Heat Seeking Second Big Bash

Source: Michael Klein/foxsports.com.au
Ben Cutting's power-hitting will be vital for Brisbane this Big Bash. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Michael Klein

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Adelaide Strikers

Will miss the ball-striking of Kieron Pollard but the Strikers may get more value out of Englishman Alex Hales who will bat at the top of the order. The Nottinghamshire right-hander exploded on to the Big Bash scene in his first game in the Big Bash last season when he ripped 89 off just 52 balls for the Renegades at the SCG. They’ll need him to tee off as Michael Klinger is the tortoise to Hales’s hare early on, but a big tournament from in-form lefty Phillip Hughes could propel Adelaide in to the top four, while Nathan Reardon is a quality finisher. Tim Ludeman is a very underrated ‘keeper-batsman while there is strike power with the ball in the form of Kane Richardson and Shaun Tait, with the latter snaring nine wickets in five matches in last year’s competition.

Prediction – 2nd

Brisbane Heat

Looked a batsman short last year but Luke Pomersbach batted out of his skin throughout the tournament to steer Heat to an unlikely win. Former England Twenty20 ‘keeper Craig Kieswetter should add some firepower up the top while Joe Burns, Dan Christian and Chris Lynn all finished in the top 20 runscorers last season. Ben Cutting has developed in to the best big-hitting pace bowler in the country which adds flexibility to the batting order while Alister McDermott was super-impressive picking up 10 wickets in six matches last year. There is the option of going with spin twins Nathan Hauritz and Daniel Vettori on certain tracks, as well.

Prediction – 5th

Hobart Hurricanes

Appeared to be on track for a crack at the title last season but fell short in the big games. No Ricky Ponting this year and with George Bailey now a fixture in both the Test and one-day teams, the Hurricanes will be relying on journeymen Travis Birt and former international ‘keeper Tim Paine to set some challenging targets. Another player who can don the gloves, Ben Dunk, could be one out of the box. He has started the domestic season in cracking form and after giving a hint of his talent in T20 with his native Queensland side a few years back, he might be the missing ingredient if given an opportunity. Imports Owais Shah, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Shoaib Malik are all short-form veterans, but it’s doubtful they’ve got the spark to take Hobart to the title. On the bowling front, Ben Laughlin led all wicket-takers in last season’s Big Bash while Doug Bollinger has somehow bowled his way back in to Test contention and is looking much fitter this season.

Prediction – 8th

Melbourne Renegades

Came from nowhere last season with a no frills squad, but most of the attention centred on free-wheeling captain, Aaron Finch. He started the competition with a bombastic 111 not out which propelled his team to a first-up win over cross-town rivals the Stars. He smashed a world record T20 international score of 156 against England earlier this year, but he will more than likely miss the back end of the Bash when he gets an inevitable call-up to the Australian ODI and T20 teams. Left-hander Ben Rohrer was the big surprise packet last season finishing amongst the comeptition’s leading run scorers and going at a clip of over 150 runs per 100 balls. Even at 41, Muttiah Muralitharan is still tough to get away while Fawad Ahmed will also come in handy on slower decks, and they still have to fit in all-rounder Aaron O’Brien somewhere.

Prediction – 4th

Melbourne Stars

On paper, this is probably the strongest squad in the competition – even without Shane Warne’s presence – but they could be stripped of players come the business end of the tournament. James Faulkner is out for the moment with a broken thumb, but he’ll be a sure-fire selection for the short-form internationals, while the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Clint McKay, and possibly deposed national ‘keeper Matthew Wade, will don the green and gold in January. England all-rounder Luke Wright will almost certainly miss the finish of the tournament, which means plenty of run-scoring responsibility will fall on the shoulders of thirty-somethings Brad Hodge, Cameron White, David Hussey and Rob Quiney. When he makes his way to Australia after playing in the Sri Lanka vs Pakistan series, Lasith Malinga will need to make an immediate impact with the ball. His haul of 6/7 against the Scorchers last season had to be seen to be believed, and the slinger might not have the runs to play with that he did last season.

Prediction – 3rd

Perth Scorchers

After losing two straight Big Bash deciders at the WACA, the Scorchers will be desperate to go one better this time around. Mike Hussey’s departure is a big loss, but Perth has survived without him previously. Energizer Bunny Brad Hogg returns for another campaign at 42 years of age, while lanky left-arm spinner Michael Beer will again bowl at different stages of the innings after conceding less than six runs per over last season. The Marsh boys – Mitchell and Shaun – are the keys; the latter led all run-scorers in BB2012-13 while his younger brother is the country’s best all-round prospect. If they start the Bash well, both could end up in Australian teams in January, as could paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile and the evergreen Adam Voges. There is depth to this Scorchers squad, though, and lightning-quick youngster Pat Cummins could be back for the end of the tournament, while lefty Jason Beherendorff picked up nine scalps in six games last year.

Prediction – 1st

Sydney Sixers

The Sixers outlook would be far better if they could get Mitchell Starc, one of the best white ball bowlers in the world, on the park for most of the Big Bash. The left-armer is on the comeback trail from stress fractures in his back and is a stretch to even get on the field in this tournament. Sydney has a pair of quality Englishmen in the form of Michael Lumb and Ravi Bopara, with the latter almost certain to play for the tourists in the ODIs and T20 matches. A trio of 21-year-olds could well decide how far this team goes; Nic Maddinson, Jordan Silk and Sean Abbott are all future internationals (Maddinson has already played one T20 match for Australia) but all are likely to be around for most of, or all of the competition. The Sixers have quality all-rounders in the form of Steve O’Keefe and Moises Henriques but this team needs to show a lot more consistency than last season to be in with a show.

Prediction – 7th

Sydney Thunder

Any team with Michael Clarke and David Warner in the line-up should be feared, but unfortunately for Thunder fans, those two won’t be regulars in the green uniform. One man who will be there for the duration is Mike Hussey, who comes across from the Perth Scorchers. How ‘Huss’ goes on the sluggish Stadium Australia pitch is anyone’s guess, but he will surely be a step up on last season’s marquee man Chris Gayle, who spent a lot more time enjoying activities off the pitch than on it. Thunder will have the services of England’s short-form specialists Eoin Morgan and Chris Woakes for a period, but on a slow deck, Sri Lankans Tillakaratne Dilshan and Ajantha Mendis could be this team’s strike weapons. Wicket-keeper/batsman Ryan Carters is in cracking form, while stringbean Dirk Nannes will cause problems with the new ball on some wickets, but after posting one win in each of the first two Big Bashes, it’s hard to back this team with any great confidence.

Prediction – 6th

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