Ben Cutting's batting impressed in Melbourne. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Michael Klein
Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Sixers both have one thing in common; they got banged up by Melbourne teams in their previous Big Bash matches. The Stars smashed the Sixers by 77 runs at the SCG while Heat had a total of 210 posted against it for the second straight match as the Renegades swamped Brisbane by 57 runs at Docklands. The Sixers didn’t play in round three, but this is looming as a must-win for Brisbane with the defending champion dropping two of its first three matches.
Heat’s issues have been mainly down to its bowling attack, and in particular, the pair of Ben Cutting and Alister McDermott who were amongst the leading wicket-takers in BBL02. Both have gone for double figure runs per over in the losses to the Hurricanes and Renegades, and Cutting, in particular, was taken apart by Melbourne’s bats going for 51 runs off just 3.3 overs. McDermott had actually bowled well in his first three overs, but two waist-high full tosses in the 19th over of the innings not only went over the fence, but also forced him out of the attack. They were two of 11 sixes hit by the rampant Renegades compared to Brisbane’s total of eight. Cutting’s ability to clear the boundary (40 off 20 balls against Melbourne with five 6s) as a pinch-hitter should see him earn a reprieve for the Sixers clash and he could well move up the order on Thursday night.
Of just a big a concern for Heat coach Stuart Law will be the performance so far of last season’s comeback king Luke Pomersbach . He has amassed just 29 runs in three digs so far and wasted 41 balls in doing so. He made 21 of those against the Renegades, but looked completely out of touch for the most part, using up 30 deliveries before spinner Aaron O’Brien skidded one through. In all three matches the combination of Pomersbach and free-swinging Englishman Craig Kieswetter has posted a lower score for the first wicket than Heat’s opponent .
The Sixers maintained their dominance over cross-town rival Thunder in round one, but fell in a heap in the marquee match-up with the Stars at the S.C.G. Brett Lee continues to be a fading force and after taking just four wickets last season throughout the competition, he has picked up just one in the first two games. He had far more success bowling to English media commentator Piers Morgan than he did Melbourne’s batting line-up where he was pasted for 37 off his four overs. Apart from breaking the nose of Brendan McCullum in his first Big Bash match in BBL01, he has done little to light up the competition since. Josh Hazlewood was by far the most impressive of Sydney’s attack picking up 3/20 off his allocation, including the vital wickets of Cameron White and Brad Hodge.
One area Sydney doesn’t have an issue is at the top of the order with former England player Michael Lumb and rising star Nic Maddinson . The lefties have averaged 43 as an opening combination this season, and Lumb was the only player who looked fluent against the Stars. The Sixers would love more out of his perennially inconsistent compatriot Ravi Bopara , who was expensive with the ball the other night and made just 5 off 10 with bat in hand. The all-rounder is expected to play just two more matches in the garish pink uniform with another player from the Old Dart, tall timber Chris Tremlett, coming in for a rare game of cricket after his ill-fated Ashes tour.
The men who impressed against the Stars – Lumb and Hazlewood – were also the prime movers in Sydney’s win at the ‘Gabba last season. It was the team’s only victory outside of New South Wales in BBL02. Hazlewood also picked up two wickets when the Sixers won the first match between these teams to open the initial Big Bash tournament.
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