BBL 08 – Expert Season Preview

The BBL 08 competition is here and The Analysts have given their expert Big Bash Preview of all eight teams in the tournament.

The Strikers will be eager to retain their title yet Perth remain once again the favourites heading into the tournament. Can the two Melbourne teams get back into the finals? Will the two Sydney teams make a move from the bottom off the pile?

For expert tips on every single in the Big Bash, head here. Go where the value is on BBL 08 and head to the Betfair Exchange.

Perth Scorchers

Three-time champions and perennial semi-finalists Perth Scorchers go into BBL08 as favourites. They’ve retained the nucleus of their squad that dropped just two games on their way to finishing top of the ladder last season, before crashing out in the semi-finals to the Hurricanes. The major omissions from last year are veterans Adam Voges and Mitchell Johnson with Voges taking over the coaching duties from Justin Langer.

They should be boosted by the availability of star pacemen Jason Behrendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile who both missed the entire BBL07 due to injury. Their inclusion strengthens what is already a high-class bowling attack. Another positive is that international one-day representatives Mitch Marsh, Andrew Tye and Ashton Agar should only miss a handful of games, but they’re unlikely to see much of Shaun Marsh unless he is relieved of his test duties.

The chief concern for the Scorchers is their batting. Michael Klinger isn’t as dominant as he once was and question marks surround who will join him at the top of the order with David Willey, Josh Inglis, Cameron Bancroft and Sam Whiteman all in the mix. Ashton Turner and Hilton Cartwright may again be called on to pitch-in with middle-order runs, however beyond that there is not a great deal of depth.

The same certainly cannot be said of their bowling unit with young quicks Joel Paris, Matthew Kelly and Cameron Green waiting in the wings, along with crafty Pakistani leg-spinner Usman Qadir.

I would certainly be looking for opportunities to be with their international-standard attack, however with doubts over their batting I can’t be backing Perth outright at such a short price.

Adelaide Strikers

The defending champions will be looking to become the first side to go back-to-back since Perth in 2014/15 and based on the strength of their squad they should at least feature in the semi-finals.

One of the primary reasons that the Strikers lifted the trophy was that all of their top four – Alex Carey, Jake Weatherald, Travis Head and Colin Ingram – contributed at different points throughout the season.

In BBL08 their main challenge will be that Head is likely to only play a couple of games, while Carey will also miss some of the season due to international commitments. They have planned astutely with the acquisition of former Renegades all-rounder Matt Short who has shown plenty of promise at the top of the order in both 20-over and 50-over cricket.

The Strikers’ bowling attack is headlined by star Afghani leg-spinner Rashid Khan who has continued to bamboozle batsmen in global T20 tournaments. Their pace brigade is experienced and varied, featuring the speed of Billy Stanlake, the swing of Michael Neser, the nous of Ben Laughlin and the consistency of Peter Siddle. Siddle reinvented himself last season, becoming one of the very few frontline bowlers to concede less than a run a ball over the course of the tournament.

Although there’s not a lot of proven quality, Adelaide do have plenty of bowlers in reserve, including promising spinners Liam O’Connor and Michael Cormack. The one query I do have over the reigning champions is their depth in the batting department which could be sorely tested if injury or poor form strikes members of their top six.

With the market having reacted to their victory in BBL07 I would need a bit more margin before siding with the Strikers, however they aren’t a side I would wish to take on.

Brisbane Heat

The Heat have consistently boasted one of the most exciting line-ups in the competition and this season looks no different. Whether they can turn panache into results remains to be seen.

The batting has a frightening look to it, headlined by “Bash Brothers” Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum who between them slaughtered 396 runs at a strike-rate of 144.53 in BBL07. Test discard Joe Burns also enjoyed a breakout season last year, averaging 40.20 at a strike-rate in excess of 140. The likes of Alex Ross, Jimmy Peirson and Ben Cutting ensure that the Heat’s run rate does not slow down, while youngsters Sam Heazlett and Max Bryant will be desperate for an opportunity after impressive JLT Cup campaigns.

However whilst no other side in the tournament can call upon the power and depth of Brisbane’s batting, there is arguably no team with a weaker bowling attack. They have attempted to strengthen that area by picking up speedster James Pattinson. While Pattinson does have the ability to make early in-roads, a career T20 economy rate of 8.58 suggests he is not perfectly placed to stem the flow of opposition runs. In addition to Pattinson, the Heat have signed 17-year-old Afghan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman who is likely to replicate the role played by Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan in BBL07, with home-grown leggie Mitch Swepson providing support.

