Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes will lock horns in the fifth match of the Big Bash League (BBL) 2020/21 at the Bellerive Oval, Hobart on Sunday. Strikers are the last side to get their campaign underway. Hurricanes, on the other end, played the curtain raiser, clinching three points to get their season underway.
Historically, Strikers have had the better of the Hurricanes, winning eight out of their 14 contests, out of which one ended without a result.
The last time Strikers took the field, a batting collapse - losing six wickets for 28 runs in 31 balls - cost them a spot in the top three and a potential chance to play the final. One of the better teams last season, they now have to hit the reset button. With the squad they have, maintaining the core from last year with some interesting additions, there is no reason why they can’t have a similar season.
Their biggest strength lies in a powerful spin attack, at least for as long as Rashid Khan is available. Rashid picked 19 wickets last year at an impressive economy of 7.2 runs per over but lacked support from the other end. He bowled 55 overs and the next most overs bowled by a spinner in the side was Travis Head’s 11 overs of part-time off-spin.
This season, Strikers have added Danny Briggs, the all-time highest wicket-taker in England’s T20 Blast competition. A restrictive spinner like most left-arm orthodox bowlers, Briggs will add great value to the Strikers, attempting to choke the opposition alongside Rashid.
The pace attack is, however, decent at best. They have lost Billy Stanlake and Michael Neser is unavailable for the first few games. Peter Siddle, Wes Agar and Daniel Worrall are the only three specialist pacers named in the 13-man squad for the first game.
Despite the unavailability of Travis Head and Alex Carey, they have players to look after the batting with Jake Weatherald, Phil Salt and Jonathan Wells available. Weatherald, amongst this lot, is returning to the cricket field after missing a number of domestic games owing to a break to look after his mental health.
Batting depth could be an issue for them heading into this fixture. If they bat second, X-Factor can come in to rectify that.
The Hurricanes began the ongoing campaign with a clinical 16-run win over the reigning champions, Sydney Sixers. They lost both their openers for a duck each but fought back to put 178 runs on the board. Colin Ingram, Peter Handscomb and the Singapore international, Tim David, contributed in the Hurricanes’ revival.
They have a contrasting bowling attack when compared to the Strikers. While their spin attack is average - no one knows what to expect from Johan Botha who had been retired from professional cricket for over a year - they possess a pretty impressive pace attack. Riley Meredith and Nathan Ellis are pushing for a claim in the Australian T20I side. James Faulkner and Scott Boland are both experienced pros in the league. Each of them were amongst the wickets in the league opener.
It will be crucial how the Hurricanes tackle the Strikers’ spin duo. Since 2019, Briggs has bowled a majority of his overs in the first half of the innings (42 out of 80) and he will run into both of the Hurricanes’ southpaws - D’Arcy Short and Colin Ingram. In the same period, Briggs has been dominated by left-handers.
Will he continue to bowl in that phase or will the Strikers come up with a different strategy to suit their new recruit?
Peter Siddle (c), Wes Agar, Danny Briggs (OS), Ryan Gibson, Rashid Khan (OS), Harry Nielsen (wk), Matt Renshaw, Phil Salt (OS), Matt Short, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald Jon Wells, Daniel Worrall
Scott Boland, Johan Botha, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, James Faulkner, Peter Handscomb (c/wk), Colin Ingram, Caleb Jewell, Will Jacks, Riley Meredith, David Moody, Wil Parker, D'Arcy Short, Charlie Wakim, Nick Winter, Macalister Wright