Sydney Sixers (1-0) v Hobart Hurricanes (0-0) @ Sydney Cricket Ground
Preview - The Sixers will be aiming for back-to-back wins to start their 2016/17 campaign when they host the Hurricanes at the SCG on Friday evening. The Sixers got a convincing win over cross town rivals, the Thunder, on Tuesday night as they look to put the disappointment of their 2-win season in 2015/16 behind them. The Hurricanes kick off their season as one of the outsiders with the bookmakers, after two consecutive seasons outside the finals. The Hurricanes could only manage three wins in each of the last two seasons, finishing in 5th place in 2014/15 and 7th place last season. The Hurricanes have lost in each of their last two visits to the SCG, with their last success coming in 2012/13 where they beat the Sixers by 7 wickets.
Sydney Sixers Scouting Report - The Sixers were reasonably impressive against the Thunder, however I still think the margin of victory was quite flattering. What is certain is they have a couple of real star performers who have been doing it for a number of years in Captain Moises Henriques and spinning all rounder Steven O'Keefe. O'Keefe was at his crafty best, taking 1/15 from his 4 overs against the Thunder, and has an overall record of going at under 7 an over through 56 T20 games. Henriques was all class on his way to 76* where, after a slow start, he powered his side to victory, cutting loose once he passed 30. Jason Roy showed his raw talent with a couple of booming shots at the top of the order, and I expect him to be a large factor for this side at the top of the order. The Sixers' middle order is yet to be tested so far this season, however on first appearance look solid enough with the likes of Haddin, Silk, Abbott, Billings and Botha.
Where the Sixers will need to lift their game considerably is in the field and the execution from their quicker men. The likes of Doug Bollinger and Joe Mennie were way off in their opening overs, bowling too many similar deliveries, with Mennie drifting down the leg side. Ben Dwarshuis was entrusted with the new ball and he did gain considerable swing and I didn't think he bowled too badly. Where he struggled was at the death bowling a number of balls in the slot which the Thunder batsman were able to get under. I would like to see more variation from the Sixers and greater use of the likes of Abbott and Henriques. Throw in the very crafty Johan Botha and its a pretty balanced side, capable of improving as the series goes on. However, they will want to be a lot better with the ball and in the field, because an effort like Tuesday night could see them go for 180+ against one of the stronger batting line ups.
Hobart Hurricanes Scouting Report - The Hurricanes need a big impact from their two imports, Kumar Sangakkara and Stuart Broad, if they are to make a real impact this year. At first glance, both those players don't necessarily strike me as specialist T20 gun for hire. However they are without doubt world class cricketers who are experienced and adaptable. Sangakkara has a pretty good T20 record averaging 29 through 220 games, but his strike rate of 126 is only moderate. Broad has a really good T20 record in his own right, with 92 wickets from 77 games at a good economy rate of just over 7. Shaun Tait might be getting on in years, however alongside Broad, the Hurricanes have a pretty explosive opening bowling combination, capable of taking wickets up front. There will be a fair bit of pressure on the Hurricanes spin bowling pair of Cameron Boyce and Clive Rose, with at least one of the pair having to step up and assume the mantle of leading spinner. Both go for around 8 an over so thats an area opposition battling line up might target. In Dan Christian the Hurricanes have a quality all rounder who has been around the block and can add to both their batting and bowling depth.
The Hurricanes batting looks a little light on for me, although George Bailey is a quality and proven batsman. I think he is going to have to score plenty of runs if the Hurricanes are to feature in finals discussions. Bailey has a really good T20 record, averaging 28 from the middle order at a strike rate of 131. I don't know if Tim Paine is quite the player he once was, however he and John Wells are going to have to step up I feel if the Canes are going to do well this year. Like the Thunder, the Hurricanes have some younger, unproven players like D'Arcy Short, Dominic Michael and Hamish Kingston, so that's going to be a challenge for them bedding them into key roles so quickly.
Verdict - On paper you would have to favour the Sixers here, especially being at home. However I think this game will be a very close affair. The Hurricanes often start BBL campaigns well and are at full strength here with Sangakkara, Broad, Bailey and Christian all on deck. If the wicket is flat, you might favour the Sixers to outscore the Hurricanes, however if there is a bit it in, Tait and Broad might fancy their chances of doing some damage. I think the game will fall in the mid range scores of between 150 and 170, with both sides looking more like accumulating run scoring teams than explosive ones.
The Lurker - "I've had a long think about this one and landed on the Sixers to get the bacon at home in a close one. They looked a bit rusty first up, but the Hurricanes look as poor as Ashley Burton on the dance floor. The Canes will have a crack, but I can't see them getting up at the G. For your exotics, I'm liking the Sixers to win by 1/2o runs or 1/4 wickets and then my old mate Doug the Rug to get the most poles for the men in pink."