Sport Cricket Strap yourself in – it’s Big Bash League time
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Strap yourself in – it’s Big Bash League time

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Adelaide Strikers

Home Ground: Adelaide Oval
Colour: Blue
Coach: Darren Berry.
Squad: Johan Botha (c), Jono Dean, Ryan ten Doeschate, Travis Head, Brad Hodge, Jon Holland, Ben Laughlin, Trent Lawford, Tim Ludeman (wk), Michael Neser, Kieron Pollard, Gary Putland, Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Chadd Sayers, Craig Simmons, Shaun Tait, Adam Zampa.

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Brad Hodge has swapped Melbourne for Adelaide - for the next six weeks. Photo: Getty
Brad Hodge has swapped Melbourne for Adelaide. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Seventh. A good start to the season saw the Strikers with two wins from their first three matches (the other was an abandoned game against the Hurricanes), but they failed to register another win for the rest of the campaign. This left them just ahead of the hapless Sydney Thunder on the table, and it is a result they will be desperate to improve upon.

Keys to success
1. Brad Hodge must fire. The tragic death of Phillip Hughes combined with the losses of Michael Klinger and Nathan Reardon have left holes in the batting order. While Hodge is not able to fill all of these positions, his experience will be invaluable and he is also holding the batting line-up together.
2. The inconsistency in the batting means that players like Kane Richardson, Ben Laughlin, Jon Holland, Shaun Tait and Michael Neser will have to step up with the ball. If they don’t fire then Adelaide are going to struggle, as teams will take big runs off them.
3. Craig Simmons and Kieron Pollard must become more consistent. If in form, both are incredibly difficult to stop, but if they do not fire, which tends to happen more often than not, they will leave the Strikers in a very difficult position.

The Imports: Johan Botha (South Africa), Kieron Pollard (West Indies) and Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands). Botha and Pollard are both all-rounders with plenty of international limited-overs experience. Botha is a more-than-handy off-spinning all-rounder, but he will shoulder plenty of batting responsibility. Pollard is a dynamic batsman, handy bowler and athletic fielder who can change games with the bat. He is inconsistent, however, and could be a liability if not in form. Ten Doeschate is a Dutch all-rounder who can bowl pace and is very handy with the bat. If he plays he could be very important.

The Wildcard: Craig Simmons. When Simmons burst into the Perth Scorchers line-up last season he was virtually unheard of. Two match-winning centuries later and he was the name on everyone’s lips. Simmons is generally vulnerable at the start of the innings, but if he can get away then he will be able to rip bowling attacks apart. He will be a key to the Strikers success at the top of the order, but if he doesn’t fire he could place the middle-order in a difficult position.

Prediction: Eighth. The lack of depth all-round makes it tough. If Simmons and Pollard fire every game they will do well, but this seems unlikely. Either way, a lot of things must go right, although they will not be hit by international duty at any time.

Brisbane Heat

Home Ground: The Gabba
Colour: Teal
Coach: Stuart Law
Squad: James Hopes (c), Samuel Badree, Nick Buchanan, Joe Burns, Dan Christian, Ben Cutting, Ryan Duffield, Andrew Flintoff, Peter Forrest, Cameron Gannon, Mitchell Johnson, Chris Lynn, Alister McDermott, Simon Milenko, James Peirson (wk), Nathan Reardon, Mark Steketee, Daniel Vettori, Shane Watson.

Chris Lynn is a key man for Brisbane. Photo: Getty
Chris Lynn is a key man for Brisbane. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Fifth. After the high of winning the league two years ago, the Heat came back to earth last season, missing out on the finals after losing to the Hurricanes in their final match. They never really hit their straps and their star players never kicked into any sort of gear.

Keys to success
1. Joe Burns, Chris Lynn and others must fire. With Burns likely to be promoted to the top of the order from number three, he will have a key role in starting the innings. Lynn, Nathan Reardon and Dan Christian will occupy the middle-order, and if they don’t fire then hitters like Ben Cutting and Andrew Flintoff will not be able to express themselves.
2. Samuel Badree and Daniel Vettori will need to bowl at their best. Both Badree and Vettori are economical bowlers, and if they can build pressure through the middle overs then wicket-takers such as Cameron Gannon and Alister McDermott can be more destructive in the final overs of the innings.
3. The pace attack will have to get wickets early. Last year Gannon was one of the leading wicket-takers in the league, and McDermott has the capacity to be just as destructive. One struggle they had last season was getting rid of the openers, as Ben Dunk proved too much for them both times the Heat met the Hurricanes, and hurt their chances of victory.

