The in-form Brisbane Heat will be looking for a record sixth consecutive win when they entertain the Sydney Sixers at the Gabba on Tuesday.
After notching a couple of tight wins to start the season, the Heat were far more convincing in dispatching the Hobart Hurricanes at home last Friday. Fielding first, Brisbane’s much-maligned attack never allowed the Hurricanes to get away, taking wickets whenever the run rate threatened to rise and restricting them to 9/173 on a dream batting surface. Once again it was the outstanding pair of Samuel Badree (1/26 off four overs) and Mark Steketee (2/29 off four overs) who led the way, however Jason Floros is still searching for his first wicket of the tournament with his only over costing 16.
In reply the Heat lost Jimmy Peirson early, but that only served to bring together the explosive pair of Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn who shared in a devastating partnership of 109 off just 53 balls which allowed the Heat plenty of breathing space in comfortably running down the total. McCullum blazed away for 72 off 35 balls, but not to be outdone Lynn smashed four fours and seven sixes, including one on the roof of the Gabba, on his way to an unbeaten 84 off 50 balls.
Incredibly over their three matches in BBL06 the Heat have scored their runs at 9.64 an over with Joe Burns the only top-order batsman without a strike-rate above 140. A win here would all but guarantee the Heat their first semi-final appearance in four seasons.
The Sixers continued their haphazard start to the tournament, going down to the previously winless Adelaide Strikers on New Year’s Eve. After winning the toss and electing to field, the usually reliable Johan Botha (0/38 off four overs) was targeted in the powerplay as the Strikers raced to 1/91 inside the tenth over.
However all-rounder Sean Abbott led a stunning fightback, picking up a career-best 5/16 off four overs to peg back Adelaide to just 9/152 off their 20 overs. Abbott worked well in tandem with miserly off-spinner Will Somerville, who claimed 1/22 from his four overs, however left-arm pace bowler Doug Bollinger maintained his wayward form, with his four overs costing 40.
In reply Sydney managed to replicate Adelaide’s aggression in the powerplay, reaching 34 without loss after four overs, however the dismissal of Jason Roy (18 off 11 balls) triggered a monumental collapse, with the Sixers losing 10/70 to be all out for just 104. Roy’s countryman Sam Billings did his best to hold the innings together with a determined 40 off 30 balls, before he perished to a miraculous return catch. After being omitted from the test side, Nic Maddinson made a tentative return, popping a catch to point for 2 off 8 balls, while veteran ‘keeper Brad Haddin was left red-faced when he was dismissed hit wicket for 1 off 6 balls.
Conditions at the Gabba looked absolutely superb for batting on Friday, as evidenced by the fact that Hobart’s first innings total of 173 was clearly under-par. But despite all the runs that have been scored at the Gabba recently, five out of the last ten opening partnerships have failed to reach 15.
- The Heat have won their last five matches.
- However the Heat have won only three of their past eight matches at the Gabba.
- The Sixers have won only two of their last seven away games.
- However the Sixers have never lost at the Gabba.
The market can no longer ignore the Heat’s winning ways, installing the home side as clear favourites over the inconsistent Sixers.
At the moment the Heat look hard to conquer as their powerful battling line-up appears capable of chasing down anything their pedestrian bowling attack may concede. However there must come a point when their profligacy with the ball puts enough pressure on that batting unit to make it crack.
A deeper dive into the Heat’s performances reveals that four key players are contributing an irregularly high proportion of their success – Lynn and McCullum have scored over 60% of their runs, while Badree and Steketee are the only bowlers with an economy rate less than nine.
Although individual T20 matches are often won by a handful of key players, it is difficult to maintain continued success without the wider group chipping in more frequently, so I would warn against siding with the Heat at such a short price.
The Sixers have been tough to gauge, flipping between the impressive and underwhelming. In contrast to the Heat, their squad has shared the load, however they are yet to have one individual player stand up and dominate on a consistent basis. There is certainly some apprehension about how they will fare against Brisbane’s imposing batting unit, but given the way their attack silenced the Scorchers powerful and deep line-up they seem as well placed as any side within the competition to tame the beast.
Crucially, while they are yet to really hit their straps, they do boast enough muscle in their own batting order to exploit the Heat’s weakness in the field, with the likes of Roy and Maddinson more than capable of helping the Sixers to a commanding total.
So while they may be undefeated I’m happy to begin by taking on the Heat at these prices, especially against a capable side like the Sixers who, when on form, can mix it with the best in this competition. However given the incredible form of those key Heat players, especially Lynn, I couldn’t rule out the hosts pulling out another match from the fire as they did against the Thunder, so I will look to close my position and lock in some profit.
BACK-TO-LAY – Sydney Sixers or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 1.70 or better).