As we enter the business end of the tournament, it is Sydney Thunder, the second-placed team who take on Hobart Hurricanes, who are just a spot below them, with everything to play for. Thunder were in the middle of an excellent run in which they had won five consecutive matches, but they could not defend 174 against Brisbane Heat – a match they lost by five wickets. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, have not really put together a string of victories but have somehow managed to eke out a few crucial wins and are still very much in contention to progress to the next stage. A win for either side will take them to the top of the table - an extra incentive, perhaps.
Steady across phases
Sydney Thunder have been a top team when it comes to their batting. If we break the innings into three phases (run-rates in bracket) – overs 1-4 (9), overs 5-10 (7.8) and 11-20 (10.3), Thunder are right on top when it comes to batting run-rate across all three stages. Meanwhile, Hurricanes start off slow in the Powerplay but make steady progress in the next two phases.
The main reason for Thunder’s impressive performances in the first four overs is the form Alex Hales has been in. The England batsman has scored 129 runs at a strike-rate of 195.4. From Hobart’s point of view, they have always made a slow start as they have more often than not lost an early wicket, which has reduced the pace at which the batsmen have scored. D’Arcy Short and Ben McDermott have scored 108 off 113 combined in the Powerplay, which does not even work out to a strike-rate of 100.
While the Hurricanes might be last in the pile when we talk about scoring rate in the first four overs, they push it up to 7.3 between overs 5-10, and in the last 10 overs, they score at an impressive 9.7.
With the inclusion of Sandeep Lamichhane, Hobart finally have more quality in the spin department and are not dependent on Johan Botha to do the work. However, their top six boasts of quality players and with Dawid Malan having joined the team in the last four matches, the line-up has become even stronger. However, surprisingly, Short still remains a weak link at the top. He has scored just 50 runs in the last six innings, which does not bode well for the team. Given the lack of experience in their squad, Short might be given another go. They also have youngsters like Charlie Wakim and Mitchell Owen among others who could be given a go in his place.
For the Thunder, while there seems to be very little wrong with what their batsmen have been doing, it all eventually boils down to their bowling. The most disappointing one on that front has been Adam Milne, who has gone wicketless in three out of the four matches he has played so far.
Also, with Daniel Sams likely to be out as a precaution due to the concussion he suffered after being hit on the head the other day, Thunder will be further depleted in the bowling department in the absence of BBL 09’s leading wicket-taker. Not to forget, his big hits down the order too will be missed. To strengthen the batting department, they could consider getting Alex Ross in place of Oliver Davies.
Hobart Hurricanes likely XI: Ben McDermott (wk), D Arcy Short, Dawid Malan, Peter Handscomb (c), Colin Ingram, Tim David, Johan Botha, Nathan Ellis, Scott Boland, Riley Meredith, Sandeep Lamichhane
Sydney Thunder likely XI: Usman Khawaja, Alex Hales, Callum Ferguson (c), Sam Billings (wk), Oliver Davies/Alex Ross, Ben Cutting, Chris Green, Nathan McAndrew, Adam Milne, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain
Match: Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Thunder, BBL 2020-21, Match 31
Date: January 7, 2021
Venue: Perth Stadium, Perth
Time: 12.40 PM IST