d threaten the Thunders’ total, with only Johan Botha and Jackson Bird getting into double-figures along with the openers. The Sixers also looked a bit wobbly in the field. Shane Watson was let off the hook after his leading edge ballooned to Michael Lumb at mid-on who somehow managed to put it down. Their miseries were further compounded by the number of misfields that allowed the Thunder to add an extra ten runs to their total.
The Hurricanes will be looking at this Sixers’ relatively weak batting line-up with the belief that they can pull off a shock result against last year’s losing finalists. Hobart boast some dangerous players themselves, with Darren Sammy, Kumar Sangakkara, George Bailey and Ben Dunk, who are all more than capable of clearing the boundary. If the Sydney club aren’t able to find their line and length to these guys, they could well be looking down the barrel just two games into the competition.
Verdict: Hobart Hurricanes
I seem to be doing this a lot lately, but I’m going to stick my neck out again and back the Hurricanes to claim an unlikely victory. Having watched the Sixers crumble so spectacularly against the Thunder in the tournament’s opening game, I just can’t see them winning against a Hobart side who look as though they’ve got a good balance. Back the away side at 11/10.
Melbourne Stars (Odds to be updated upon release)
Although the Thunder started well against the Sixers in the opening game of BBL05, the Melbourne Stars represent a massive step up in class from their Sydney neighbours. The aptly named Stars boast a roster that includes James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell and Kevin Pietersen – arguably three of the best limited overs cricketers in the world at the moment.
It finally looks as though it might all come together for the Thunder. Their fans have had to endure torrid campaigns in the last four BBL tournaments in which they could only muster a best finish of 7th place in BBL03; with the Sydney side finishing dead last in the other three campaigns. In Shane Watson, Jacques Kallis and Michael Hussey, they have all of the experience in the world while Andre Russell will add a touch of razzmatazz to their squad.
Verdict: Melbourne Stars
Although I think the Thunder come into BBL05 stronger than ever before, I just think that the quality of Pietersen, Maxwell and Faulkner will make the difference on Sunday morning. Back the Stars to come away with a hard-fought win.