The 2016/17 Big Bash League commences on Tuesday night when defending champions Sydney Thunder host cross-town rivals Sydney Sixers at the Sydney Showground Stadium.
The Sixers require one more win to secure a spot in the top four and potentially push for a home final. They wrapped up their fourth victory of the season on Monday night in a tense affair against the Melbourne Renegades. Fielding first, the Sixers managed to keep the Renegades batting line-up relatively in-check, with the run rate shy of 8.50 an over for the majority of the innings until a late flurry lifted them to 6/170 off their 20 overs.
Left-arm quick Ben Dwarshuis was the pick of the bowlers, claiming 3/35 from his four overs, while veteran off-spinner Johan Botha was typically frugal in his spell of 1/28 off four. The Sixers’ chase was a masterclass in how to effectively pace a pursuit of a middling total, not allowing the run rate required to exceed nine an over until the final six balls where man of the match Brad Haddin (31 off 23 balls) kept his cool and guided the Sixers home with two balls remaining.
Earlier, opener Daniel Hughes rode his luck to compile an important 41 off 29 balls, sharing in an opening stand of 72 with English left-hander Michael Lumb who impressed in his first appearance of BBL06 with 31 off 22 balls. The Sixers have received a further boost with explosive New Zealand all-rounder Colin Munro available to make his BBL debut which is likely to be at the expense of batsman Jordan Silk.
They may have taken some time to warm to the task but the Thunder finally seem to have found their groove with consecutive wins over the Melbourne Stars and Hobart Hurricanes. While it took an astonishing last-ball six to defeat the Stars, the margin of victory over the Hurricanes was far more comfortable, claiming a six-wicket win with 19 balls to spare.
Winning the toss and electing to field, the Thunder removed Hobart’s dangerous opening pair early to leave them reeling at 2/10, and while the Hurricanes rebuilt their innings efficaciously they could not manage to put their foot on the accelerator until the final five overs from which they took 61 to boost their total to an acceptable 8/161. Although they were both on the end of the Hurricanes late onslaught, pacemen Pat Cummins (2/36 off four overs) and Carlos Brathwaite (2/31 off three overs) picked up two wickets each, while leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed exhibited enviable control in his tight spell of 0/19 off four overs.
The Thunder’s chase was kick-started by new overseas signing James Vince who made an immediate impression with a classy 44 off 28 balls, before captain Shane Watson enjoyed a timely return to form, belting 55 off just 31 balls to see his side home comfortably. A ninth Derby loss here will put an end to the Thunder’s slim hopes of retaining the trophy.
Sydney Cricket Ground
The side batting second has won two out of three matches at the SCG this season, with the hosts prevailing on both occasions. Five of the past seven first innings totals have exceeded 160, however Sixers’ tweaker Johan Botha has been particularly tough to get away at home, conceding runs at just 6.25 runs an over this season.
- The Sixers have won eight of ten matches against the Thunder.
- The Sixers have batted second in every match this season, winning four out of six.
- The Thunder have won four of their past six matches away from home.
- The Thunder have won only one of their past five matches when batting first, however have won four of their past six when batting second.
- Ten of the past 14 matches involving the Sixers have had 11 or less sixes.
The Sixers are expected to maintain their strong record in the Derby and wrap-up a semi-final spot, ending the Thunder’s title defence in the process.
After breaking through for their maiden title win in BBL05 following four seasons of finishing no better than seventh, the Thunder must have held grave fears that they were headed back to the dark days of yonder. However in their last two matches they have had an international batsman step up – Morgan against the Stars and Vince against the Hurricanes – while at the same time young opener Kurtis Patterson has got the Thunder off to a much quicker start, scoring at a strike-rate of 141.67 after striking at only 107.84 earlier in the season.
Their bowling attack has also come to the party, which has coincided with the return of Shane Watson (four wickets at an average of 17.75 and economy rate of 7.10) to the bowling crease, with the skipper also finding some touch with the bat in their previous fixture. However there are still concerns surrounding the defending champions, namely their skinny middle-order and third pace option outside of Watson and Pat Cummins, with the likes of Clint McKay, Gurinder Sandhu and, most recently, Carlos Brathwaite all proving expensive.
The Sixers, meanwhile, have also found some form, knocking over fellow semi-final aspirants Brisbane Heat and Melbourne Renegades in consecutive matches. Both wins featured admirable chases, something the Sixers should be getting very good at as they have batted second in all six games this season.
On average their bowling attack is conceding a first innings score of 7/166 which, while not straight-forward, does provide their batting line-up with ample opportunity to ensure that they win more matches than they lose.
Perhaps the one question mark over their recent performances is that they took both games right to the final over before prevailing, so had a few things not gone their way they could easily be sitting on two wins rather than just two losses.
However the key factor for me in this match is the toss. We know that the Sixers prefer to chase, electing to field on all four occasions when they have won the toss and having experienced plenty of success when batting second this season. The Thunder too, have chosen to bat second on all four occasions that the coin has landed in their favour, and it’s hardly surprising when you consider that they have won four of their past six games when batting second, but only one of their past five when batting first.
Furthermore the chasing side has won 63% of matches in this season’s tournament, including two out of three at the SCG. So as things stand I wouldn’t wish to be involved in the match odds before knowing who has that advantage of batting second, but I would anticipate that the market will not adjust sufficiently for the result of the toss which is why I suggest backing whichever side is chasing.
Alternately if you’re looking for a pre-match wager, you could do far worse than oppose both sides’ ability to clear the ropes. This season five out of six matches involving the Sixers have had 11 sixes or less, and if we stretch back a bit further that increases to 10 of their past 14 matches.
The Thunder also have a fairly compelling record for taking on maximums, with four of their six matches in BBL06 producing 11 or less sixes (and one other just sneaking over with 12), while if we look back a bit further nine of the Thunder’s past 16 matches have garnered no more than 11 sixes.
Additionally six of the past seven matches at the SCG have had 11 or less sixes, including all three this season, so I’ll have no hesitation in backing under 11.5 sixes to be struck in this match.
BACK – Whichever team bats second for 1 unit.
BACK – Under 11.5 sixes at 1.80 or bigger for 1 unit.