Australia’s franchise T20 tournament is back to make perfect breakfast time viewing for UK punters. This year will have a new play-off system rewarding the sides that finish in the top 5 of the regular season table and plenty of big overseas names mixed in with domestic talent.

The tournament will run from December 17th through to the final on February 8th. During this time Australia play 2 Tests against New Zealand over Christmas and New Year and, slightly bizarrely, 3 ODI’s in India from January 14th to 19th. This means Australian internationals should be available for big chunks of the tournament which has not always been the case. It is always important to look at how many games certain players are likely to miss before having any tournament long bets.

While the England Test team is touring South Africa there will also be plenty of Englishmen on display in Australia, with England’s next white ball game not until February 5th. Those recently selected in the England ODI squad will miss the final stages of the tournament.

Under the revamped rules for BBL 09, every club can contract up to six overseas players across the season, two more than in previous years. Two overseas players on their 18-man roster, but they can now nominate an additional four players as potential replacements throughout the course of the season.

Cricket Australia has moved to avoid a repeat of the controversial World Cup final in the BBL by adjusting the playing regulations to ensure that further Super Overs take place, instead of a boundary countback, in the event of a tied game and a tied Super Over.

Another nuance is the continuation of playing games at smaller out grounds, which may nullify home advantage to a degree. The Strikers and Scorchers will play all their matches at their primary ground, while the Hurricanes have 3 games away from Hobart. Hurricanes win 56% of their games at the Blundstone Arena, and it’s difficult to believe a ‘home’ game at Alice Springs will offer them any advantages.

Below I look at all the teams ahead of the tournament kick off and predict how the competition might pan out for them.

Adelaide Strikers

Captain: Travis Head

Overseas: Phil Salt & Rashid Khan

Likely Line Up: Phil Salt, Alex Carey, Travis Head / Jake Weatherald, Cameron White, Jake Lehmann, Jonathon Wells, Michael Nesser, Rashid Khan, Wes Agar, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake

2018/19 performance: 7th

Primary Ground: Adelaide Oval

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 165.5, Average 6’s 11.1, Average 4’s 24.3

WS Rating: 4th

There is no doubt the Strikers under performed last year given the quality of their squad. This year Sussex opener Phil Salt replaces Colin Ingram, while ICC No.1 ranked T20 bowler Rashid Khan is retained. Salt scored 406 runs at an average of 37.71 and a strike rate of 161.11 during the Vitality Blast this summer. Both overseas players should be available for the whole tournament. Cameron White strengthens the batting, but Ben Laughlin is a significant loss having moved to Brisbane Heat to be closer to his family. The Strikers will want more from Alex Cary and Travis Head this year outside of international commitments. Their bowling will rely heavily on Khan, especially with the departure of Laughlin.

A well-balanced squad I expect them to improve on last year and make the play-offs, but ultimately fall short. Jonathon Wells top scored for the franchise last year with 359 runs at 44.87 and can be backed at 6/1 with Bet 365 to repeat the feat. However, given he bats in the middle order that will be a challenge and the 3/1 with Bet 365 on Salt to continue his Blast form is more appealing. Rashid Khan took 8 more wickets than any teammate in BBL 08, and represents the best Strikers bet to be Top Bowler at 6/4 with Bet365.

Brisbane Heat

Captain: Chris Lynn

Overseas: AB de Villiers, Tom Banton, Zahir Khan & Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Likely Line Up: Max Bryant, Tom Banton / AD de Villiers, Chris Lynn, Matt Renshaw James Peirson, Ben Cutting, James Pattinson, Josh Lalor, Ben Laughlin, Mitch Swepson, Maujeeb Ur Rahman / Zahir Khan

2018/19 performance: 5th

Primary Ground: Brisbane Cricket Ground

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 170.7, Average 6’s 11.2, Average 4’s 24.4

WS Rating: 1st

Four international recruits will share the overseas duties. Tom Banton will play the first eight games of BBL 09 before AB de Villiers arrives in January, while Afghanistan duo Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir Khan will share spin bowling duties. Tom Banton’s fine summer for Somerset earnt him international T20 honours for England in New Zealand. He could keep wicket or play as a specialist batsman with Jimmy Peirson also in the squad. AB de Villers represents one of the biggest signings in BBL recent history and completes a very impressive squad.  Matt Renshaw will provide further depth while Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne feature for the Australia Test side.

Much of the batting will rely on skipper Chris Lynn, 385 runs in the tournament last year, while Max Bryant is highly rated and Ben Cutting a powerful finisher. The Heat will hope Josh Lalor matches his return of 20 wickets in BBL 08 and that James Pattinson is available for as many games as possible as a death bowling option. Mitch Swepson and the Afghan’s will provide plenty of spin options.