Beyond that Brisbane retain a collection of quicks who have consistently struggled to maintain control in this format. This is highlighted by a combined economy rate of 9.15 delivered by Mark Steketee, Brendan Doggett, Josh Lalor and Cutting last season.

One strategy to employ is to oppose the Heat when defending a big total or back them when chasing a high one, however long-term I’ll be opposing the Queenslanders.

Melbourne Stars

Following a disastrous BBL07 the Melbourne Stars have made sweeping changes in a desperate bid to get back to winning ways.

Starting at the top of the order they have brought in destructive opener Nic Maddinson to partner Ben Dunk who failed to fire in his first season for the Stars. Gone are long-standing international recruits Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen, replaced by prolific West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and Nepalese spin sensation Sandeep Lamichhane. Commitments to the Bangladesh Premier League mean that Lamichhane will miss a chunk of the tournament with English quick Liam Plunkett drafted in as his replacement.

Perhaps the biggest change to favour the Stars was actually out of their control, with the structure of the international summer ensuring that white-ball stars Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa will only miss a small amount of games.

If there is one area where Melbourne look a bit short it’s their pace attack following the loss of James Faulkner and John Hastings. Jackson Coleman has shown plenty of potential in limited overs cricket, while Scott Boland and Daniel Worrall have both exhibited excellent early-season form in the Sheffield Shield.

After finishing in the top four in each of the previous six editions of the BBL, the Stars could only muster two wins to finish rock bottom last season but I fancy them to bounce back in a hurry. They have a battling line-up littered with match-winners in addition to some proven spin options. While their fast-bowling contingent may not be the strongest, they do at least have an array of all-round options such as Bravo, Stoinis and Maxwell who can all chip in with overs when required.

I’m willing to overlook their struggles last season and back them to go all the way in BBL08.

Melbourne Renegades

Perpetual underachievers Melbourne Renegades took a step in the right direction last season, finishing third before going down by just one run in the semis to eventual champions Adelaide.

International recognition looms as a major stumbling block for the Renegades with first-choice opening pair Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris both finding their way into test calculations. This is likely to present ‘keeper-batsman Tim Ludeman with an opportunity at the top of the order after batting as low as number nine last year. With Finch and Harris likely to miss much of the tournament, the Renegades will lean heavily on experienced pair Cameron White and Tom Cooper, both of whom enjoyed a fruitful BBL07.

The loss of veterans Brad Hodge and Dwayne Bravo from the middle-order has been eased by the procurement of seasoned all-rounder Daniel Christian, while the likes of Jack Wildermuth, Beau Webster and Afghan star Mohammad Nabi will all likely be asked to contribute more with the bat this season.

One area where the Renegades do look decidedly stronger in BBL08 is in the bowling department. Bravo’s overseas spot will be shared by Pakistani left-arm quick Usman Khan Shinwari and English ace Harry Gurney, while the evergreen Brad Hogg has been replaced by the ultra-consistent Cameron Boyce. In addition the ‘Gades can call on international representatives Nabi, Wildermuth, Kane Richardson, Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie and Jon Holland.

Whilst many may write off the Renegades based on the absence of their opening duo, I like the changes they have made to their squad and expect them to build on what they achieved last season, making them a tantalizing prospect at the price available.

Hobart Hurricanes

Last season’s surprise packets the Hobart Hurricanes went from wooden spoon favourites to finalists off the back of some breath-taking individual performances.

Opener Darcy Short enjoyed a career-defining campaign, topping the run-scoring charts with 572 runs at an average of 57.20 and strike-rate of 148.57 including a masterful 122 not out against the Brisbane Heat. With the ball English quick Jofra Archer proved a revelation, picking up 16 wickets with an economy rate under eight an over after only coming as a late replacement for countryman Tom Curran.

The issue for the Hurricanes is that they cannot rely on a replication of these stunning solo achievements, thus needing the remainder of the squad to all show some improvement. At least Short is not alone at the top of the order with Matthew Wade and Ben McDermott both capable of destructive hitting. There are question marks however over the middle order with captain George Bailey failing to register a half-century in BBL07, while all-rounder Daniel Christian has moved on to the Renegades.

In the field Hobart will hope for better returns from English left-arm quick Tymal Mills, who was dropped at the end of last season, while the likes of Tom Rogers, Clive Rose and Riley Meredith will all be required to take up more of the slack with the ball. The main concern for the Hurricanes is the loss of Christian and productive leg-spinner Cameron Boyce, and while they have been replaced by James Faulkner and Johan Botha, I’m not convinced either of the new recruits have their best cricket ahead of them.

