Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat have had quite similar starts to their Big Bash League (BBL) 2020-21 campaign. While Heat were handed a six-wicket thrashing, Thunder suffered a 22-run loss – both coming against Melbourne Stars, who have picked up maximum points from their two matches so far. Thunder and Heat now have a great chance to get over their respective losses when they clash in Match 7 of BBL 10 at the Manuka Oval, Canberra.
With the first match out of the way for both teams, this now provides them an opportunity to reflect on their performances and make a few tweaks – be it in personnel or maybe their strategy. Both teams have a few players coming into the squad in the upcoming weeks. For Thunder, Sam Billings is undergoing a 14-day quarantine upon his arrival from South Africa, while New Zealand quick Adam Milne is believed to be recovering from a hamstring injury and won’t be available for selection until Heat’s third match.
As far as Heat are concerned, Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s return to the camp after recovering from COVID-19 will certainly be a huge boost for them. However, with the likes of Mark Stekete, Jack Wildermuth and Mitchell Swepson involved in the tour match against India, their chances of playing this match seem slim at the moment and the Heat will have to make do with the players they have at their disposal. There is also no clarity on Morne Morkel, who is eligible to play in the tournament as a local player.
Use of Power Surge overs
With batsmen having the right to choose two overs of Powerplay after the mandatory four overs at the start of the innings, the move seems to have done more harm than good to the batting team. In their first match, Heat used overs 16 and 17 in a bid to gain some momentum after a lackluster innings to that point but managed to score just 13 runs and lost a couple of wickets as well. Thunder too used the two overs at the same time, which also yielded the same result.
The batting team can consider using the two overs, which are available after the 10th over of an innings right away, especially if there are two set batsmen at the crease, who can hit the ball cleanly. The more they put it off, the more it has worked in the favour of the bowling team, at least in the initial games of the competition.
While in the last two matches, there have been big runs scored off them, it can be said that this experiment is still in its early stages and will probably take some time for the franchises to get their strategies right
Areas to address
It was a weak batting performance by the Heat in their first game – so much so that not a single batsman scored 30 - and with not many runs on the board, they struggled. But there were encouraging signs with the ball for the team, having picked up three quick wickets against Melbourne Stars. Add Mujeeb and maybe Morkel to the mix and they’ve got a formidable attack.
Looking at the Heat’s bench, there does not seem to be any player that they can bring in to make their batting attack formidable, except ensure that players getting the chance take onus to play a bit more responsibly. They will have a tough season ahead considering the likes of AB de Villiers, Tom Banton (pulled out), Ben Cutting (moved to Thunder), Marnus Labuschagne (national duty) and Matt Renshaw (moved to Adelaide Strikers) are not part of the team this season. They will have to groom and make do with players at their disposal at the moment, which by no stretch of imagination will be easy.
Thunder, on the other hand, have as good a top three as any other team, with Usman Khawaja, Alex Hales and Callum Ferguson occupying those spots. As far as their bowling is concerned, Thunder used spinners Chris Green, debutant Tanveer Sangha and Jonathan Cook in four out of the final five overs, conceding just 31 runs between them and picking up a couple of wickets as well.
Daniel Sams followed that up with just three runs off the final over, meaning the bowlers had scripted a terrific comeback. From 92 for 1 after 10, the Heat would have taken restricting the Stars to just 169, but once Hales was dismissed for 46, Ferguson fought a lone battle and found no support from the other end. The addition of Sam Billings perhaps in the line-up would certainly give Thunder a bit more cushion in the batting and also give them some balance.
Thunder may have played as many as three spinners against the Stars, but they have experienced fast bowling options in Chris Tremain and Brendan Doggett if they need to replace one of the spinners.
It is early days in the competition. Most teams are still looking to find their right combination at this stage. Brisbane Heat and Sydney Thunder too have that conundrum and need to sort it out in the next three to four games, else they could find themselves playing catch-up for the rest of the competition.
Sydney Thunder: Usman Khawaja, Alex Hales, Callum Ferguson (c), Baxter Holt (wk), Alex Ross, Ben Cutting, Daniel Sams, Chris Green, Nathan McAndrew, Jonathan Cook/Chris Tremain, Tanveer Sangha
Brisbane Heat: Chris Lynn (c), Max Bryant, Sam Heazlett, Daniel Lawrence, Tom Cooper, Jimmy Peirson (wk), Simon Milenko, Jack Wood, Xavier Bartlett, Ben Laughlin, Matthew Kuhnemann
Match: Sydney Thunder vs Brisbane Heat, BBL 2020-21, Match 7
Where: The Manuka Oval, Canberra
Date: December 14, 2020
Time: 1:45 PM IST