I expect big improvement on last year. I rate them the best team in the tournament, which is a view shared by the market. The Heat are pre-tournament favourites, and best priced at 9/2 to lift the trophy with Ladbrokes. Chris Lynn top scored for the franchise last year but looks too short to back at Evens with Bet 365. Opener Max Bryant is 3/1 while the big hitting Cutting is 20/1. Lalor is 3/1 to top the bowling charts, with new recruit Ben Laughlin available at 5/2 with William Hill.

Back Heat to lift the trophy at 9/2 with Ladbrokes.

Hobart Hurricanes

Captain: Matthew Wade

Overseas: David Miller & Qais Ahmad

Likely Line Up: Matthew Wade / Jake Doran, D’Arcy Short, Ben McDermott, David Miller, George Bailey, Simon Milenko, James Faulkner, Qais Ahmad, Clive Rose, Riley Meredith, Scott Boland

2018/19 performance: Semi Finals

Primary Ground: Bellerive Oval

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 165.9, Average 6’s 9.7, Average 4’s 27.6

WS Rating: 7th

Table toppers last year, the Hurricanes will have been bitterly disappointed to lose in the Semi Finals to the Melbourne Stars. They dominated the group stages and had the two stand out batsmen of the tournament in Matthew Wade and D’Acry Short. The pair scored over 50% of the sides runs. Wade will miss the start of the tournament if he keeps his Test place; Jake Doran his likely replacement. Their leading wicket taker from last year, Jofra Archer, will also not feature. Archer has been a star for the Hurricanes in the last two seasons and a key part of their rise to the final in BBL07 and the semi-final in BBL 08. But he is unavailable this season due to England’s Test and limited-overs tour of South Africa. The Afghanistan Legspinner Qais Ahmad is his replacement. David Miller is a new overseas addition to the batting who will provide experience and comes after a successful Mzansi Super League scoring 184 runs at 61.33. However, the Big Bash is a step up in quality and without Wade the middle order could get exposed and the bowling lacks depth without Archer. James Faulkner’s returns have tailed off in recent years and while Riley Meredith is a wicket taker an economy rate of 8.58 last year is worrying.

I can not see them repeating the feats of last year with the bowling a particular concern. I rank them the 7th best side, so they may miss out the play-offs altogether. Rated the 5th by the market they can be backed at 7/1 to win, but the 8/1 to finish bottom is far more tempting.

Faulkner and Meredith head the betting for Top Bowler with neither standing out. Instead back D’Arcy Short at Evens to finish leading Hurricanes Runscorer. With Wade missing he will have to carry the batting, and has a fantastic record at domestic level, averaging 53.08 last season.

BET | D’Arcy Short to be top Hobart Hurricanes runscorer – Evens with Bet365

Melbourne Renegades

Captain: Aaron Finch

Overseas: Richard Gleeson, Mohammad Nabi & Harry Gurney

Likely Line Up: Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Shaun Marsh, Tom Cooper, Sam Harper, Dan Christian, Richard Gleeson / Mohammad Nabi, Cameron Boyce, Kane Richardson, Jake Wildermuth / Jon Holland, Harry Gurney

2018/19 performance: Winners

Primary Ground: Docklands Stadium

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 154.2, Average 6’s 10.3, Average 4’s 21.0

WS Rating: 2nd

Last year’s champions and highly rated this time around. Tittle-winning coach Andrew McDonald has resigned after taking a role as Australia’s assistant coach but is ably replaced by former International T20 player and Perth Scorchers batsman Michael Klinger. Well lead by Aaron Finch, backed by a host of consistent T20 performers and strength in depth. While Finch, currently 2nd in ICC T20 batting rankings, will be a massive miss during Australia’s ODI tour of India, Shaun Marsh is an excellent recruit and proven performer in this tournament for Perth Scorchers.

There has been some uncertainly around their overseas make up. Pakistan duo Faheem Ashraf and Usman Shinwari were unveiled last month but both have since withdrawn. Shinwari has been called into the Pakistan Test side, while Ashraf is required for domestic cricket. However, the positive news is tittle winner Harry Gurney will now be available for the entire campaign. Gurney’s stats and death bowling skills are up there with any bowler in the tournament and he is unlucky not to have more than 2 T20 caps for England. This week the side added Northamptonshire seamer Richard Gleeson to their ranks. He will play the first half of the tournament, before Mohammed Nabi re-joins in January to better balance the side.

