Updated: Feb 19
The Australian domestic t20 competition, the Big Bash League returns for it's 10th season, with the opening match this Thursday seeing the Hobart Hurricanes take on the Sydney Sixers. In this preview, you'll find everything you need to know about the BBL; first the rules, dates, following, and then a look at the squads.
The most important rule change is that teams will be allowed to play an extra overseas player this year, meaning teams can play three, not two overseas players. 'Local players' can also qualify, a la the English kolpak system, with the most notable of these being Morne Morkel, you know, the South African, who recently gained permanent Australian residence.
Other changes, as rumoured on this site back in June, include the ability for the sides to swap in a player after 10 overs, which, I think is a fine idea, allowing for teams to adjust to conditions. Also new, and not as good ideas, are bonus points for being ahead after 10 overs (famously, football offers a bonus goal if ahead at half-time[!!!]), and the ability for a batting side to use the final two overs of the powerplay any time from the 11th over (why!).
There are eight BBL teams, with each of the six Aussie states hosting a team in their capital, with Sydney and Melbourne both fielding an extra team. The Sixers are defending champions, with the Perth Scorchers having the most titles, winning three so far. The Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars are the only two sides to have not won the title, although the Stars have been defeated finalist for the past two years, and only lost in the 2018/19 final due to a massive collapse, as they failed to make 53 off 43 with all 10 wickets in hand. The Hurricanes possess a very good squad this year as well, meaning we could be in for a new winner.
The competition starts on the 10th, with group stage matches until January 26th. The final is on February 6th, with an eliminator, qualifier, knockout, and challenger matches before then, as part of the ovelry complex final strucutres. There are some double headers, often weekends, including a triple header on Tuesday January 26th to end the groups.
Does it mean anything?
Well no, because in the grand scheme of things, it's cricket, which is fun, but not life and death! More seriously, while the BBL is an engaging and well-watched competition, it is not always an accurate measure for a player's ability. As this CricViz article shows, the BBL, while of a better standard than T20Is, it is not as competitive as the IPL, CPL, or PSL. While fun to watch, don't draw too many conclusions on who should make an international side based on their performance down under.
How to keep up?
We'll be tweeting out performances, scores, English players achievements, and more, so make sure to follow us at @InsideEdgeCrick on Twitter. We'll have write-ups and an end of season review on this site. The games will be shown exclusively on BT Sport in the UK, with highlights viewable with them and on the Cricket Australia YouTube channel. Scores can be seen on your usual sites cricket sites of Cricinfo, CricVIz, and others.
Will England players make it?
On arrival in Australia, players have to quarantine for 14 days, meaning those who were not in South Africa will have flown out to be ready for the first games. However, those with the T20I squad will arrive late, and those with the ODI squad may have to quarantine there before flying to Australia. We'll find out more on this situation as the extent of the issues in South Africa develop.
The 2020/21 sides:
Adelaide Strikers- Captained by Travis Head, the Strikers have a useful, if not spectacular squad, but will likely be frustrated by international absences. Head, along with Alex Carey and Michael Neser are in the Australian test squad. However, the brilliant Rashid Khan returns for them, and English imports Phil Salt and Danny Briggs boost their XI. With Briggs and Rashid complementing Peter Siddle, who has turned into a good limited overs bowler, and the handy Dan Worrall, the Strikers have a good bowling attack, but may lack the batting depth to challenge this year.
One to watch:
25 year-old opener Jake Weatherald is a great hitter of anything slightly short. He let up the 2017-18 final with a stunning hundred, and, if in form, will be a key asset to the Strikers.
After struggling in recent years, the Heat will be reliant on a versatile squad to win their matches. Hampered by Tom Banton's decision not to play this year, and with Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne in the Aussie test squad, their big hitters will be the talented Max Bryant and the powerful Chris Lynn. Dan Lawrence is with the side, and could be a useful option, with the other internationals being Lewis Gregory, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. They assist a bowling attack that features Ben Laughlin, Mitch Swepson, 'local player' Morne Morkel and Mark Steketee. As ever, the Heat have a good squad, but turning that into results may prove difficult once again for them.
One to watch: The ageing Dutch pro Tom Cooper has made the switch to the Heat from the Melbourne Renegades, and could provide a useful middle order option for the Heat's top-heavy side
Hobart Hurricanes- The 'canes have made good progress in recent years, and with Dawid Malan bolstering their ranks, could prove a challenging opponent. Will Jacks and Colin Ingram are another two overseas hitters with the Hurricanes, who have added Peter Handscomb, and will hope his talent delivers. The impressive D'Arcy Short will be without usual opening partner and skipper Matthew Wade though, as he is in the Aussie test side. This stacked batting line-up is aided by the pace of Riley Meredith and Nathan Ellis, with Nepalese mystery spinner Sandeep Lamichane, experienced Johan Botha and WIndies all-rounder Keemo Paul also in the squad. Could this be the Hurricanes year?