The Imports: Samuel Badree (West Indies), Andrew Flintoff (England) and Daniel Vettori (New Zealand). Badree and Vettori are both left-arm orthodox spinners who are generally economical. Vettori has lots of experience at international level, and he has just returned from retirement to play all three forms for New Zealand. Andrew Flintoff is a renowned English all-rounder, who is a dynamic hitter of the ball and is also a good pace bowler. He recently returned to play for Lancashire in the English Twenty20 competition.

The Wildcard: Ben Cutting. Cutting is a rare player in that he has the ability to turn a match with bat or ball. While he is a more-than-handy bowler, and has the ability to hold up an end while taking handy wickets, it is his batting that can tear sides apart. He sometimes bats as low as number eight, and rarely comes in with any more than five overs to go, but what sets him apart is the fact that he takes no time at all to settle in and start hitting sixes, which he is incredibly good at.

Prediction: Fourth. The Heat will be a very strong side throughout the season. Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson will miss most of the tournament, but the best players in this side are good enough to contribute to a concerted title push. If the Heat can find a couple of players to get the innings off to a good start this season could be a raging success.

Hobart Hurricanes

Home Ground: Blundstone Arena
Colour: Purple
Coach: Damien Wright
Squad: George Bailey (c), Travis Birt, Tim Bresnan, Cameron Boyce, Xavier Doherty, Ben Dunk (wk), Evan Gulbis, Alex Hales, Ben Hilfenhaus, Joe Mennie, Dominic Michael, Tim Paine (wk), Sam Rainbird, Jake Reed, Darren Sammy, Timm van der Gugten, Beau Webster, Jonathan Wells.

The Slam: Ben Dunk. Photo: Getty
The Slam: Ben Dunk. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Second. The Hurricanes may have barely scraped into the finals with a win over the Heat, but they made the most of the opportunity, beating the previously undefeated Stars and progressing to the final. They lost to the Scorchers convincingly, but it was still a good effort, the opening partnership of Ben Dunk and Tim Paine putting bowling attacks to the sword.

Keys to success
1. Ben Dunk and Alex Hales must start the innings well. The Hurricanes main strength last season was their start to the innings, with Dunk finishing the season the tournament MVP and leading scorer. Hales struggled at Adelaide last season, but the explosive Englishman has the capacity to blow opponents off the park.
2. The middle-order needs to keep up the start. This was a major weakness last season. They will be helped by the presence of George Bailey, who missed most of last year on international duty. Travis Birt, Jon Wells and Tim Paine (who should move to number six after the signing of Hales) will need to slot around him and provide a solid platform.
3. The spinners have to take wickets. Cameron Boyce and Xavier Doherty are proven wicket-takers, and while they may be slightly expensive, if they can take middle-order wickets then other teams will struggle. It also gives players like Ben Hilfenhaus and Darren Sammy a chance to finish off the innings strongly.

The Imports: Tim Bresnan (England), Alex Hales (England) and Darren Sammy (West Indies). Hales is a dynamic opening bat who plays for the English ODI and T20 teams. He is one of the top T20 batsmen in the world, and is renowned for his hitting. Sammy captains the West Indians in T20 internationals, and while his bowling is his main exploit he is also a great power-hitter at the end of the innings, and can hit key boundaries. Bresnan is, like Sammy, a bowling all-rounder, but not quite as dynamic. He may not be used in favour of Sammy and Hales but he could be the reliable option the Hurricanes need with the ball.

The Wildcard: Cameron Boyce. Boyce is probably the premier Australian wrist-spinner, and he has had success in the Australian T20 team, taking plenty of wickets. He is the kind of bowler who can change the game with some wickets at a key stage. It is this ability, and the ability to keep the runs at a fair level, that give Boyce the power to change games.

Prediction: Third. The Hurricanes are one of the top teams in the league, and the movement of Paine to the middle order will stabilise that part of the innings. They should not be badly affected by internationals, Bailey, Doherty and Hales the main outs. Getting a fifth bowler who can hold up four overs during the innings will be key.

Melbourne Renegades

Home Ground: Etihad Stadium
Colour: Red
Coach: Simon Helmot
Squad: Aaron Finch (c), Fawad Ahmed, Thomas Beaton, Dwayne Bravo, Tom Cooper, Alex Doolan, Andrew Fekete, Callum Ferguson, Peter Nevill (wk), Aaron O’Brien, James Pattinson, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell, Jesse Ryder, Matthew Short, Peter Siddle, Matthew Wade (wk), Nicholas Winter.

