Minor premiers for the last two seasons, the Adelaide Strikers kick-off their 2016/17 BBL campaign on Wednesday night when they welcome the Brisbane Heat to Adelaide Oval.
The Strikers suffered a blow on the eve of the tournament with in-form left-arm orthodox Jon Holland ruled out of the tournament with a heel injury. Holland’s absence is compounded by the fact that Adelaide are already without star leggie Adil Rashid (test duty), leaving them disturbingly light on slow-bowling options. That means that Travis Head can be expected to be afforded some overs with his part-time off-spin, while the variations of West Indian Kieron Pollard also gain enhanced importance.
Otherwise the Strikers bowling attack has a similar look to last season with Ben Laughlin, Kane Richardson and Michael Neser forming the nucleus of the pace unit, alongside Englishmen Chris Jordan who will fill in for countryman Rashid.
There is plenty of power within Adelaide’s batting stocks, starting at the top of the order with Ben Dunk, Tim Ludeman and Jake Weatherald all jostling for opening spots, while a middle-order featuring Head, captain Brad Hodge and potent all-rounder Pollard, is amongst the most dangerous in the competition.
The Strikers will be happy to start the season at home where they have an impressive record, winning six of their past nine at the Adelaide Oval.
The Heat will be excited to finally unveil star signing Brendon McCullum who was ruled out of the entire tournament last season. McCullum will be joined at the top of the order by test discard Joe Burns who was limited to just three appearances for the Heat in BBL05. That should take some of the pressure off middle-order mainstay Chris Lynn who bore the brunt of the Heat’s run-scoring responsibilities last season, receiving minimal support as he blasted his way to player of the tournament honours despite the Heat’s sixth-placed finish.
Brisbane have also acquired noted finisher Alex Ross who will face off against his former side, having made the move north from Adelaide. The concern for the Heat is their bowling attack after they conceded runs at 8.69 an over in last year’s tournament and have failed to make any significant changes to the composition of their attack which will again be heavily reliant on West Indian leg-spinner Samuel Badree.
With none of the quicks putting their hand up last season there could be an opportunity for promising all-rounder Jack Wildermuth, while fellow youngster Mitch Swepson is also expected to get more game time after he impressed with his leg-spinners in the latter stages of BBL05. Since claiming the 2012/13 title, the Heat have failed to make the finals on all three occasions so they will be hoping to redress that situation in BBL06.
The Adelaide Oval was one of the most batsman-friendly venues in BBL05 as evidenced by an average first innings score of 6/168. The fact that the side batting second won three out of five matches also indicates that batting did not get any more difficult as the match progressed. As previously mentioned the Strikes have won six of their past nine games at home, however they will sorely miss Rashid who last season took 11 wickets at an average of 11.64 at Adelaide.
- Adelaide have won 13 of their past 17 matches, including six of their past nine at home.
- Matches involving Adelaide last season averaged 12 sixes.
- Brisbane have won only five of their last 16 matches.
- Four of eight matches involving Brisbane last year had 14 or more sixes.
Unsurprisingly the Strikers are favourites for this clash with punters yet to warm to the Heat.
Adelaide’s form, especially at home, is hard to go past and there is certainly an argument that they represent some value here, however I cannot overlook the omission of Rashid which is a significant factor and only magnified by the loss of Holland which leaves the Strikes short of quality spin options on a pitch where the tweakers have historically played a key role.
Conversely, in Badree and Swepson, the Heat boast a brace of first-rate spin options, however I have grave fears for the rest of their attack on an Adelaide Oval pitch that typically suits the batsmen. Whilst Brisbane’s imposing batting unit should enjoy the conditions, I just cannot go anywhere near the Heat until I see some palpable improvement from them with the ball.
That leaves us to look outside of the match odds market and it is both sides’ ability to clear the ropes that presents the most pertinent opportunity. With some help from the short square boundaries at the Adelaide Oval, matches involving the Strikers averaged 12 sixes last season, including the New Year’s Eve clash with the Sixers which saw a whopping 21. Similarly the Heat managed to both hit and concede plenty of maximums, with their matches in BBL05 averaging 12.9 sixes including four of eight that produced 14 or more.
Both sides are blessed with combustible batting line-ups with five players across both sides who average more than one six per innings (Lynn, Head, Pollard, McCullum and Cutting), while in terms of bowling the away side carry a particularly profligate attack and the hosts are missing two of their most economical options so it all serves as a recipe for plenty of big hitting.
That’s why I’ll be putting my faith in the clean strikers as opposed to the Adelaide Strikers, by backing 14 or more sixes to be hit.
BACK – Back Total Sixes 14 or more at 2.25 or bigger for 1 unit.