One to watch:
Ben McDermott is a big-hitting middle order bat, and, given the abundance of overseas players available, will be of huge importance as an Aussie bat!
Lead by Aaron Finch, the Renegades are an odd side, having finished bottom last year, but won the year before that! With a bowling attack that includes Aussie quicks James Pattinson (test squad), Josh Lalor and Kane Richardson, with spinner Cam Boyce, they can strangle sides. Boosted by overseas spinners Imran Tahir and Imad Wasim, the 'gades have good options with the ball. However, they lack batting, and will be heavily reliant on Finch and Sam Harper at the top, with overseas hitter Rilee Rossouw and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi going to be key for the big shots, with Bordeaux-born Englishman Benny Howell having also ben picked up. While they do have Shaun Marsh and Marcus Harris, their strike-rates may be too little for this side to challenge.
One to watch-
Noor Ahmad is just 15! The Afghani spinner may not get loads of game time, but is an exciting chinaman spinner who could bamboozle some bats.
Lead by the brilliant Glenn Maxwell, the Stars have a very good batting line-up. Marcus Stoinis will be opening, and fresh from a great IPL, Nicholas Pooran is also with the Stars. His countryman Andre Fletcher has also signed on, with Nic Maddison and Ben Dunk two useful Aussie options. The bowling department features Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa, with Billy Stanlake having been signed from the Strikers. Afghani spinner Zahir Khan has also been picked up from the Heat. Should this bowling line-up fire, the Stars could be looking good, providing they keep their calm in the final, having been runner-up twice in the past two comps.
One to watch-
Dilbar Hussain, a Pakistani quick offers good pace and impressive variation, and could be a healthy addition to the Stars' bowling line-up.
After reaching at least the semi-finals in the first 7 BBLs, the Scorchers have struggled the past two years, but their boosted squad this year should help them get back to the top. Top order options include Liam Livingstone, Jason Roy, Colin Munro, and Joe Clarke. With AJ Tye, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmed and Jason Behrendorff as a bowling attack, and Mitch Marsh, Cam Green (in the test squad) and Ashton Turner as middle-order hitters, the Scorchers have a phenomenal squad-getting them all in will be the difficult bit!!
One to watch-
Josh Inglis proved a good opener with Livingstone last year, and while he may be at three this time round, the keeper-batter can hit a decent ball.
All you need to know is that they have James Vince! Okay, some more... Dan Christian has been picked up from the Renegades, and Moises Henriques is a good captain. However, with Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Sean Abbot all in the test squad, and Tom Curran's recent pull-out from the BBL, the Sixers may struggle to keep their crown. They will be aided though, by the West Indian duo of Carlos Brathwaite and Jason Holder, who provide international experience this Sixers side.
One to watch-
Josh Philippe is a great young opener, who hits 360 degrees, and will have to score plenty to make sure the Sixers live up to their namesake.
After a destructive time last season, Alex Hales will want to remind us all how good he can be. Likely to open with the surprisingly great t20 bat Usman Khawaja, and with Callum Ferguson and Sam Billings also available, the Thunder have decent batting options. They've also picked up Adam Milne, an underrated New Zealand quick, along with signing Ben Cutting from the Heat. Daniel Sams, and Chris Green, provide good all-round options. However, while the Thunder are good, they might not be good enough to win.
One to watch-
Alex Ross is a good t20 batter, who could provide the depth the Thunder need to get a good campaign going.
Winner- I can't see anyone beating the Perth Scorchers this year, who have a squad that is just brilliant. A line-up of: Jason Roy, Colin Munro, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Cameron Green, Liam Livingstone, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, AJ Tye, Fawad Ahmed,
is deep, with big hitters, and a varied bowling attack, all backed up by good depth, as Joe Clarke, Kurtis Patterson, Jason Behrendorff and Joel Paris are all on the bench. Perhaps only the Hurricanes, or Stars, can run them close.
Leading run scorer- Josh Philippe will be opening, which always helps for run-scoring, and should be in line for lots of runs at the SCG, which has looked good for batting this year in the India Australia limited overs series so far. Leading wicket-taker- Always a difficult pick in the Big Bash, and so, I go with Riley Meredith, a favourite of Shane Warne.
Best English player- An opener who gets lots of runs would be the safer bet here, but given the Thunder's weaker middle-order, and with only three overseas players, I think Sam Billings will be the pick of the English starts down under.