After suffering a heavy defeat in their opening fixture, reigning champions Sydney Thunder will look to get their title defence back on track when they travel to Docklands Stadium to take on the Melbourne Renegades.
After a disappointing campaign in BBL05 where they finished just outside the top four, the Melbourne Renegades enter this season’s tournament with renewed vigour following an aggressive recruitment campaign which has netted them one of the stronger looking squads in the competition. The acquisitions are headlined by spinners Sunil Narine and Brad Hogg who should add some stability to a bowling attack which conceded runs at more than 8.5 an over last season.
At the top of the order Marcus Harris will be hoping to replicate his excellent Sheffield Shield form following his move across from the west, while after missing last year’s tournament through injury, Callum Ferguson returns to add some starch to the middle-order. The rest of the batting is underpinned by captain Aaron Finch, prolific run-scorer Cameron White and exciting all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.
Unfortunately for the Renegades James Pattinson has suffered a minor hamstring strain, which leaves T20 specialist Nathan Rimmington and recent Australian representative Chris Tremain to support Narine, Hogg and Bravo with the ball. One area where the Renegades could be a bit light is a sixth-bowling option which may mean that captain Finch or Tom Cooper will need to roll their arm over and deliver some part-time spin, but otherwise they look a more dangerous and balanced side.
After losing the toss and being sent in by city rivals the Sixers in the season opener, the Thunder endured a rocky innings, blasting their way to 1/71, before slumping to 6/86 and then recovering to post a competitive 8/159. In his T20 debut, opener Ryan Gibson top-scored with an assured 53, while young paceman Pat Cummins provided some handy late-order hitting with a sparkling 30 from 20 balls. Captain Eoin Morgan looked in fine touch for his 26 off 19 balls, however it was his contentious dismissal that sparked a collapse of 5/15 which ultimately proved terminal to the Thunder’s chances.
The defending champions’ bowling attack experienced a wretched night with the Sixers mowing down the target with nine wickets in hand and 12 balls to spare. Dynamic all-rounder Andre Russell took the lone scalp, however Cummins undid all of his good work with the bat, conceding 38 off his three overs, while last season’s leading wicket-taker Clint McKay leaked 20 off two overs as the Sixers cruised to the total with few troubles. As a result the Thunder have made a couple of changes to their squad with all-rounder Arjun Nair and rookie batsman Kerrod White drafted in for Aiden Blizzard and Jay Lenton.
Last season Docklands Stadium favoured the side batting second who claimed three out of the four matched played, despite the average first innings score coming in at a healthy 5/167. Docklands was not a happy hunting ground for the Renegades who lost all four fixtures played here with Cameron White averaging only 12.50 at a strike-rate of just 89.29.
- Melbourne Renegades won only three out of eight matches last season, losing all four games at Docklands Stadium.
- Between them Sunil Narine, Brad Hogg and Dwayne Bravo have taken 731 T20 wickets at an average of 21.87 and economy rate of 7.04
- Sydney Thunder have won four of their past six away matches, including their last three straight.
- However four of the Thunder’s top seven have scored just 171 runs in T20 cricket between them.
Whether triggered by the Renegades’ impressive recruitment or the Thunder’s inept display on Tuesday night, the market has installed the hosts as robust favourites.
Certainly when you consider the pedigree in the Renegades’ bowling attack up against the inexperience of the Thunder top-order, this does seem somewhat of a mismatch, however the Thunder should be better for the run on Tuesday night and with the Renegades having flattered to deceive in the past and holding a dreadful record at home, I can’t quite bring myself to back them at such a short pre-game price. However as a trading strategy you could certainly do worse than getting with the hosts when their premium bowlers are up against the Thunder’s collection of fledgling batsmen.
But there is another way to take advantage of the Thunder’s undermanned batting unit which is missing its key pillars in Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson. Last season five players top-scored for the Thunder – Khawaja, Watson, Mike Hussey, Jacques Kallis and Andre Russell – and of those only Russell, who generally bats down at number six, will be playing on Thursday night. Stand-in captain Ben Rohrer played every game for the Thunder last season, however never managed to top-score, while the likes of Ryan Gibson, Kurtis Patterson and Jake Doran have yet to establish themselves in this format.
That leaves one stand-out candidate in left-hander Eoin Morgan. Morgan is the English national T20 captain and has a sound record in this format, averaging 26.84 from over 200 games. As previously mentioned Morgan looked in good nick on Tuesday before he was controversially given out caught behind, and after watching the struggles of his bowling attack he will likely take on more responsibility in occupying the crease and ensuring the Thunder don’t suffer another middle-order collapse. Morgan is also coming off an impressive performance in the NatWest T20 Blast for Middlesex where he averaged 36.66, top-scoring in three out of seven matches.
Therefore I’ll be backing the talented left-hander to deal best with the Renegades’ quality bowling attack and top-score here.
BACK – Eoin Morgan Top Sydney Thunder Batsman at $4.50 or bigger for one unit