After this weekend's matches, the first two causalities of the 2015/16 KFC Big Bash have emerged. Last season's losing finalists, the Sydney Sixers as well as this season's whipping boys, the Brisbane Heat.
It's now down to the Melbourne Stars, the Sydney Thunder, the Hobart Hurricanes and the Melbourne Renegades to battle it out in order to determine who will join the Perth Scorchers and the Adelaide Strikers in the play-offs.
Wednesday 13 January
There are a number of teams who will be breathing deep sighs of relief after the Melbourne Renegades defeated the Sydney Thunder at the Showground Stadium on Monday morning. One of the beneficiaries of that particular victory, the Hobart Hurricanes, will need to defeat the Strikers at the Adelaide Oval if they are to stand any chance of progressing into the play-offs.
The Strikers, on the other hand, have secured their place in the play-offs thanks to an immensely impressive season that’s only seen them lose once. They were well off the boil on that occasion, succumbing to the Sixers by seven wickets in a dismal batting display which saw them needing to defend a meagre total of 117.
Key to the Strikers’ success this season has been the form of English legspinner, Adil Rashid. The man from Yorkshire has been in fine fettle this season, claiming 12 wickets. He can also lay claim to the best bowling average of all the bowlers in the competition who have bowled more than 20 overs in this season’s Big Bash at 13.41.
They will be without Mahela Jayawardene, who will only feature again for the Strikers in the semi-final on either 21 or 22 January. The diminutive Sri Lankan has managed 184 runs so far this season at an average of 30.33.
While the Strikers’ two international stars have performed well this season, the same can’t be said of the Hurricanes’ overseas contingent. Kumar Sangakkara and Darren Sammy have struggled to come to terms with the rigours of the competition and it’s shown in the Hobart side’s results thus far.
Having had the luxury of playing this season’s whipping boys, the Brisbane Heat, on two occasions, their only other win of this campaign came against the Sydney Thunder on New Year’s Day.
However, as bleak as their season has been thus far, there have been one or two bright sparks. Dan Christian and Tim Paine have been fantastic with the bat while Cameron Boyce and his legspinners have caused opposition batsmen all sorts of problems.
Expect the Hurricanes to come out all guns blazing in their quest to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive. Whether or not that will be enough to claim victory over the Strikers, who have been nothing short of devastating this season, remains to be seen. Personally, my money is on the Strikers – yours should be too. Back them at generous odds of 7/10.
Thursday 14 January
Melbourne Stars 5/10
Brisbane Heat 15/10
Thursday’s match will see the third-placed Melbourne Stars play host to basement dwellers, the Brisbane Heat. The Stars come into this game knowing that a win will ensure they book their place in the play-offs. The Heat, however, have only pride to play for heading into their last game of the season.
Although the Stars are missing the likes of James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell and Scott Boland, they still put in a good showing over the weekend in an eight-wicket win against their crosstown rivals, the Renegades. Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen – the Stars’ two foreign players – put in solid performances with the bat, scoring 37 and 67 respectively.
Where do we start with the Brisbane Heat? Although they won last time out against the Sixers, they simply haven’t been good enough this season. Their two overseas players, Lendl Simmons and Samual Badree have failed to impress. Their locally-based players – with the exception of Chris Lynn, who has been devastating with the bat – have also been quite ordinary.
This form has seen them firmly stuck to the foot of the table for the entirety of this season’ Big Bash. I don’t see that form changing at all when they travel to a packed MCG to face a Stars side who have just begun to peak at the right time. Back the home win here at 5/10 if you’re looking for a sure thing. Otherwise, take this season’s leading run-scorer, Chris Lynn, to top score for the Heat at 28/10.