The Sydney Sixers will be hoping to continue their impressive start to BBL06 when they host the unfancied Hobart Hurricanes at the SCG on Friday night.
The Sixers could hardly have been more impressive in brushing aside cross-town rivals the Thunder by nine wickets in the tournament’s opening fixture on Tuesday night. Pace bowling triad Doug Bollinger, Joe Mennie and Ben Dwarshuis each claimed two wickets, while spinners Steve O’Keefe (1/16 off four overs) and Johan Botha (1/29 off four overs) were typically frugal as the Sixers restricted the Thunder to 8/159 on what was a favourable pitch for batting.
The Sixers’ fielding was also particularly impressive with English recruits Jason Roy and Sam Billings both taking athletic catches at crucial junctures in the innings. Roy then kick-started the run-chase with a breezy 27 off 18 balls, before his opening partner Dan Hughes (54 off 49) and captain Moises Henriques (76 off 41) combined for an unbeaten stand of 115 off 75 balls to see the Sixers home comfortably. Coming back from a recent side strain, Henriques looked in especially menacing touch, blasting seven fours and four sixes in a dominant display.
Less convincing was the output from fellow all-rounder Sean Abbott, who after conceding runs at 10 an over in BBL05, leaked 24 from three wicketless overs here, however after such a commanding performance it is unlikely that the Sixers will make any changes to their side, especially with five representatives away on test duty.
The Hurricanes enter the competition as one of the clear outsiders and will be looking to put aside any nightmares from the corresponding fixture last season when the Sixers rolled them for just 91 to claim a sizeable 95-run victory. It was spin that did most of the damage that day and the away side have taken notice with four spinners – Cameron Boyce, Clive Rose, Beau Webster and Darcy Short – all part of their match-day squad.
Their slow-bowling foursome nicely compliments their pace attack which features veteran speedster Shaun Tait and English enforcer Stuart Broad, while new signing Hamish Kingston is expected to take responsibility for keeping the runs down at the back end of the innings.
Experienced pair Tim Paine and George Bailey were the only Hobart batsmen to pass 200 runs last season, so this time around they will be hoping for more support from celebrated Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara and damaging ball-striker Dan Christian.
There will be a keen tussle for middle-order spots at the Hurricanes with Dom Michael, Jonathan Wells and Beau Webster all vying for spots in the starting XI. One area where Hobart will need to improve is in their record away from Bellerive Oval where they have won just one of their past five matches.
Sydney Cricket Ground
The SCG seemed to favour the batsmen last season with an average first innings total of 7/172, with only the one score under 160. The side batting first won three of four matches, however the Sixers themselves managed just the sole victory. It’s also worth noting that in BBL05 at the SCG spinners averaged 18.63 at an economy rate of 7.11, whereas pace bowlers averaged 25.50 at an economy rate of 8.58.
- The Sixers have won four of their six clashes with the Hurricanes.
- However the Sixers have won just two of their past seven matches at the SCG.
- Hobart have lost seven of their last ten matches, including their last four straight.
- Hobart have also lost four of their past five matches away from home.
- Hobart recorded the higher opening partnership in only three of eight matches last season.
The market has taken notice of the Sixers’ performance against the Thunder, installing them as healthy favourites with the Hurricanes clear outsiders.
It’s hard to overlook the dominance of the Sixers on Tuesday night and there is no doubt they deserve their favouritism against one of the weaker-looking sides in the competition. Man for man the hosts appear have their opposition covered, however there are a couple of nagging factors which suggest that their price is just a tad too short to back. First there is the fact that while Hobart have struggled away from home, the Sixers have not found the SCG to provide any sort of home advantage of late, winning only two of their past seven matches there.
Secondly, while the Hurricanes are undoubtedly the weaker side on paper, they do seem well set up to manage the conditions with a wide range of slow-bowling options which will suit the spin-friendly pitch at the SCG, so while I wouldn’t suggest backing the Hurricanes I can’t quite be convinced to take them on either.
An area where the Sixers appear to have a more distant advantage is at the top of the order. In Jason Roy they have one of the most dangerous opening batsman in T20 cricket, while the form of Dan Hughes cannot be overlooked with his unbeaten half-century in the season opener adding to what has already been a stellar season across all formats.
Conversely Hobart skipper Tim Paine has been left out of the Tasmanian Sheffield Shield side so will come into the competition slightly underdone, plus there is no clear candidate for his opening partner with likely options Darcy Short, Dom Michael and Beau Webster not having scored a T20 run between them.
The personnel may have changed but historically these sides have experienced contrasting fortunes at the beginning of their innings with the Sixers outscoring the opposition opening partnership in five of eight games last season, whereas the Hurricanes managed it just three times despite having seasoned opener Ben Dunk at their disposal in BBL05. So while I’m slightly hesitant to take on the Hurricanes in the match, I’m more than happy to oppose their top two and back the Sixers to record the higher opening partnership.
BACK – Sydney Sixers Highest Opening Partnership at 1.75 or better for 2 units.