After suffering their first loss of the season on Tuesday, the Brisbane Heat face the tough task of travelling to the WACA to take on the Perth Scorchers on Thursday night.
The Scorchers sit atop the BBL ladder, with three wins from their opening four matches. Most recently they swept aside the Sydney Thunder at the WACA on New Year’s Day, comfortably defending a useful first innings total of 4/177. After being sent in the Scorchers got off to a poor start, losing Shaun Marsh in the first over for what was the talented left-hander’s third consecutive single-figure score.
However the experienced pair of Michael Klinger (38 off 32 balls) and Ian Bell (45 off 38 balls) rebuilt the innings effectively via an 85-run stand, allowing the potent Mitchell Marsh to come in and do what he does best, creaming an unbeaten 44 off just 27 deliveries to lift the total past 170. Although 177 was far from an insurmountable total for the Thunder, they were immediately on the back foot and slumped to 6/50 in reply.
Powerplay specialist David Willey led from the front, picking up both openers in his spell of 2/21 off four overs, while all other bowlers used chipped in with one wicket apiece. Andrew Tye maintained his reputation as one of the premium bowlers in the competition, claiming the key wicket of Shane Watson while conceding only 16 from his four overs.
A Perth victory here would all but secure a remarkable sixth straight semi-final appearance, however they will have to do it without skipper Adam Voges who has been sidelined for 1-2 weeks with a hamstring complaint.
The Heat succumbed to their first defeat of BBL06 on Tuesday night, overcome by the Sydney Sixers who snuck home with three wickets in hand and just two balls to spare. Batting first, the Heat got off to a typically explosive start, racing to 73 without loss in the seventh over, however the dismissal of Brendon McCullum for 30 off 21 balls and subsequent failure of Chris Lynn (13 off 7 balls) left the rest of the Brisbane batting order to do the heavy lifting. ‘Keeper-batsman Jimmy Pierson responded with 44 off 30 balls at the top of the order, before former test star Joe Burns rounded off the innings with a fluent 51 not out from 33 balls to elevate the Heat to 6/186.
For much of the chase, that total looked like enough to secure Brisbane their fourth straight victory to start the season, however the game turned between the 12th and 16th overs when the Heat leaked 67 which allowed the Sixers to gain the ascendancy and ultimately run down the target in the final over. After impressing in the earlier stages of the tournament, young paceman Mark Steketee endured a horrific night, taken for 45 off his three overs, however leg-spinner Mitch Swepson bowled with excellent control to claim 2/25 off four overs.
There will be more responsibility on the young shoulders of Swepson with fellow leggie Samuel Badree ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Lynn is also in doubt after jarring his shoulder in the field, which has resulted in Nathan Reardon and Marnus Labuschagne being placed on standby.
First innings scores of 7/197 and 4/177 at the WACA this season suggest that conditions are favourable for batting, although given that both sides who batted second failed to reach 150 then we may see a reversal of the trend of teams choosing to field first at the toss. English import Ian Bell has enjoyed his new home surroundings, with scores of 61 and 45 at an overall strike-rate of 132.50.
- The Scorchers have won eight of their past 12 matches.
- The Scorchers have also won four of their past five matches at the WACA.
- The Heat won only two out of six matches against the Scorchers.
- Excluding Samuel Badree’s overs, the Heat have conceded runs at 9.72 an over in BBL06.
- Seven of the Heat’s past nine matches have seen 14 or more sixes.
With the loss of Badree and Lynn in doubt the market has turned on the Heat, installing the Scorchers as warm favourites in this top-of-the-table clash.
Given the Scorchers’ strong record at home, they are not the sort of side you want to oppose at the WACA but whether they can be backed at such short odds is another question entirely. While they may sit in first place on the ladder, their tournament has not been impressive as it might have been when you consider that they laboured at times against the Strikers, were overwhelmed comfortably by the Sixers and needed a last-ball six to defeat the Renegades. Their only convincing performance has come against the lowly Sydney Thunder, and even then they probably left a few runs out in the centre.
However there is a very good reason that news of Badree’s omission has seen the Heat drift like a barge, when you consider that his economy rate of 6.12 stands out like a beacon against his teammates’ of which Steketee’s 8.26 is the next best. The Heat already leak runs at 9 an over with Badree, but when you exclude the West Indian’s overs that jumps to 9.72, so things could really get ugly against a long Scorchers batting unit which admittedly is yet to reach their full potential.
However Brisbane’s own batting line-up should fancy its chances against a Perth attack which, outside of Willey and Tye, looks a bit light. Of course much will rest on the fitness of Lynn but even without their talisman the Heat boast enough power to trouble the Scorchers in the field and as such I cannot justify a pre-match back of the hosts at these prices.
That leaves us with the prospect of another high-scoring encounter which leads me towards the Total Sixes market. Matches involving the Heat this season have rained sixes with an average of 17.5 per game and no less than 15 in any individual match. If you stretch back as far as last season they still average 14.4 sixes per game, with seven of their last nine matches seeing 14 or more maximums.
The Scorchers’ record for clearing the ropes is nowhere near as strong with Perth matches averaging only 7.3 sixes this season, although that does extend slightly to 8.15 if you include games from BBL05. However the primary reason for Perth’s low number is their miserly bowling – giving up an average of only 2.5 sixes per game this season – however they are yet to face a batting unit quite like that of the Heat.
There is also plenty of upside in their batting too, with the likes of Klinger and Shaun Marsh not clearing the boundary as often as they have historically, plus Voges’ injury will ensure that recognised hitters Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar and David Willey will all move up a spot and potentially face more deliveries.
Furthermore the loss of Badree not only places more strain on an already-modest Heat bowling attack, but in the event that Brisbane bat first, it should result in an even more aggressive approach than normal in the knowledge that they will need to set something monstrous in order for it to be defended.
The doubt surrounding Lynn may spook a few away from this market and there’s no doubt that his omission would be significant given that he has struck 15 of the Heat’s 40 sixes, however Brisbane also boast seven other six-hitters this season, while Lynn’s likely replacement Nathan Reardon is no stranger to depositing the ball into the crowd, averaging an impressive 0.8 sixes per innings.
As a trading strategy you could do far worse than simply backing each side when they bat, but for a judicious pre-match wager, I’d suggest backing 14 or more total sixes to land in yet another Heat fixture.
BACK – Total Sixes 14 or more at 2.00 or bigger for 1 unit.