Aaron Finch suits up. Photo: Getty
Aaron Finch suits up. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Sixth. After cruising into the finals two years ago the Renegades suffered a dramatic reversal of fortunes last season, with the lack of batting and bowling depth clear to see. The middle-order didn’t deliver, and the tail often extended to about number seven in the order. The Renegades will be desperate to turn this around.

Keys to success
1. Aaron Finch must play his best. While Finch did not have a bad season last year at the top of the order, if the Renegades are to thrive then their dynamic opening batsman must get back to his best. When he fires he is an unstoppable force, and innings such as his 156* against the English highlight his extraordinary potential.
2. The middle-order have to improve. The Renegades have potential in the middle-order, but they often struggled to exploit this last season. Ben Rohrer had a particularly lean year, and the side will rely on him as well as Matthew Wade, Tom Cooper, Dwayne Bravo, Callum Ferguson and Peter Nevill to keep the innings going in the middle overs.
3. James Pattinson must hold up the attack, at least for the first part of the season. Pattinson may be injury prone, but with Peter Siddle, probably the most reliable player, out on international duty for half the season, Pattinson will be relied upon to take wickets and reduce runs at the start of the innings. He will need support, but if he is fit and firing he can be a force to be reckoned with.

The Imports: Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Andre Russell (West Indies) and Jesse Ryder (New Zealand). Bravo and Russell are West Indian all-rounders who are mainstays of their international limited-overs set-up. Bravo has plenty of experience playing in this competition, and he has proven to be more-than-handy with his all-round exploits. Russell hasn’t played in the BBL before, but he will be very handy for the Renegades at the end of the innings. Ryder, by contrast, is an explosive top-order batsman who will likely replace Aaron Finch when he leaves for international duty. At his best he is unstoppable, and has the capacity to hit plenty of boundaries when needed.

The Wildcard: Matthew Wade. Wade was called in to the Australian ODI team against South Africa as injury cover for Brad Haddin, despite his poor form in the Ryobi Cup. The powerful keeper-batsman proved well worth it, playing some key innings. While he was not too aggressive in those games, Wade has the potential to release the pressure on the batting line-up with a few boundaries, and his versatility means he can bat at any phase of the innings.

Prediction: Fifth. The Renegades will be one of about four teams challenging for one place in the finals, but in the end there are just a few too many things that have to go right. Siddle and Finch (and possibly Wade) will be out for parts of the season, and it will be important for players to step up and fill these voids.

Melbourne Stars

Home Ground: Melbourne Cricket Ground
Colour: Green
Coach: Greg Shipperd
Squad: Cameron White (c), Michael Beer, Jackson Bird, Scott Boland, James Faulkner, Luke Feldman, Peter Handscomb (wk), John Hastings, David Hussey, Alex Keath, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Kevin Pietersen, Rob Quiney, Clive Rose, Marcus Stoinis, Tom Triffit (wk), Daniel Worrall, Luke Wright.

Kevin Pietersen during his hit out with the Monash Tigers. Photo: Getty
Kevin Pietersen during his hit out with the Monash Tigers on Saturday. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Third. The Stars took the competition by storm last season, winning all their matches but one. Unfortunately for the Stars, that was a semi-final, and they did not even get a shot at the title. Many players shone in the regular season, where the Stars did not even look like losing, and they could be hard to stop this year.

Keys to success
1. The top order must get the innings off to a good (and quick) start. A key part of the success the side had last season was due to the opening partnership of Cameron White and Luke Wright. It was very rare to see both openers fail, and they also scored at a very quick run rate, putting the other team under the pump.
2. Players like Kevin Pietersen and Glenn Maxwell need to score consistent runs through the middle. Pietersen and Maxwell, as well as dynamic all-rounder James Faulkner, have the potential to hit boundaries and dominate the bowling through the middle overs, and while players like Marcus Stoinis and David Hussey can keep the innings steady, boundaries through the middle will be important for the Stars, as this is what will win them games.
3. Someone needs to fill the hole left by Lasith Malinga. While the Stars have some very good bowlers like Jackson Bird, John Hastings, Clint McKay, Maxwell and Faulkner, in Malinga the Stars had an unpredictable wicket-taker who could put pressure on the opposition from ball one. Someone must fill this void or the Stars will seriously struggle with the ball.