Kane Richardson was last year’s highest wicket taker with 24 scalps while Cameron Boyce and Gurney were consistency economical. Dan Christian was pivotal last year with 254 runs at 31.75 and 15 wickets with an economy of 7.38; the Renegades will hope for a similar return this time around.

I like the side, rating them the 2nd best, but they will miss Finch’s runs while he leads the Australian ODI side in India. They will be at its best during the latter stages with Nabi and Finch and will be a force during the knock-out stages. Best priced at 6/1 they may just fall short. Seamer Kane Richardson was the tournaments leading wicket taker with 24 scalps last year but could well be in the nation teams plans. The best option is to back Shaun Marsh to score heavily.

Back Shaun Marsh at 6/4 to be Top Melbourne Renegades Batsman with William Hill.

Melbourne Stars

Captain: Glenn Maxwell

Overseas: Dale Steyn, Pat Brown & Sandeep Lamichhane

Likely Line Up: Marcus Stoinis, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb, Ben Dunk, Hilton Cartwright, Seb Gotch, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Dale Steyn / Pat Brown, Adam Zampa, Sandeep Lamichhane

2018/19 performance: Runners Up

Primary Ground: Melbourne Cricket Ground

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 154.3, Average 6’s 7.4, Average 4’s 22.7

WS Rating: 3rd

A great side on paper, much will depend on the availability of skipper Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddison who have recently taken time out with mental health issues. Glenn Maxwell is back playing club cricket and all being well will lead the side.

Pat Brown, recently capped by England, with replace Dale Steyn who departs in January while Nepal legspinner Lamichhane returns for the entire BBL season.

Brown completed an impressive Vitality Blast T20 campaign this year, capturing 17 wickets to finish the competition as Worcestershire’s leading wicket-taker while Steyn should hit the ground running having played in the Mzansi Super League over the last month, taking 15 wickets in 8 matches.

A big ground with the lowest 6’s average for the Big Bash despite being the home ground for the likes of Maxwell and Kevin Pietersen over the years. Look to get against sixes where possible.

While the squad could be one proven batsman short, they are filled will power in the form of Maddinson, Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Ben Dunk. They also have plenty of allrounders helping to balance the playing XI. Second favourites for the tournament, I have them my third choice, and expect them to make the play offs again. Leading run getter last time, Marcus Stoinis is 5/2, while Maxwell is 6/1. I do not expect him to tour India, so could play the whole tournament and bat at 3. With Zampa likely to tour India, overseas spinner Lamichhane heads the bowlers market at 13/10. However, the fit again Nathan Coulter-Nile is more appealing priced at 4/1. He took 14 wickets for the Scorchers last season and should be Stars premier death bowling option.

BET | Nathan Coulter-Nile to be Top Melbourne Stars Bowler – 4/1 with Bet365

Perth Scorchers

Captain: Mitch Marsh

Overseas: Liam Livingstone & Chris Jordan

Likely Line Up: Cameron Bancroft, Liam Livingstone, Mitch Marsh, Aston Turner, Kurtis Patterson, Sam Whiteman, Aston Agar, Chris Jordan, Matthew Kelly, Jyre Richardson, Fawad Ahmed

2018/19 performance: 8th

Primary Ground: Perth Stadium

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 163.4, Average 6’s 10.0, Average 4’s 32.8

WS Rating: 6th

Both English overseas will be available for the entire tournament; Liam Livingstone of the back of a mixed Mzani Super League while Chris Jordan has Big Bash experience with the Adelaide Strikes and Sydney Thunder. Kurtis Patterson, the 26-year-old batsmen who has played two Tests for Australia, also joins the Scorchers.

AJ Tye is set this miss the tournament with an elbow injury. Tye was their leading wicket taker last year with 17 and will be tough to replace; as will Coulter-Nile who has moved to the Stars. Jason Behrendorff was economical only conceding 6.24 runs per over last year, but has also picked up an injury.

They are the most successful team in BBL history but finished bottom last season, winning just four games. Which XI coach Adam Voges will selected is not obvious, with Joel Paris and legspinner Fawad Ahmed competing for a place in the side. The squad looks to have some depth, but it lacks enough match winners. Much will be required of Mitch Marsh and Aston Turner if they are going to make the play offs. I expect them to improve on last year but ultimately fall short.

English duo Livingstone and Jordon can be backed at 4/1 and 5/2 respectively to head their respective disciplines for the franchise with Bet365. However Australian International Jyhe Richardson is my pick to be Top Bowler at 4/1 with William Hill.

