Our Big Bash scribe gives his verdict on Wednesday's game between the Thunder and Heat.
Game 8 of the BBL sees the defending champions take on the Heat in what should be quite a fascinating game. The Thunder have not got off to a great start, losing their opening two fixtures, while the Brendon McCullum-led Heat were impressive in winning their only game to date against the Strikers. Can the Thunder break their duck? Or will McCullum inspire his side to another big win?
Big Bash Game 8 | Thunder v Heat | Wednesday 28 December | 10:10 | Sydney
To Win Outright
Thunder 5/4| Tie 35/1| Heat 13/20
The biggest issue the Thunder have faced so far is a faltering middle order. In game one against the Sixers batsmen 4 to 7 only managed to score 11 runs combined. They made 159 which was helped by a late Pat Cummins knock and some top order brilliance by Ryan Gibson. Their second match wasn’t much different if a little better. The middle order contributing 70 runs out of a total of 130.
They are missing Shane Watson, who would add huge experience to the batting order and perhaps prevent guys like Cummins having to bat in the top 6. They are also without Usman Khawaja who is playing in the Boxing Day test. Despite this, players such as Eoin Morgan, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer and Andre Russell need to contribute a whole lot more if they are to repeat last season’s exploits.
The bowling has been largely ineffective as well. With the likes of Cummins, Russell, Gurinder Sandhu, Clint McKay and Fawad Ahmed in their ranks, they should be doing better. The Sixers made a mockery of the 159 the Thunder had set in game one and they conceded 179 in their second game. The bowlers, along with the middle order really need to have a good game against the Heat.
The Heat feature plenty of names that will be unfamiliar to South African viewers, such as Chris Lynn, Jimmy Peirson, Alex Ross, Ben Cutting, Jason Floros and a few more. Thrown in amongst them is one Brendon McCullum, one of the best T20 batsmen of recent times, captain of the side. His leadership seems to have brought this group together very well, and it showed in their first and only game. They scored 206 runs and were winners by 10 runs on a very good Adelaide Oval pitch.
The batsmen dominated their first game. Mccullum and Peirson put on 90 runs for the first wicket in just 49 balls, Lynn and Ross combined to score 7 sixes between them with the latter scoring a brilliant 64. If this top order fires, the out of form Thunder bowlers are going to have a very tough time. Joe Burns and Cutting make for a very capable middle-lower order as well.
The bowlers struggled slightly against the Strikers with three of them, Floros, Cutting and Jack Wildermuth, going at over 11 runs an over. Mark Steketee bowled very well, taking 3 wickets, as did Samuel Badree as ever. Despite their flaws, the Thunder do have a dangerous batting line-up and I can’t help but think that the Heat will have to bowl much better in Sydney to make sure the likes of Morgan, Russell and Patterson don’t get away from them.
Verdict: Heat To Win at 13/20
I’m backing another display of brilliance by Mccullum here and I reckon he will get a big one. The Thunder just haven’t looked up to it yet and I think they will struggle against a side full of youth and T20 experience who are looking to go deep in the tournament. Back McCullum and his boys to bring the Heat here.
Written by Dale Vos for @Hollywoodbets.