The race for KFC Big Bash play-off spots is heating up with all of the teams – barring the Brisbane Heat – still in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages of the competition.
The quality displayed in this tournament has been second to none – from the play on the field to the broadcasting. The IPL has a lot to live up to when it gets underway on April 9.
Thursday 7 January
The Sydney Thunder and the Perth Scorchers will look to get their seasons back on track when they clash at the Sydney Showground Stadium on Thursday. While both teams still find themselves in the play-off spots, indifferent form of late has seen them slip down the standings.
After winning their first three games, the Thunder suffered consecutive away defeats against the Hurricanes and the Heat. Their last defeat against the Heat handed the men from Brisbane their first win of the season in damp conditions at the Brisbane Cricket Ground. Chris Lynn won the toss for the home side and asked the Thunder to have a bat. Jacques Kallis and Aiden Blizzard got the visitors off to a decent enough start, putting on an opening stand of 35. Both openers were dismissed within four balls of one another. Those wickets brought Shane Watson and Michael Hussey to the crease; the pair would go on to make 97-run partnership with Watson falling four runs short of his fifty. Hussey would outscore his former Australian teammate by 10 runs before he too perished after he was caught behind off the bowling of Mark Steketee. Andre Russell bludgeoned a further 20 runs off just nine balls to eventually take the Thunder’s total to 186-5 after their 20 overs.
That total will have looked daunting to the Heat who had yet to taste victory in the fifth edition of the KFC Big Bash. They got off to a bright start, though with Jimmy Pierson and Lendl Simmons finally laying a decent platform for the middle order. After putting on 72 for the first wicket, Simmons finally fell to Watson for 34. Up stepped Chris Lynn. The Heat’s big-hitting captain played a masterful innings as he smashed his way to a 32-ball 75. That innings would set the platform for Ben Cutting to win the game with a booming drive to the long-off fence, with three balls to spare.
The Scorchers, prior to their defeat last time out against the Strikers, looked like the team to beat in this season’s BBL. Their defeat against the Strikers was preceded by a 9-wicket win against the Heat, a 10-wicket triumph over the star-studded Renegades, and a 9-wicket dismantling of the Sixers at the WACA.
They fell woefully short last time out though, with none of their batsmen really getting going against a disciplined Strikers bowling attack. Mahela Jayawardene finally showed his quality with a 37-ball 57 before he was caught in the deep Marcus Harris off the bowling of Ashton Agar. The platform had been laid, however, and Travis Head and Brad Hodge took full advantage by punishing the Scorchers’ bowlers toward the back end of the innings. David Willey’s four overs went for an astounding 54 runs – 23 of those coming in his last over. The Strikers would eventually go on to make 174-2 from their 20 overs.
The Scorchers’ chase never really gained any momentum. Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger – the stars of the Scorchers batting line-up this season – were both dismissed early on. The middle and lower order never came to the party following those dismissals with Adil Rashid putting in another massively impressive display with the ball. He would go on to bag three wickets from his four overs, conceding just 23 runs. David Willey did his best to take the attack to the Strikers, but his 17-ball 31 fell well short of what was required. The Perth side would eventually be dismissed for 138, losing the game by 36 runs.
The Scorchers were poor last time out against what has become their bogey team. However, there is more than enough quality in their side to overcome the Thunder who have struggled in their last two games. I’m backing the Scorchers’ powerful top order to come right on Thursday at the Sydney Showground Stadium on Thursday morning at 13/20.
Friday 8 January
Heat 5/4 *Expected odds
Friday’s game will see the table-topping Strikers travel to the Brisbane Oval to take this seasons’ basement dwellers, the Heat in what could prove do be a season-defining game for both sides. If the Strikers secure another victory, they'll all but book their place in the play-offs. Contrarily, the Heat are fighting for their lives, another defeat will likely leave them out of the reckoning for a semi-final berth.
The Heat finally secured their first win of the season last time out against the Sydney Thunder. Having been set a daunting target of 187, Jimmy Pierson, Lendl Simmons, and Chris Lynn played batted beautifully in dreary conditions to chase down the target with three balls to spare. The Brisbane side have only ever made it into the play-offs once, in the 2012-13 season where they went on the claim the title. They don’t look as though they’ll repeat that feat this season, having already lost four of their five games.
The Strikers by contrast, have been sensational this season and look to be the team to beat. Their seven-wicket defeat to the Sixers on the 28th of December was the only blip in an otherwise perfect season thus far. Key to their success this season has been the form of Adil Rashid. The English leg-spinner has been in sublime form so far this season taking 10 wickets in five games at an average of 14.40. Tim Head and Brad Hodge have also performed well with the bat averaging 67 and 50 respectively.
Another aspect of the Strikers game that has held them in good stead to the Strikers’ success is their ability to perform as a unit. Looking at sides like the Thunder and the two Melbourne outfits, they rely too heavily on a handful of star players to get the business done. I’d back the Strikers to claim a straight-forward victory against the Heat 31/50 on Friday.
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