The Imports: Kevin Pietersen (England) and Luke Wright (England). Pietersen is a dynamic and controversial English batsman who is very difficult to quell when in form. He has been successful in all forms of the game, and should bat around number four. Wright is a top-order or opening batsman who has made lots of quick runs at the top of the innings in three seasons playing for the Stars. He will be required to get the innings off to the best start possible, scoring quick runs. He can also chip in with the ball when needed.

The Wildcard: James Faulkner. Never mind Glenn Maxwell, Faulkner hits the ball hard, and while his batting in the final overs is a major asset his bowling at the death can change a game, and he remains Australia’s first choice in this area. If he can perform at the death with bat and ball than it could give the Stars the edge in close games.

Prediction: Second. The Stars still have a side that can take the league by storm. Wade is a loss, and with Peter Handscomb injured they will struggle when it comes to ‘keepers. While Maxwell and Faulkner will be out for parts of the season the Stars will still do very well, and they should be nearly as tough to beat as they were last season.

Perth Scorchers

Home Ground: WACA Ground
Colour: Orange
Coach: Justin Langer
Squad: Adam Voges (c), Ashton Agar, Yasir Arafat, Jason Behrendorff, Michael Carberry, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Harris, Brad Hogg, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, James Muirhead, Joel Paris, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman (wk).

Mitch Marsh in action. Photo: Getty
Mitch Marsh in action. Photo: Getty

Last Season: First. The Scorchers took their first Big Bash title from their third final appearance, after brilliant efforts from Mitch and Shaun Marsh as well as man-of-the-match Brad Hogg. They got to the finals easily enough, with some more-than-handy centuries from the now-departed Craig Simmons along the way.

Keys to success
1. Brad Hogg, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff and Yasir Arafat must perform. One of the strengths that the Scorchers possess is the fact that they have specialist bowlers for all phases of the innings. If Behrendorff in the powerplay, Hogg through the middle and Arafat at the death can fire, other sides will struggle to build momentum. Coulter-Nile as well as Mitch Marsh, Joel Paris, Simon Mackin and James Muirhead have the potential to fill holes in the rest of the innings as needed, and the Scorchers will want them to fire.
2. Michael Klinger, Michael Carberry and Shaun Marsh must get the innings off the ground. The middle-order for the Scorchers can be very explosive, but if the top order fails then they may be placed under undue pressure. Klinger, Carberry and Marsh all have the potential to set the innings up perfectly for the rest of the batsmen.
3. Adam Voges needs to hold the middle-order together. While players like Mitch Marsh are explosive and have the ability to cause havoc for opposition bowlers it is important that Voges is able to hold down an end and keep the strike ticking over. If he can do this then Marsh, Sam Whiteman, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar and Coulter-Nile can finish the innings well.

The Imports: Yasir Arafat (Pakistan) and Michael Carberry (England). Arafat is a renowned Pakistani bowler who is very effective at the death. Arafat has played multiple times for Pakistan and he was very effective for the Scorchers last season. Carberry is an opening batsman who has represented England in all forms of the game, and has the ability to score runs at a reasonable pace. He can be very valuable to the Scorchers if he fires.

The Wildcard: Mitch Marsh. Marsh may be out for a large part of the season for international duty, but when he is on, he is unstoppable. He can put a team out of a game with his big hitting or a good spell with the ball, but if necessary he can play a mature innings to keep his side in the game, as he has done for Australia in recent times.

Prediction: First. The Scorchers have so many players who are almost good enough to play for Australia but not quite. This means that the Marsh brothers and Coulter-Nile are the only ones in contention for international duty, but they still have a very classy side. The batting and bowling depth remains excellent, and the title-winning side has barely changed.

Sydney Sixers

Home Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground
Colour: Magenta
Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Squad: Brad Haddin (c/wk), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters (wk), Trent Copeland, Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Brett Lee, Michael Lumb, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Steve O’Keefe, Jordan Silk, Dwayne Smith, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc.

Josh Hazlewood enjoys a wicket. Photo: Getty
Josh Hazlewood enjoys a wicket. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Fourth. The Sixers progressed to the finals comfortably enough, but once there a century from Craig Simmons was enough to knock them out in a rain-affected match against the Scorchers. Either way it was a generally successful season, with Brett Lee performing in an exemplary manner with the ball.

