While the tour of India remains Australia’s marquee event this summer, there is no denying that the Big Bash League (BBL) has its own significance. Given the current grim environment around the world, cricket comes to the rescue of the Australian public, enabling them to forget the pandemic at least momentarily.
Over the years, the BBL has produced some excellent cricket, featuring some of the best players from Australia and other parts of the world. Into its 10th edition, the BBL continues to be one of the sought after T20 tournaments in the cricketing calendar.
With bio-secure bubbles taking a toll on players – physically and mentally – many stars have already pulled out of the league for personal reasons, also stating fatigue.
In a bid to be innovative, the BBL did come out with some new rules for this edition, which have been met with a few criticisms here and there, but if the teams manage to use them wisely, it could very well become a trendsetter.
Coming to the match in hand, Melbourne Stars, led by Glenn Maxwell take on Brisbane Heat, led by another hard-hitter in Chris Lynn, in Match 2 of the 2020/21 BBL at the Manuka Oval, Canberra. Needless to say that the world will be looking forward to these two guns smash it from ball one.
Despite producing some magnificent cricket last season, the Stars finished runners-up and their wait for their maiden title was further extended. Heat, on the other hand, have finished in the bottom half of the table in the last three seasons and would be determined to set the record straight this time. It has not started off well for them as AB de Villiers and Tom Banton have already pulled out of the tournament.
To make matters worse, their star spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival in Australia and he is most likely to miss the first two games. However, they possess the leading run-scorer in the tournament (Lynn) and also the highest wicket-taker in Ben Laughlin, along with some tough competitors like Morne Morkel, Max Bryant and Sam Heazlett, which makes them a competitive unit.
As far as the Stars are concerned, Maxwell has turned things around in the limited-overs series against India after a poor IPL, striking the ball quite cleanly. His side seems to be the more experienced one with the likes of Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, and Nathan Coulter-Nile at his disposal among other talented cricketers. The inclusion of Jonny Bairstow after Christmas will make this team even stronger.
Both teams will have a few of their star players like Mitchell Swepson, Mark Steketee and Nic Maddinson back in the reckoning after their participation for the Australia A squad against India A.
Heats’ Achilles heal
Brisbane have been quick off the block in the Powerplays over the last two seasons (run-rate of 8.9) but get bogged down in the next two phases, which has not boded well for them. However, they have lost a wicket every 19.8 balls in the first six, which is the worst in the league since BBL 8.
However, their run-rate and balls per wicket drops drastically in the rest of the match (between overs 7 to 20). By the looks of it, this is the area they lose momentum, and with it the match as well. The fact that they have finished fifth and seventh in the previous two seasons is therefore not that surprising.
The Stars, on the other hand, have had a completely different approach wherein, they start off slowly but pick the pace up in the middle overs and then finish with a flourish.
While they are at the bottom when it comes to Powerplays (run-rate of 7.2), their run-rate of 7.9 in the middle phase is the best since the 2018 season. However, overall after the Powerplay, they are one of the better teams as the graph above shows.
How the new ‘Power Surge’ rule will affect this approach is to be seen.
Under par bowling
Haris Rauf and Sandeep Lamichhane had picked up 35 wickets between them for the Stars in the previous edition and both of them will not feature for the team this time. While Rauf will be busy with national duties, the Nepal leg-spinner has signed up with Hobart Hurricanes this season. However, for the Heat, their three top wicket-takers from last season managed just 37 wickets between them, showing a yawning gap between the two sides.
The Stars have roped in Afghanistan wrist-spinner Zahir Khan, and along with Zampa, he could very well be a useful asset for the team. Stars have also gone on to sign fast bowler Dilbar Hussain, continuing their great relationship with Lahore Qalandars, through which they got hold of Rauf. Hussain played just one game last season for the Stars but is expected to play a bigger role this time, bowling along with the likes of Billy Stanlake, Stoinis, Coulter-Nile and a young Lance Morris.
As far as the Heat are concerned, they have many new faces, but they do have some veterans who will be entrusted to deliver again. Laughlin and Morkel form a formidable duo, but there does not seem to be much experience other than them. Lewis Gregory is a welcome addition, but he is unavailable until Christmas and, as a result, Brisbane will have to dig deep into their local talents to deliver.
Match: Melbourne Stars vs Brisbane Heat, BBL 2020-21, Match 2
Date: Friday, December 11, 2020
Venue: Manuka Oval, Canberra
Time: 1:45 PM IST