The action all kicks off tomorrow night as the Sydney Smash will once again open the tournament in the 2017-18 BBL. Having made the final in BBL 06, the Sydney Sixers would fancy their chances against crosstown-rivals the Sydney Thunder who finished last in their previous campaign.
It’s unclear what the future holds for the Thunder in BBL 07, they’re one of the more inconsistent teams in the competition and have had their fair share of failures. It wasn’t until they were crowned BBL 05 champions in 2015-16 that they were a proven outfit in the league, but they followed up that highly-successful stint with a forgettable 2016-17 campaign. The Thunder will be without Pat Cummins and Usman Khawaja who both played a huge part in the side for the past couple of tournaments respectively, so it’s now up to the likes of those senior players to fill the void of two very talented individuals who have been carrying this team, particularly Cummins in BBL 06. The Sydney Thunder will be led by Shane Watson who just recently hit a record-16 sixes in a Sydney Premier Cricket game for Sutherland. In the batting department, they’ve managed to recruit former Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades batsman Callum Ferguson who should strengthen the top order, along with star English limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler who’s just returned from the BPL in the subcontinent. 23-year-old Penrith young gun Ryan Gibson is another to look out for in this clash, Gibson top scored for the Thunder on debut last year with a fluent 53. The Thunder batsmen are going to have to be at their very-best to match the Sixers firepower with the willow.
With their batting struggling to fire at times in BBL 06, the Thunder might have to turn to their bowlers for some support which is very spin-friendly it must be said. Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed was the Thunders leading wicket taker last year with Chris Green also having to play a role as the second spinner, even speedster Pat Cummins struggled to make an impact when required (which is hard to believe). The signing of Black Caps seamer Mitchell McClenaghan should make up for the absence of Cummins, he’s been in decent domestic form for Auckland in limited-overs cricket with the stats to back it up. The problem is that nothing stands out to a significant degree in this bowling attack, that could force Shane Watson to chance his luck against re-injuring himself in a bid to take more wickets, he’s a quality medium pacer who has had phenomenal success on the International stage in the past. Unlike most sides, the Thunder haven’t got a preferred line-up that consistently features the same names game after game.
The Sydney Sixers head into the Sydney Smash with a team hungry for redemption after losing the 2016-17 BBL final against the Perth Scorchers who never looked like losing on their home deck. The Sixers are up against a Thunder outfit that doesn’t have as much firepower in both departments as themselves, and with a number of Sixers players down on form in their previous BBL campaign, the sky’s the limit in BBL 07! The two Englishmen Jason Roy and Sam Billings have already shown what they can do on these Australian wickets in the BBL, and it’s exciting times ahead with the pair set to play a significant part in yet another tournament with the Sydney Sixers. Roy is your traditional hard-hitting opener who’s very-much the whole package, Billings on the other hand is your more orthodox batsman who accumulates runs by threading the gaps with awkward looking shots at times, but extremely effective. Moises Henriques will lead the Sixers once again and is a proven performer in these types of tournaments, but the key batsman for the men in pink will be Nic Maddinson who has rediscovered his more adventurous side to the game. Maddinson lit up the JLT Cup for New South Wales a couple months back with two breathtaking centuries that should see him return to his best in BBL 07.
The signing of former Melbourne Renegades wicketkeeper Peter Nevill should really benefit the Sixers bowling attack as well, very nimble and sharp behind the stumps, Nevill should be able to impact the contest with the gloves more often than not in the 2017-18 BBL. It’s a huge perk for spinners Stephen O’Keefe and Johan Botha who are two very difficult bowlers to get away when they’re both tying down an end, the pair can be used to slow the run rate down if the seamers are conceding too many runs. Both O’Keefe and Botha complement Sean Abbott and Doug Bollinger really well, but it’s Abbott who has made a name for himself as the Sydney Sixers No. 1 spearhead. He’s been a wicket-taking machine in his past couple of seasons in the BBL, It’s Abbott’s variations that often catch unsuspecting batsmen out when they’re getting used to a consistent pace from his teammates. the Sixers could also unleash two debutante seamers tomorrow night, Harry Conway and Daniel Sams who are both 25-years of age with one-career T20 match between the two of them.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Sydney Thunder | BBL | 1st match | Sydney
- Shane Watson
- Callum Ferguson
- Fawad Ahmed
- Mitchell McClenaghan
- Jos Buttler
Wildcard pick – Ryan Gibson
Top 5 fantasy picks | Sydney Sixers | BBL | 1st match | Sydney
- Moises Henriques
- Sean Abbott
- Nic Maddinson
- Jason Roy
- Stephen O’Keefe
Wildcard pick – Johan Botha
Sydney Thunder (possible) – 1. Kurtis Patterson 2. Jos Buttler (wk) 3. Shane Watson (c) 4. Callum Ferguson 5. Ben Rohrer 6. Ryan Gibson 7. Aiden Blizzard 8. Chris Green 9. Mitchell McClenaghan 10. Andrew Fekete/Nathan McAndrew 11. Fawad Ahmed.
Sydney Sixers (possible) – 1. Daniel Hughes 2. Jason Roy 3. Nic Maddinson 4. Moises Henriques (c) 5. Sam Billings 6. Jordan Silk 7. Peter Nevill (wk) 8. Johan Botha 9. Stephen O’Keefe 10. Sean Abbott 11. Doug Bollinger.