BBL|05 gave us the most exciting finish to a season in Big Bash League history, and it is nearly time for the BBL to return to our screens. The BBL brings with it big hitting batsmen, aggressive fast bowlers, classic catches, music, mascots and fireworks. It is more than cricket; it is an entertainment experience.
BBL|06 will run from the 20th of December to the 28th of January with every team playing each other once, and rivalry teams playing each other twice (such as both Melbourne based teams and both Sydney based teams).
The Michael Hussey led Thunder took home their first BBL title in the 2015/16 season in a Grand Final final over thriller against the Melbourne Stars at the MCG. After finishing in eighth position in the first three seasons, and seventh in the fourth, it was a stellar performance by the Thunder to come from fourth position and win it all.
The Thunder have lost a lot of experience in veterans Jacques Kallis and Michael Hussey finishing up at the club. However, managing to retain Andre Russell, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and Clint McKay, who were all instrumental in their success in BBL|05, as well as signing young gun fast bowler Pat Cummins, the Thunder are sitting well to challenge again this season.
The more successful of the two Melbourne based teams, the Stars fell agonisingly short last year, and will no doubt be more motivated than ever to go all the way this season.
They have all the ingredients to be a winning side, with top end batting talent in Kevin Pietersen, Glenn Maxwell, Luke Wright and David Hussey, a strong bowling attack with John Hastings, Ben Hilfenhaus and spinner Michael Beer, and top all-rounders James Faulkner and Marcus Stoinis, they have all the depth and talent required, even if certain players are called up for international duties during the Summer.
Despite finishing on top of the table after the regular season for the second year in a row, the Strikers finished disappointingly, again getting knocked out in the Semi-Final, this time by the Sydney Thunder. Bringing in Brad Hodge as captain was important to their regular season success, as well as good form from star batsman Travis Head. With a strong line up bolstered by Kieron Pollard returning after missing last season with injury, the Strikers will be right up there again, and this time they need to capitalise on their success.
The Scorchers have been the most successful team in the history of the Big Bash League, competing in four out of five Grand Finals and winning two. They are yet to finish outside of the top 3, and by the looks of things they will be there when the whips are cracking again in BBL|06. Perth have managed to maintain a great stock of depth and talent throughout the franchises short history with names like Adam Voges, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff and veteran Brad Hogg being great servants over the journey.
The two major changes for the Scorchers was the controversial exit of Brad Hogg to the Renegades, and the addition of spear head and former star Test cricketer Mitchell Johnson, which is sure to have opposing batsmen shaking in their boots.
Apart from a decent season in BBL|02, the Renegades have not experienced much success since the inauguration of the competition. Although their champion skipper Aaron Finch is one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, he has not experienced much support from his fellow batsmen, and although they have a strong bowling line up with Pattinson, Siddle, Rimmington, Doherty and the recently added Hogg, their batting depth is still an issue, heightened by the departure of West Indian star Chris Gayle after a controversial season last Summer.
Brisbane have retained their two top end international imports this season in West Indian leg-spinner Samuel Badree, who is rated the number one T20 bowler in the world, and former New Zealand Test captain Brendon McCullum after he missed last season with injury.
There will be a heavy reliance on these two as well as BBL|05 highest run scorer Chris Lynn, and Australian opener Joe Burns if the Heat want to elevate themselves into the finals in BBL|06.
The Hurricanes could prove to be a surprise packet this year. They have some strong batting in George Bailey, Ben Dunk, and international star Kumar Sangakkara, a great young spinner in Cameron Boyce and of course ‘the wild thing’ Shaun Tait. This plus one of the top Australian all-rounders in Dan Christian, Hobart will definitely be looking to improve on their seventh position finish of last season.
After bottoming out last season and finishing in eighth position, the Sixers will be striving to return to the BBL finals in the coming season.
Their biggest issue last season was that they were almost too talented, with many of their players being called up for international duties. This could prove to be a problem again this year, with players like Starc, Lyon, Hazlewood, Bird and Henriques all likely to represent the country at some point. However, the Sixers still have strong BBL performers such as Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Johan Botha, Michael Lumb, Jordan Silk and former Australian wicket keeper Brad Haddin waiting in the ranks, so don’t write them off.
We often approach the BBL with an element of the unknown. Which players will announce themselves on the big stage, which players will experience form slumps, who will make finals and who won’t, are all questions that will be asked. But, until the season actually gets underway, it will all be speculation.
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