Keys to success
1. The lower middle order have to perform with the bat and get runs toward the end. While players like Nic Maddinson, Michael Lumb and even Steve Smith and Moises Henriques tended to get the Sixers off to a good start, after that there were not many runs scored towards the end of the innings. If players like Jordan Silk, Ryan Carters and Dwayne Smith can make runs the Sixers will do very well.
2. Josh Hazlewood and Brett Lee have to take wickets early. Hazlewood will be unavailable for parts of the year, but if he can find his best and Brett Lee can bowl like he did last season then it will be difficult for other teams to face them in the powerplay overs.
3. The top order must take most of the responsibility for results. In Michael Lumb, Nic Maddinson and Dwayne Smith the Sixers have players who can score quick runs early in the innings. If they are able to do this as well as they did last season then less pressure will be placed upon the middle order, which can only be a good thing.

The Imports: Michael Lumb (England) and Dwayne Smith (West Indies). Lumb is an English limited-overs specialist who bats at the top of the order and has played for the Sixers since the inception of the Big Bash League. Last year he was slightly off and on, but in the end he combined well with Nic Maddinson and others to get the Sixers off to the best start possible. Smith is a West Indian all-rounder who should open with Lumb but also has the versatility to bat anywhere in the top six.

The Wildcard: Nic Maddinson. Maddinson is the kind of player who can knock together a quick half-century at any stage in the game. He has the potential to sway plenty of matches in the Sixers favour and if he plays well they are a serious chance for the title. If he fails then there are players who can make up for it, and this gives Maddinson the freedom to play his shots.

Prediction: Seventh. The lower middle order could seriously struggle, and in the end it will be difficult to win too many with this weakness. Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc may be out for large parts of the season, and this will have a profound effect. The bowling attack has serious potential to do damage, and they will be key to the success of the Sixers.

Sydney Thunder

Home Grounds: ANZ Stadium, Spotless Stadium
Colour: Electric Green
Coach: Paddy Upton
Squad: Michael Hussey (c), Ahillen Beadle, Aiden Blizzard, Cameron Borgas, Patrick Cummins, Jake Doran, Chris Hartley (wk), Nathan Hauritz, Daniel Hughes, Jacques Kallis, Usman Khawaja, Josh Lalor, Andrew McDonald, Eoin Morgan, Dirk Nannes, Kurtis Patterson, Gurinder Sandhu, Chris Tremain.

South African great Jacques Kallis. Photo: Getty
South African great Jacques Kallis. Photo: Getty

Last Season: Eighth. Last season was another disaster for the Thunder, whose losing streak was extended to 19 games before a surprise win over the Renegades. While the top order performed, the middle order was completely shambolic, and by the end of the season the side had filtered through player after player without success.

Keys to success
1. The middle order have to score runs. Last season the Thunder could not score any runs through the middle and end of the innings, and they have tried to rectify this with some key signings. Andrew McDonald, Jacques Kallis, Chris Hartley and Aiden Blizzard have been brought in to strengthen the batting, and if they perform and slot well into the middle order (although Blizzard could be used at the top) then the Thunder will improve massively.
2. Michael Hussey has to make runs. Hussey has a very important role at number three, and if he can perform in tandem with Kallis and Morgan then the Thunder will get off to a brilliant start, and may be able to get a few more wins together. Hussey is also the experienced head in a young side and he can affect the way the younger players perform.
3. Pat Cummins needs to stay injury free. Apart from Dirk Nannes and Nathan Hauritz the attack is not very experienced, and although Gurinder Sandhu and Chris Tremain showed promise last season, Cummins is the new recruit who can change games, and his form has been so good in recent outings for Australia that if he fires, no-one will be able to stop him.

The Imports: Jacques Kallis (South Africa) and Eoin Morgan (England). Kallis is a very experienced South African all-rounder who is one of only two players to take 200 test wickets and score 8,000 test runs. His experience will be key for the Thunder throughout the season. Eoin Morgan is also very experienced, and he has played multiple times in the English limited-overs sides. Morgan will provide firepower to the middle order, and he also has the capacity to hold the innings together while scoring at a decent rate.

The Wildcard: Pat Cummins. Cummins is the kind of bowler who, at his best, can take quick wickets and stop runs. If he can stay injury free then he will be particularly damaging, and in an attack featuring many inexperienced bowlers, his input will be invaluable. If he can combine with Dirk Nannes well then the Thunder will win games.

Prediction: Sixth. Expect plenty of improvement from the Thunder this season, as the middle order is much more solid and has the capacity to get them more than one win. Cummins and Morgan may miss parts of the season, and this will have an impact upon the sides fortunes. The bowling attack is probably not yet strong enough to mount a serious charge.

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