Both sides’ seasons are on the line when the Hobart Hurricanes clash with the Sydney Thunder at Bellerive Oval on Sunday night.
The Hurricanes suffered a demoralising loss on Friday night, going down by five wickets to the Strikers at the Adelaide Oval. After being invited to bat, the Hurricanes got off to the worst possible start, slumping to 5/30 at the beginning of the sixth over at which point the game looked all but over.
However an outstanding 89-run partnership between Jono Wells (55 off 37 balls) and Beau Webster (67 not out off 43 balls) resurrected the innings, allowing Hobart to post a respectable 8/161. Webster’s innings was particularly impressive, given it was his first in senior T20 cricket, however experienced all-rounder Dan Christian continued his frustrating season with the bat, falling for a golden duck. The Strikers looked to be cruising to the target at 2/115 after 12 overs, however a sustained effort from both Christian (2/24 off four overs) and English quick Stuart Broad (2/37 off four overs) gave Adelaide a few jitters before they ultimately coasted to the total with five wickets in hand and 10 balls to spare.
For Hobart the improved form of Broad has provided some encouragement, averaging 18 at an economy rate of 6.75 in his last two games in comparison to an average of 31.33 and economy rate of 9.72 in his first three. With their season on the line the Hurricanes have made just one change to their squad with Simon Milenko omitted in favour of Shaun Tait.
The Thunder finally secured their first win of the season in dramatic circumstances, when they beat the Melbourne Stars in a last-ball thriller at the Sydney Showground Stadium on Wednesday. After winning the toss and electing to field, the Thunder were on the back foot early as the Stars jumped out to 2/90 off ten overs, however an excellent spell from skipper Shane Watson (3/23 off four overs) pegged the Stars back with only 20 coming off the last five overs as they limped to 8/166.
An early onslaught from Kurtis Patterson (28 off 18) launched the Thunder’s chase, but the young opener’s dismissal precipitated a mini collapse of 3/5 and after a prolonged rebuilding phase, the Thunder were left with 72 to get from the last six overs. Early in his innings, English T20I captain Eoin Morgan had laboured to 15 off 28 balls, but the composed left-hander timed his run to perfection, smashing 49 off his last 18 deliveries including a six off the final ball to finish with 71 off 50 and deliver the Thunder their first victory of BBL06.
Unfortunately for the reigning champions, that was Morgan’s last appearance for the tournament as he has left to join the England ODI squad and been replaced by countryman James Vince. The Thunder have also lost fellow overseas signing Andre Russell to a hamstring injury with World T20 hero Carlos Brathwaite drafted in for the remainder of the competition.
Conditions at Bellerive have looked ideal for batting over the first couple of matches with the Stars comfortably chasing down Hobart’s 4/188, before the Hurricanes took only 17.4 overs to overhaul the Strikers’ 143. The new ball has come on nicely to the bat with the opening partnership averaging 60 and opening batsmen top-scoring in three out of four innings’.
- The Hurricanes have won only one of their past four home games.
- The Hurricanes have never lost to the Thunder in five attempts.
- The Thunder have won three of their last five away games..
- The Thunder have won only one of their last five matches when batting first.
Back at home, the Hurricanes are expected to keep their season alive with the Thunder slender underdogs to secure consecutive victories.
The Hurricanes showed their dark side against the Strikers, with a top-order collapse and erratic bowling at the heartbeat of their performance in Adelaide. On their day they boast enough firepower to overwhelm the Thunder, but it is impossible to predict whether they will bring it all together on any given game day. One might expect the familiar climes of Bellerive to provide some degree of advantage, however their recent record at home soil suggests they would be prefer to be on the road.
For the Thunder they can only hope that the group has gained some confidence from their miraculous victory over the Stars. There are encouraging signs at the top of the order from Kurtis Patterson who finally seems to be modifying his game effectively to this format, while the return of captain Shane Watson to the bowling crease has given them more flexibility and control in the field. Losing their match-winner Eoin Morgan and most dynamic player Andre Russell is undoubtedly a blow, however the replacements do provide plenty of power and adaptability.
In a match-up between two mediocre sides that looks incredibly even, I’m leaning towards taking the bigger price about the visitors. Although far from convincing against the Stars, there were plenty of positive signs and the addition of new overseas signings Vince and Brathwaite should freshen up the squad, which is more than capable of continuing the Hurricanes’ poor home record.
At their best the hosts look a top four side, however Hobart are the sort of unpredictable outfit that just cannot be backed at odds-on. Aside from their eccentricity, the one major factor in the Hurricanes’ favour is their incredible record over the Thunder, having never lost to the Sydney side in five attempts, and with the Thunder not exactly enjoying the most persuasive form, I’ll be looking for a swift trade in this one to lock in some profit.
BACK-to-LAY – Sydney Thunder at 2.12 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 1.65 or better).