Back Jhye Richardson at 4/1 to be Top Scorchers Bowler with William Hill

Sydney Sixers

Captain: Moises Henriques

Overseas: James Vince & Tom Curran

Likely Line Up: Daniel Hughes, Josh Philippe, James Vince, Moises Henriques, Jordan Silk, Jack Edwards, Tom Curran, Sean Abbott, Steve O’Keefe, Ben Dwarshuis, Jackson Bird

2018/19 performance: Semi Finals

Primary Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 154.9, Average 6’s 8.0, Average 4’s 23.3

WS Rating: 8th

Josh Hazlewood and Steven Smith are back in the Big Bash and will have a window to play some T20 cricket after their international commitments. However, they may only play two matches, so Jack Edwards should get another chance to impressive prior to Smith’s availability while young legspinner Lloyd Pope will be hoping to deputise for Nathan Lyon. Jackson Bird has also been signed after helping the Stars to last years final and offers another seam bowling option.

Meanwhile James Vince returns to Sydney, alongside another Englishman Tom Curran, after playing eight matches for the Sixes last season as a replacement for Joe Denly. Vince was instrumental in helping the Sixers to the semi-final, making 75 off 46 balls against Brisbane Heat and then 74 not out from 50 balls in a record-breaking partnership with Josh Philippe to beat competition leaders Hobart Hurricanes.

Their local batsmen are in form too. Skipper Mosies Henriques has been scoring runs in all formats while Daniel Hughes scored more than any other player in the 50 over Marsh Cup which was recently won by Western Australia. Hughes has also scored over 200 runs in each of the last three BBL seasons averaging over 30. His strike rate during this time is only 121, the lowest for a top-order batsman to have played a minimum of 400 balls. Also, ironically, they lack six hitters with statically a side averaging only 3.5 maximums per match. Their bowlers are also expensive and sadly, the arrivals of Smith and Hazlewood may come too late to have a meaningful impact.

Not fancied by the bookie’s and the worst team in my mind they are 9/1 to win the tournament. That should be left alone, as I would be very surprised to see them make the playoffs. Instead back Sam Curran to be their lead bowler. He averages 1.2 wickets per game in domestic T20, more than any of his teammates.

BET | Sam Curran to be Top Sydney Sixers bowler – 9/4 with Bet365

Sydney Thunder

Captain: Callum Ferguson

Overseas: Alex Hales and Chris Morris

Likely Line Up: Usman Khawaja, Alex Hales, Callum Ferguson, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Chris Green, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Morris, Arjun Nair, Chris Tremain, Gurinder Sandhu

2018/19 performance: 6th

Primary Ground: Sydney Showground Stadium

Big Bash Ground Stats: Average 1st Inns Score 155.5, Average 6’s 9.9, Average 4’s 22.5

WS Rating: 5th

Thunder finished 6th last year but will be without Jos Buttler this year who is tied up with England. Alex Hales and Chris Morris are their overseas recruits, who will need to overperform if the Thunder have a chance of the playoffs. Chris Morris had another successful Mzansi Super League season and will join the squad for their 2nd game. Hales returns having previously represented the Melbourne Renegades, Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes. Given his is currently out of favour with England he will be available for the entire campaign. They will also need Callum
Ferguson to repeat his performance from 2018/19, scoring 442 runs in 14 matches. Allrounder Chris Green recently signed the longest contract in BBL history, committing himself to the Thunder for 6 years. The 26-year-old has played 41 games for Thunder since joining the club in BBL 04; taking 30 wickets at an economy of 7.00 and scoring 321 runs at an average of 18.88. The off-spinning all-rounder, who hasn’t played any 1st class cricket, has also established himself as one of world cricket’s most in-demand T20 specialists. Chris Tremain has also been recruited from the Renegades, but the seam bowling still looks a little weak. Particularly with an injury to Sandhu which means he will miss the start of the tournament.

However, as an all-round unit I believe they are underrated. The top 3 have very good domestic numbers, they have middle orders hitters with good strike rates, and economical spinners. Not rated by the bookies, they are the biggest price to lift the trophy at 9/1 with Spreadex and my outside choice. I expect them to make the playoffs and can be backed at Evens with Betfred to do so.

Back Sydney Thunder at Evens with Betfred to finish in the Top 5

The wickets may well get shared around, although Tremain at 13/2 with William Hills is tempting, but the majority of their runs should come from Khawaja and Hales at the top of the order. Hales has only scored 355 from his 15 Big Bash appearances but Khawaja has flourished in the tournament. He may not be known as a T20 specialist but 992 runs in 25 Big Bash games shows consistency. Unless he receives an unexpected recall to the national side this should be his first full tournament since the Big Bash begun.

BET | Usman Khawaja to be Top Syndey Thunder batsman – 5/4 with Bet365


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