There will be higher expectations in the Apple Isle this year but an over-reliance on a couple of individuals as well as the loss of some crucial members of the supporting cast has me more pessimistic about their chances this summer.

Sydney Sixers

The Sixers’ BBL07 campaign was almost over before it began, dropping their first six games before coming home with a wet sail to win their last four. They finished just two points outside the top four and with a superior net run rate to two of the four semi-finalists.

A big factor in that late-season renaissance was English opener Joe Denly who plundered 146 runs from those four victories and as a result the punishing right-hander has been retained as one of their international representatives. Joining Denly in the top-order will be steady left-hander Daniel Hughes, captain Moses Henriques and stroke-maker Jordan Silk. The Sixers will be without their highest run-scorer from last season in Nic Maddinson, relying on youth to replace him with the acquisition of exciting trio Josh Phillipe, Jack Edwards and Jason Avendano.

At the bowling crease the potent but expensive Sean Abbott will be supported by left-arm swing merchant Ben Dwarshuis, as well as young quicks Mickey Edwards and Henry Thornton. However their biggest asset in the field is likely to be English all-rounder Tom Curran who is set to play a key role at the death with both bat and ball. Curren will have to take over the function pegged for new signing John Hastings who was forced into premature retirement due to a mystery lung condition.

The Sixers have also heavily invested in spin as while veteran offie Nathan Lyon may not get much game time, they have the wily Steve O’Keefe in their ranks along with promising leg-spinners Lloyd Pope and Daniel Fallins.

The Magenta Men don’t have too many friends in the market and I won’t be backing them due to their weak middle-order and lack of proven hitters outside of Denly and Henriques. They do however look set to carry in a very healthy tail to each match with the likes of Abbott, O’Keefe and Dwarshuis all capable with the bat so look for opportunities to back the Sixers at big prices when 7 or 8 wickets down.

Sydney Thunder

Champions three seasons ago, the Thunder have slipped back into their malaise with a sixth-placed finish last season coming after finishing rock bottom in BBL06, a position they are again favoured to occupy in this year’s tournament.

The Thunder’s batting looks heavily reliant on English pair Jos Buttler and Joe Root who will actually depart the competition at the half-way mark, replaced by Anton Devcich and Chris Jordan.

Kurtis Patterson has yet to assert himself in this format, although there have at least been some encouraging returns from captain Shane Watson and middle-order maestro Callum Ferguson in the IPL and English Vitality Blast respectively. With Australian stars Usman Khawaja and Pat Cummins unlikely to see much game-time there will also be a chance for youngsters such as Jason Sangha, Ryan Gibson and Arjun Nair to shine.

Nair forms part of the Thunder’s strongest component which is undoubtedly their slow-bowling department. Headlined by Fawad Ahmed and Chris Green who both enjoyed plenty of success in the Caribbean Premier League, particularly Fawad who finished as the tournament’s top wicket-taker and was part of the victorious Trinbago Knight Riders side.

However if their spinners are their strength, then the Thunder’s pace attack is undeniably their weakness. Daniel Sams is a handy addition from cross-town rivals the Sixers, but Gurinder Sandhu’s form has been inconsistent at best. Outside of that there is only the unproven trio of Sam Rainbird, Nathan McAndrew and Liam Hatcher.

With such poor fast-bowling stocks and a top-heavy batting line-up I can’t be tempted to invest on the Thunder, even at such hefty odds. Over the course of the tournament, however you could do a lot worse than back the wooden spoon favourites when their spinners are operating and lay them when the quicks come back on, especially on the notably slow surface at Spotless Stadium.

Betting Strategy

 LAY (WIN) Brisbane Heat at 7.60 or better for 2 units.

 BACK (WIN) Melbourne Stars at 6.80 or better for 2 units.

 BACK (WIN) Melbourne Renegades at 7.40 or better for 1 unit.

Related Articles

Your Home Of Cricket Betting

Welcome to Betfair's Cricket Hub, your complete home of cricket betting for the 2018-19 summer. We'll have expert previews ...

Your Exclusive Big Bash Tips

Get expert Big Bash tips and previews for every single game of the BBL 10 tournament.

Cricket Betting Tips & Strategies For The Big Bash

The Analysts share their insight into three edges that they have identified in the T20 format of cricket.