Sydney Thunder (0-0) V Sydney Sixers (0-0) @ Spotless Stadium
Preview - These two teams open BBL6 in far different circumstances to the past. After years of Sixes’ domination in the cross town rivalry, the Thunder won both games last year and went on to become BBL5 Champions. Prior to this, the Sixes had won their first seven games against the Thunder, establishing a dominance which stretched across four seasons. However, last year the Sixes could only manage two victories in a disastrous campaign which saw them finish bottom of the table. Both teams head into this season opener without key players as they look to start their campaign with a victory. The Thunder will be boosted by a sold out home crowd at Spotless Stadium.
Scouting Report on Thunder - The Thunder head into this game way down on players with experienced heads who guided them to the title last year. Michael Hussey and Jacques Kallis have both retired, while Shane Watson is out injured. Usman Khawaja, who starred in both the Semi Final and Grand Final of BBL5, is out through International duty, leaving gaping holes in the Thunder’s batting line up. Ben Rohrer steps up as captain for the Thunder in this game, and he will be able to call upon the most explosive opening bowling pair in the competition in Pat Cummins and Andre Russell. Plenty will fall on the shoulders of English ODI captain Eoin Morgan to score big here, as the Thunder batting looks a little light on star power. Local Chris Green bowled outstandingly last season and will be expected to bowl four high quality overs. Batting strength, in depth, looks thin on the ground for the Thunder, and I think they will be relying on the likes of Aiden Blizzard and Kurtis Patterson to score big here.
Scouting Report on Sixes - The Sixers have problems of their own through international duty, although it is their bowling, not their batting, which has taken a massive hit. Arguably their four biggest weapons in Hazlewood, Starc, Lyon and Bird are all unavailable, having led Australia’s pace attack to a tense victory over Pakistan at the Gabba. This means the likes of Doug Bollinger, Sean Abbott, and perhaps a wildcard in young tearaway Henry Thornton, will be forced to lead the attack. Nick Maddison also misses the match and, with Englishman Michael Lumb unavailable, the Sixes have some holes to fill. They recently signed English wicket keeper batsman Sam Billings for the first half of BBL6. Billings is an inventive player and talented, however a T20 average of 19 and strike rate of 121 shows he has a way to go before being labelled a specialist star in this format. The Sixes will be relying on Jason Roy to get them off to a flying start, while Moises Henriques and Jordan Silk are sure to fill spots in the middle order.
Verdict - I like the Sixes here to bounce back from their two defeats to the Thunder last season. I think they have more proven quality in their line-up, especially with the bat, with the likes of Roy, Henriques, Haddin, Silk and Billings representing a pretty strong Top 6 battling line up. They will have to survive an onslaught from Cummins and Russell, however if they can do that, I think they can get 160 which will be too much for the Thunder to run down. Expect O'Keefe and Botha to turn the screws on a Spotless wicket that is usually on the slow side.
THE LURKER - “I am all over the Sixes tonight like a cheap suit. I think they roll the Thunder pretty easy here. The Sixers have heaps of class with the bat and ball, while the Thunder look unbalanced and weak with the bat especially. I expect the Sixers bowling unit of Bollinger, Botha, bout and O’Keefe to be dominant in this game. For your exotics I like Henriques to score 25+ runs into a Sixers win. Also having a bit of a crack at Doug to without his rug to jag most poles”