Heat, Renegades and Thunder fighting for a spot in the finals

BBL:04 preview – part two

Who will make it to the finals? Who will just miss out? This is how I see 3rd, 4th and 5th playing out for the fourth edition of the Big Bash League.

Sydney Thunder

After another dismal campaign in BBL03 the Thunder have overhauled their squad yet again as they search for some, or any, success.

With additions including a fit and firing Pat Cummins, in-form keeper Chris Hartley and some South African fellow called Jacques Kallis, who just happens to the greatest all-rounder in modern times, their chances should improve a little.

They’ve also added experienced campaigners Andrew McDonald, Nathan Hauritz and Aiden Blizzard which should help their overall depth and stability.

The potential opening pair of Usman Khawaja and Chris Hartley will be important for the Thunder’s chances, they’ll be hoping they continue the stellar form that they shared during the season opening Matador BBQs Cup in October.

With Craig Kieswetter withdrawing, the Thunder are still looking for an import to replace Eoin Morgan for the latter half of the tournament.

Gains: Ahilen Beadle, Aiden Blizzard (Hurricanes), Pat Cummins (Scorchers), Chris Green, Chris Hartley (Heat), Nathan Hauritz (Heat), Jacques Kallis, Josh Lalor (Sixers), Andrew McDonald

Losses: Ryan Carters (Sixers), Luke Feldman (Stars), Andrew Tye (Scorchers)

Strength: Batting, the Thunder will rely heavily on getting runs on the board, lots of them.

Weakness: Bowling, adding Cummins and Hauritz helps, as does Kallis, but it’s still one of the weakest attacks overall.

Availability: Usman Khawaja and Pat Cummins look like the only two that they could potentially be without, but that’s unlikely until late in the tournament.

Possible XI:

  1. Usman Khawaja
  2. Chris Hartley
  3. Jacques Kallis
  4. Eoin Morgan
  5. Mike Hussey
  6. Aiden Blizzard
  7. Andrew McDonald
  8. Pat Cummins
  9. Gurinder Sandhu
  10. Nathan Hauritz
  11. Dirk Nannes

Prediction: 5th – It think they’ve done enough to elevate themselves out of the cellar, don’t think they will make the finals, but they are a chance to come close.

Brisbane Heat

The Heat have managed to keep the majority of last year’s squad together while adding a couple of extra pieces.

West Indian Samuel Badree joins Dan Vettori as the Heat’s international reps, with veteran English all-rounder Andrew Flintoff lined-up to take Badree’s place for the second half of the tournament.

The signing of Flintoff feels like a gamble to me even if he did pick up six wickets in three matches upon his return to the Lancashire side earlier in the year.

Not re-signing Chris Hartley seems a little crazy given how well he went for the Bulls in the Matador BBQs Cup a couple of months ago, leaving the newly recruited Jimmy Pierson as the only keeping option in their primary squad.

Gains: Samuel Badree,Ryan Duffield (Scorchers), Andrew Flintoff, Simon Milenko, Jason Floros, Jimmy Pierson (Strikers), Nathan Reardon (Strikers)

Losses: Chris Hartley (Thunder), Nathan Hauritz (Thunder)

Strength: Bowling, despite the majority of their attack being comprised of all-rounders, I like the overall attack. Samuel Badree should be a good addition, and guys like Alister McDermott and Mark Stekete are more useful than their stats suggest.

Weakness: Batting, the Heat might rely too much on Chis Lynn and Joe Burns at the top of the order, but Nathan Reardon is solid and Dan Christian has been in good form for Victoria so far this season.

Availability: The Heat will be unlikely to get any games out of Mitchell Johnson or Shane Watson. They don’t have any other automatic selections in the Australian ODI side, but a good run in the BBL could help the cases of Chris Lynn, Joe Burns and Ben Cutting.

Possible XI:

  1. Joe Burns
  2. James Hopes
  3. Chris Lynn
  4. Daniel Christian
  5. Nathan Reardon
  6. Jimmy Pierson
  7. Ben Cutting
  8. Daniel Vettori
  9. Cameron Gannon
  10. Samuel Badree
  11. Alister McDermott

Prediction: 4th – Just missed the finals last year, but should make a return this year.

Melbourne Renegades

A few handy recruits for the men in red, with Matthew Wade moving across from the Stars and Callum Ferguson from the Strikers.

They’ll join a solid batting line-up that already includes Australian T20 captain Aaron Finch, Peter Nevill, Ben Rohrer and Tom Cooper.

The West Indian pair of Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell will be available for the first half of the tournament before national commitments kick in prior to the World Cup. Big-hitting Kiwi Jesse Ryder will be available for the second half of the tournament.

The Renegades will be looking for James Pattinson to be the spearhead of their attack as he works his way back from injury with support from Nathan Rimmington, Andrew Fekete and maybe Peter Siddle depending on Test commitments.

With Muttiah Muralitharan not returning this season, it should be Fawad Ahmed’s chance to get a consistent run for the Renegades having only featured in two matches across the past two seasons.

Gains: Tom Beaton, Callum Ferguson (Strikers), Andre Russell, Jesse Ryder, Matthew Short, Matthew Wade (Stars), Nicholas Winter

Losses: Michael Hill (Hurricanes), Jake Reed (Hurricanes), Jayde Herrick (injury)

Strength: Batting, they’ve got the longest line-up in the tournament, with hitting potentially stretching all the way to number 10 depending on the line-up they pick.

Weakness: Bowling, oddly, based on the calculations I ran to determine my predictions they’ve got the weakest attack out of all eight teams – but it’s not because of lack of talent – if James Pattinson, Nathan Rimmington, Fawad Ahmed, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell all fire, they will be dangerous.

Availability: Test selection will likely keep Peter Siddle out of the line-up for most of the tournament, but they should get him back for their last couple of matches. The ODI tri-series will take Aaron Finch and possibly Matthew Wade also out of the equation.

Possible XI:

  1. Aaron Finch
  2. Matthew Wade
  3. Callum Ferguson
  4. Tom Cooper
  5. Dwayne Bravo
  6. Ben Rohrer
  7. Andre Russell
  8. Peter Nevill
  9. James Pattinson
  10. Nathan Rimmington
  11. Fawad Ahmed

Prediction: 3rd – Will be better than their 6th place last year, will have better depth to cover the unavailability of Aaron Finch, and their bowling will probably make me look like a chump.

With only two side left, check back for part three to find out which one I’m tipping to take it out.