Sydney Thunder (0-2) v Brisbane Heat (1-0) @ Spotless Stadium
Preview - The Sydney Thunder will be desperate to avoid a 0-3 start to BBL6 when they host the Brisbane Heat at Spotless Stadium on Wednesday night. The Thunder have put in two abject displays so far this season, being hammered by both their crosstown rivals, the Sixers, and then the Renegades in Melbourne in a dismal start to their campaign here. They get a huge boost tonight with gun all rounder Shane Watson fit to return at the top of the order to a side lacking confidence and experience with the bat. The Heat will be looking for their first 2-0 start to a BBL campaign after their tense 10-run victory in Adelaide against the Strikers last week. While the Heat were dynamic with the bat, they were wobbly with the ball, and look to be a side with still plenty of improvement left in them. The Heat won last year's clash against the Thunder at Spotless Stadium by 6 wickets, with Chris Lynn pounding 75 runs from just 32 balls.
Sydney Thunder Scouting Report - Shane Watson's return to fitness could hardly come quick enough for the Thunder, and the big all-rounder's presence at the top of the line up will have the Heat on guard tonight. With due respect to Ryan Gibson and Kurtis Patterson, opposition teams have not had anyone to fear in the Power Play when playing the Thunder, however they will tonight with Watson's return. Watson has claims to being in the Top 5 T20 players in the world, with over 200 games experience and a fantastic record to boot. Watson, despite having retired from International cricket, remains a gun for hire for T20 sides, commanding 2 million dollars a season in the IPL with the Bangalore Royal Challenges. With the bat, Watson has the impressive double of an average over 30 and a strike rate over 130, making him a prolific and damaging customer at the same time.
Where the Thunder need more production with the bat is from their two imports, Eion Morgan and Andre Russell, who have failed to fire so far. Combined, the pair have just 37 runs between them from four innings, with Morgan averaging 14 and Russell under 5. The Thunder line-up have too much inexperience in Gibson, Patterson, Green, Doran and Co for their guns to misfire and still expect the Thunder to rattle up any sort of competitive score. Pat Cummins has looked a lot better than a tail ender in the first two matches, scoring 36 and 30, and I think in this line-up he might command a spot in the Top 6 ahead of some of the youngsters.
Cummins hasn't really fired with the ball yet, however you get the feeling he is on the brink of ripping through a team. It's great to see him fully fit and bowling relatively quick, and I think the Heat might be the side when he breaks through and gets a few wickets, after claiming just one wicket in the opening two games. Watson's return gives the Thunder's bowling better balance. Both Heat batsmen enjoyed the pace on the ball in the Power Play so I wouldn't be surprised if the Thunder deploy a spinner for Watson from Ball 1 tonight. While batsmen have been able to get used to the genuine pace on the ball of Cummins and Russell, they will have to deal with Watson's changes of pace and subtle medium pacers in the middle overs. Watson has 172 wickets in T20 cricket at an impressive economy rate of under 8 per over. His return might allow the Thunders' two genuine quicks to be the beneficiaries of Watson's dirty work.
Brisbane Heat Scouting Report - I said at the start of this BBL6 campaign that this is a team to look out for, at least with the bat, and they backed that up in Game 1 with a power packed display. They were led well by their big names, with McCullum scoring 42 and Lynn 29, as the Heat powered their way past 200. However, it was a couple of lesser names that stole the show with Jimmy Peirson and Alex Ross both making impressive contributions. I really had my doubts about both players batting ahead of Joe Burns, however they backed it up, at least in Game 1, by being the Heat's highest scorers. Peirson was savage on anything on his legs in particular, and looked in great nick. However, with an overall record averaging 20 through 18 games, I'm not sure he will be a consistent run scorer. A player I have no such doubts about is Alex Ross, who has been a proven performer the last couple of BBL campaigns. Ross came back to haunt his old side, the Strikers, in his innings last week. Ross grew up playing hockey, and he is one of the more inventive and creative batsmen in the country in short form cricket. A very strong sweeper, Ross also likes to use the crease and create some width or himself, or create an angle where he can manipulate the field, causing headaches headaches for the bowler and captain.
I reckon the Thunder will be targeting the Heat's quicks in the Power Play after their sub-par display in Adelaide. Steketee and Cutting were excellent at the death under pressure, however they were wayward up front along with the inexperienced Jake Wildermuth. Cutting was really poor in his opening few overs, however managed to nail his yorkers at the death under pressure to pull the game out of the fire for the Heat in match that was fast slipping away. Despite going at less than 6 an over in taking 0/22 from 4, I have seen Samuel Badree bowl a lot better, and he will be expected to carry their spin bowling attack somewhat I think. Mitchell Swepson has real potential, however he is raw, and on the small grounds of the BBL might be targeted by some of the power hitters.
Verdict - Sometimes when you assess a game you look at which team will be more desperate, and that is clearly the Thunder here. At 0-2, you're only one or two losses away from being out of the BBL finals race. So this game is a must win for them, particularly at home. However, I still think if both teams play at near their best, the Heat have more firepower and can simply outscore the Thunder here. They have far more quality and depth in their line up with the bat. With the ball I think the Thunder are stronger, and that's where they might be able to gain an advantage over the Heat. I get the feeling Cummins and Russell are about due to make an impact with the ball, as they haven't bowled badly in the first two games.
The Lurker - "I'm twisting my whiskers at the moment having lost count of how many winners I have backed in this competition. I thought i was good but i didn't know i was this good. I'm pretty keen on the Brisbane Heat to knock over the Sydney Thunder tonight. The Thunder have Watto back which will make them far more competitive and with them desperate for a win this game will be a really close affair at Spotless Stadium. However the fire power of the Heat batsman will prove the difference in the end. For the battlers out there who couldn't crack a sao get on the high bat double of Morgan (Thunder) and Lynn (Heat). Also have a crack at Cutting to get most poles for the Heat"