Sport Cricket Big Bash League Big Bash League: The man Aussies love to hate is ready to go

Big Bash League: The man Aussies love to hate is ready to go

Matches in Melbourne are traditionally well-attended. Photo: Getty
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He is public enemy No.1 to Australian cricket fans but Englishman Stuart Broad is excited about playing Down Under in the sixth instalment of the Twenty20 Big Bash League, which began on Tuesday evening as the Sixers beat the Thunder by nine wickets.

Broad’s failure to walk when he edged the ball to first slip in a crucial Ashes Test in 2013 infuriated a nation.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann reflected the mood when he slammed him for “blatant cheating” before calling on fans to “give it to him right from the word go … I hope he cries and he goes home” that summer.

Three years have passed, but Broad is sure to elicit a response from Aussie crowds when he suits up for the Hobart Hurricanes in the popular eight-team tournament, which drew big crowds and a television average of more than one million viewers each match last season.

Broad and the controversial Kevin Pietersen (Melbourne Stars) headline a list of nine Englishmen featuring in the 2016/17 tournament, joining batsmen Ian Bell (Perth Scorchers), Luke Wright (Melbourne Stars) and Eoin Morgan (Sydney Thunder).

Writing for the Daily Mail, Broad said this week: “I’ve always enjoyed watching the Big Bash and as a Test cricketer for England, you don’t get too many opportunities to play in competitions like this. It’s exciting.”

Broad’s new Hobart teammate Shaun Tait told The Examiner he was sure Hurricanes fans would warm to the Englishman despite his past history, adding he was a “nice bloke”.

Other English players involved in the tournament are all-rounders Chris Jordan (Adelaide Strikers) and David Willey (Perth Scorchers) and batsmen Jason Roy and Sam Billings (both Sydney Sixers).

Each of the eight sides are permitted two overseas players, with Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara (Hobart Hurricanes) and ex-New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum (Brisbane Heat) the pick of the bunch.

Kumar Sangakkara will play for Hobart again this season. Photo: Getty

The Melbourne Renegades opted against re-signing West Indian batsman Chris Gayle after his uncomfortable interview with journalist Mel McLaughlin last year, but there remains a healthy contingent of his compatriots.

Andre Russell (Sydney Thunder) returns after finishing equal-second on the wicket-takers list last season and all-rounders Kieron Pollard (Adelaide Strikers) and Dwayne Bravo (Melbourne Renegades) are back again, while spinners Sunil Narine (Melbourne Renegades) and Samuel Badree (Brisbane Heat) will excite with their variations and guile.

The Aussies

Of course, it’s not just about the internationals, with a host of Australian favourites, old and new, in action.

James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars) and Aaron Finch (Melbourne Renegades) will play in some of the competition before international commitments begin, while Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder), Brad Haddin (Sydney Sixers) and Brad Hogg (Melbourne Renegades) will fly the flag for the old boys.

For others in the Australian system, the Big Bash League gives them a chance to showcase their talents in front of crowds and television audiences that are otherwise foreign to domestic cricket.

Crowds at matches last season averaged 29,442, with more than 80,000 piling into the MCG for last year’s ‘Melbourne derby’ in January.

Travis Head starred for the Adelaide Strikers last season. Photo: Getty

Last summer, excellent form from batsmen Travis Head and Chris Lynn, and leg-spinner Adam Zampa, saw them rewarded with Australian call-ups and others will, no doubt, follow the same path on this occasion.

How to follow – and who wins?

The competition, which started in front of a sell-out crowd at Spotless Stadium on Tuesday, features 35 matches, running almost every night until the January 28 final.

All matches are broadcast live on Network Ten, with the commentary team headed by Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming.

Pietersen, McCullum, Lehmann and Andrew Symonds will make guest appearances.

Perth Scorchers, who have made the finals in every Big Bash League season, are a $5 favourite to win the competition with Sportsbet.

The Melbourne sides are both next in line, at $5.50, while last year’s victors Sydney Thunder are not expected to go back-to-back.

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