Adelaide Strikers (0-0) - Brisbane Heat (0-0) @ Adelaide Oval
Preview - A revamped Brisbane Heat will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 2015/16 campaign when they head to Adelaide Oval to take on the Strikers on Thursday night. The Heat had a nightmare start last season, losing their opening five games before rallying to win their final three to finish in 6th spot. The franchise has fallen on hard times of late, missing the finals the past three years after winning the 2012/13 Big Bash. The Strikers played some outstanding cricket last season to finish the regular season in top spot with seven victories and just the one loss. However, that counted for little when they were bludgeoned by Usman Khawaja and the Sydney Thunder in the Semi Final in a one-sided 8-wicket loss. The Strikers have averaged over 40,000 with their crowds and are statically the second biggest supported team behind the Melbourne Stars, and the Adelaide Oval became somewhat of a cauldron last year with the home side putting in a number of impressive performances.
Adelaide Strikers’ Scouting Report - Interestingly the Strikers have won every season opener they have played during their five year existence. The Strikers have added some strike power to their batting this season, with the signing of wicket keeper and explosive opening batsman Ben Dunk to their line-up. Dunk only averages 22 with a strike rate of 121 from 62 T20 games, however has been in brutal form in the Strikers warm up matches and in 50-over cricket last season. Clearly the best batsman for Adelaide is Australian ODI player Travis Head who had a memorable 2015/16 Big Bash campaign. Head was the 5th leading run scorer with 299 runs at an average of 42 and an incredible strike rate of 154. Big West Indian all-rounder Keiron Pollard returns to the Club after a year off, and adds considerable fire power to their middle order. Striking at 152 and with an average over 30, Pollard is one of the Top 10 T20 cricketers in the world, considering he bowls some handy medium pacers and is dynamic in the field. Jake Weathered, Jake Lehmann, Chris Jordon and Captain Brad Hodge make up a pretty good Top 7 in my opinion.
The question mark over the Strikers for me is their bowling attack, which looks a bit thin on the ground. It will be hard to replace Adil Rashid who was their main strike bowler last season. Kane Richardson is an explosive bowler, however he goes for 8 an over and is only averaging about a wicket a game in his 58 T20 matches. Unknown leg spinner Liam O'Connor may be thrown into the fire without having played a match for South Australia or the Strikers. The Heat are likely to target him. Ben Laughlin is a proven T20 bowler with his ability to bowl full at the death and pick up wickets with his change of pace. However, I think the Strikers will be relying too heavily on all-rounders like Travis Head and Keiron Pollard to step up if they are to worry the strong battling line ups.
Brisbane Heat Scouting Report - The Heat’s strengths lie with their explosive batting line up. In Brendon McCullum they have a specialist T20 gun for hire who, with his captaincy, will bring a wealth of knowledge as well as his power packed batting. McCullum averages over 30 with a strike rate of 137, and his aggressive and left field captaincy won NZ plenty of games over the past few years. Chris Lynn is probably in the Top 5 T20 players in Australia after his heroics over the past couple of years. Lynn was unbelievable last year, clearly the player of the tournament in BBL5 with 378 runs at an average of 54 and a whopping strike rate of 173. It will be tough to repeat that, but alongside the likes of Joe Burns, Nathan Reardon and the destructive Ben Cutting, the Heat have a batting line up that can smash the 200 barrier easily if a couple of these guys strike fire on the same night.
The Heat welcome back outstanding T20 leg spinner Samuel Badree after played a lone hand for them with the ball last season. Through 148 games, Badree goes at less than 6 runs per over, and he often does that bowling up front in the Power Play. It’s a remarkable record for the 35-year old West Indian, and he is a valuable pick up for the Heat once again. The Heat have a very unproven pace bowling line up with the likes of Andrew Fekete and Mark Steketee both having played less than 20 T20 games, and both going for over 9 runs per over in those games. To me, they are really going to need Ben Cutting to step up this year and lead that pace attack because it looks like lean pickings. Jason Floros will be relied upon to bowl some darts in the middle overs. The Heat looks a side to me that could easily go for 180 most nights, but they will back themselves to run those scores down with the batting they have in store.
Verdict - This is a real flip of the coin game for mine. What I can predict confidently is that this will be a high scoring game, with both side’s strength lying in their battling line ups. Don't particularly love both sides pace bowling stocks, although Ben Laughlin is a proven performer in BBL Cricket. The Heat look to have perhaps the best batting line up in the competition, with real quality in the likes of Reardon and Cutting well down the order. You will need more than 2 or 3 wickets to get into the teeth of the Brisbane line up. If this game was in Brisbane, I would back the Heat with confidence. However, the Strikers are a tough nut to crack at home, so I think they deserve slight favouritism. Travis Head is a guy really at the top of his game right now and I think he might be the difference between the two sides, as he is capable of being the cool finisher as well as the power hitter.
THE LURKER - "Last Night was like having a burner picking the Sixers over the Thunder, I could do it in my sleep. It was like stealing money. I can smell an upset tonight and am backing the Heat with confidence. The Heat have plenty of striker power with the stick and good depth to their line-up, while their bowling appears to be steady. The Strikers to me look unbalanced and reliant on too few with bat and ball. They appear a team playing 50 cents hits all night and hoping to hit the jackpot, they might chip away and be hard to beat but they’re a bit boring for my liking. For your exotics take Neser to get the most poles for the Strikers and back the Heat to win by 1-20 runs or by 1/4wickets. I'll be 2 from 2 after tonight"