KFC Big Bash: 9 – 10 January

Written by Jason Dewey for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

We're inching closer to the play-offs of BBL05, and with seven teams still in the hunt for a berth in the semi-finals, the competition is heating up.

Saturday will see the second Melbourne derby of the season as the Renegades host the Stars at the Etihad Stadium. Sunday's double-header opens up with the Hurricanes hosting the Scorchers while the Sixers welcome the beleaguered Heat to the SCG in the day's later game.

Saturday 9 January 

Renegades 1/1
Draw 35/1
Stars 8/10
Melbourne will come to a standstill as the Renegades and the Stars clash at the magnificent Etihad Stadium on Saturday morning. Neither team have really managed to hit their straps as of yet with the Renegades occupying sixth place on the log, two points behind the third-placed Stars.

It’ll be interesting to see how Chris Gayle gets on after his controversial comments to Network Ten journalist, Melanie McLaughlin. The brawny Jamaican’s sexist utterances have not gone down well with the Cricket Australia, the Big Bash management as well as the Australian public. As such, he’s been fined $10, 000 and been made to issue a formal apology to McLaughlin – one which she has since accepted.

Back to the cricket now; the Renegades will be without their talismanic captain, Aaron Finch for Saturday’s clash. The world’s number one ranked T20 International batsman has joined up with the Australian ODI squad along with Matthew Wade. While the loss of two key performers this season may hurt the Renegades, their ranks could well be bolstered by the return of James Pattinson. His availability will come down to whether or not Cricket Australia are willing to allow him to play, with no official word as of yet. Peter Siddle will also sit out the rest of BBL05 while he recovers from an ankle injury picked up against the West Indies.

The Stars will also be affected by the announcement of the Australian ODI squad; they will be without Glenn Maxwell, Scott Boland and James Faulkner. They will be replaced by Victorian, Seb Gotch, Rob Quiney and South Australian quick Dan Worral. Their ranks will also be bolstered by the return of Ben Hilfenhaus.

While the departure of the ODI players may detract slightly from the quality of cricket on display – there’s no neutral cricket fan in the world who wouldn’t want to see Aaron Finch hit the ceiling of the Etihad Stadium again – there will still be more than enough class on display to ensure that the fans get their money’s worth.

Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle will by key to the Renegade’s hopes of claiming the win on Saturday morning. While Gayle has been in good nick – scoring 155 runs in five games at an average of 31 – it’s his West Indian compatriot who has really impressed this season. Bravo has averaged 45 with the bat, striking at 158.33, while also maintaining one of the best economy rates in the competition, 7.86.

If the Stars are going to claim victory here, they’re going to need Michael Beer to continue his excellent form with the ball. The veteran Victorian hasn’t picked up too many sticks with his slow left arm orthodox deliveries, he has managed to maintain an economy rate of 6.00 though – absolute gold dust in this form of the game.

As is always the case with local derbies, picking a winner is never easy. I just feel that the Stars are going to struggle without the likes of Maxwell and Falkner; and with Kevin Pietersen struggling just a touch, they could struggle to post or chase a total. Cameron White, Bravo and Gayle are in good enough nick at the moment to take the game away from any team in the competition. Back the Renegadeshere at 1/1.

Sunday 10 January 

Hurricanes 11/10
Draw 35/1
Scorchers 7/10
The first game of Sunday’s double-header will see the Hobart Hurricanes play host to the table-topping Perth Scorchers. After a bright start to the season, the Hurricanes have struggled of late, losing their last two games. The Scorchers, having suffered defeat at the hands of the Strikers, bounced back in style, smashing the Thunder by 30 runs.

The Hurricanes won’t be affected too much by call-ups to the Australian side to face India with only George Bailey cracking the nod. The Scorchers, on the other hand, will be without the Marsh brothers as well as Joel Paris who have all been called up to the national side.

The home side have struggled in recent weeks, suffering heavy defeats against the Renegades and the Stars. They know that they need to pick up a positive result here if they want to keep their play-off hopes alive – especially with their last game of the competition coming away to the in-form Stars.

Without George Bailey, the men from Hobart are going to be relying on big performances from the likes of Tim Paine and Dan Christian, who have both been in good touch this season. They’ll also need Kumar Sangakkara to step up to the plate. The Sri Lankan legend has struggled this term scoring 95 runs at an average of 15.83.

The Scorchers, who lead the pack at the time of publishing, look good value to get one over the Hurricanes on Sunday. Even with the loss of the Joel Paris and the Marsh brothers, they still possess more than enough quality to put this wounded Hurricanes side to the sword.

Adam Voges should return to the side after he was overlooked for Australia’s ODI squad and will more than likely open the batting with Michael Klinger. The latter has been in superb form this season, scoring 205 runs at an average of 51.25. Ashton Agar is another one who’s looked good since he came into the side following the injury to Nathan Coulter-Nile.. He offers the Scorchers excellent solidity in the middle order while also restricting scoring rates with his slow left-arm orthodox bowling.

As much as I like the Hurricanes, their overseas players simply haven’t stepped up to the plate as of yet; and with the loss of George Bailey, they’ll struggle to handle this Scorchers side. The smart money’s on the Scorchers to claim a simple enough victory and book their place in the play-offs at 7/10.

Sixers 8/10
Draw 35/1
Heat 1/1
The second game of the double-header will see the Brisbane Heat trying to salvage some pride against the Sydney Sixers, who are fighting for their lives in this season’s competition. The Heat suffered another heavy defeat last time out when they went down by eight wickets to the Strikers. The Sixers on the other hand, started the season well, however, three defeats on the bounce have left them on the brink.

In a way, the Heat are lucky as they won’t be losing any of their players to the Australian national side, they may even be allowed to play Joe Burns as he returns from Test duty against the West Indies. The Sixers are the real winners in this regard, though. They may well be cleared to field Nathan Lyon come Sunday. The off-spinner claimed career-best figures of 5-23 earlier on this season.

There’s not really much you can say about the Heat this season other than they’ve been absolutely atrocious. Their overseas ‘stars’ have failed to live up to their hype, with Lendl Simmons in particular putting in a poor showing. The West Indian, who was the joint second-highest run scorer in last year’s IPL, has only managed one score in excess of 30. He’s also been dismissed without scoring on three occasions.

Their bowlers haven’t fared much better, with yet another star West Indian, Samuel Badree only claiming three wickets in six games. In fact, the only bright spark in an otherwise grim season for the Heat has been the form of Chris Lynn. The 25-year-old Queenslander has been in devastating form, averaging 71.75 while striking at 175.00. He’s also managed a magnificent century and two half centuries so far in BB05, but has yet to receive any support from his teammates.

The Sixers started the season like a house on fire, but have struggled in the last few games. They’ll again be sweating on the fitness of Brad Haddin and Moses Henriques – both of whom have been struggling with injuries this season.

The Heat looked mentally shattered near the end of their last fixture against the Strikers. They’re dead and buried without any hope of qualification. Conversely, the Sixers are fighting for a play-off place. Expect them to be buoyed by the return of Lyon, wrapping up a simple victory against a shattered Heat side.

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