Brisbane Heat (2-0) v Hobart Hurricanes (1-1) @ The Gabba
Preview - It's a blockbuster for the Heat as they head home to a sold-out Gabba to try and extend their unbeaten start to BBL6 against the Hurricanes. After three straight years of mediocrity in Brisbane, the Heat finally appear to have a team capable of returning to the finals after two vital road victories against the Strikers and Thunder to start their campaign. Both victories, however, were far from routine, with the Heat looking in deep trouble in both games before late rallies preserved their unbeaten record. The Hurricanes came into BBL6 as rank underdogs, however, perhaps unsurprisingly, they are looking a pretty well-drilled outfit. Missing some of the big names and strength in depth of other squads, the Hurricanes were expected to struggle. However, their senior players have come out firing, leading them to a thumping win over the Sixers, before losing at home to the Stars. The Hurricanes have also had three straight years outside the playoffs and this is a crucial game for them if they have ambitions to break back in to that Top 4 in BBL6.
Brisbane Heat Scouting Report - The Heat have one of the most explosive batting line ups on paper in BBL6. However they looked paper thin in collapsing to 6/62 against the Thunder. The way the Heat play is cavalier, and occasionally that approach is going to backfire on them. The Heat, to me, look like a side that has the ambition of scoring over 200 every time they play, and they are going to go harder earlier and more often than some teams because of the nature of the players they have at their disposal. You accept that from a player like Brendon McCullum, that occasionally he is going to run past a ball and look silly. Because you know that McCullum will likely win you 1 or 2 key games because of that same cavalier approach. You can't tell him to rein it in, nor should you. I still think Joe Burns might be better deployed at the top of the order than Jimmy Peirson to add a bit of balance to McCullum's all out attack. However, Peirson was excellent in Game 1, so I don't see the Heat making a change for this game against the Hurricanes. Alex Ross did not look very comfortable at all against the pace of Pat Cummins, so I wouldn't be surprised if Stuart Broad and Shaun Tait had him in their sights. Ross is a very good T20 player, however looks more at home against medium fast and spin bowling.
What the Heat have is a player at the peak of his powers in Chris Lynn. Lynn blasted 84 from 57 balls in a lone hand to pull the game out of the fire for the Heat against the Thunder. Lynn is one of the best pure strikers of a cricket ball in T20 cricket, and is devastating down the ground especially. He loves batting at the Gabba with the short straight boundaries, and the Hurricanes will have to be very careful they do not serve up too many length balls, especially late in the innings, if Lynn is at the crease. He plays those pick-up shots like a pitching wedge, but they go a mile. Ben Cutting, to me, looks like a batter betwixt and between a bit at the moment. Because he is batting a bit higher up the order, he seems to want to fiddle around for the first 8 or 10 balls and play responsibly. It's not his game, and I would be trying to erase all burden from him. The ball he prodded at from Fawad Ahmed for a meek LBW is a ball Cutting should be able to be trying to hit out of the park.
The Heat's bowling looked a weakness heading into BBL6, however there have been some really positive signs in patches. They really needed their biggest name in Ben Cutting to step up and he is doing that in a big way so far. Cutting nailed his yorkers at the death to hold off the Strikers in Adelaide, before a superb performance against the Thunder, claiming 1 for 24 from 4, including the prized wicket of danger man Andre Russell. Mark Steketee has been a bit of a surprise packet so far, bowling a great final over against the Strikers before picking up 1 for 18 off 4 against the Thunder. Samuel Badree was back to his crafty best against the Thunder, after being off colour in Game 1. Brendon McCullum is an aggressive captain, however his move to bowl young leg spinner Mitchell Swepson in a Power Play backfired badly and nearly cost the Heat the game. The over went for 27, and I doubt McCullum will be employing that tactic again any time soon.
Hobart Hurricanes Scouting Report - The Hurricanes have been the most consistent batting outfit so far in BBL6 which I would not have predicted after two rounds. They have racked up big scores of 6/200 and 4/188 so far, meaning they are averaging 194 runs per game, which is going to win you more games than you lose in BBL cricket. They have already had contributions from three key top order players with D'Arcy Short, Tim Paine and George Bailey all having scored super impressive half centuries. Paine looks in imperious form, having scored 154 runs from 105 balls in his two innings combined. Paine has a classical technique, however is also capable of playing some nice inventive shots and really accelerating the innings. It's clear his role is to bat through the innings and he is doing an outstanding job laying the platform for his middle order. We know about the experience and class of George Bailey in the Hurricanes middle order and I have no idea why he is batting behind Dom Michael. Michael is batting 3, and Bailey at 5, which doesn't make any sense at all to me. Bailey is one of the best short form players in the country and should be acting 4 at the very lowest. Kumar Sangakkara is one of the all time greats at International level, however he has not really deceived for the Hurricanes. Averaging 29 with a strike rate of 126, his numbers do not jump off the page. However, what you simply can't measure is the influence of having one of the true legends of the game in Sangakkara in your dressing room. How much does that lift the players around him? How much is he improving the batsmen around him with his wisdom? Tactically what is he adding to a team? Those things you can't quantify in numbers, but you can by using your common sense.
The Hurricanes' attack went around the park a bit against the power packed Melbourne Stars outfit. Shaun Tait had a bit of a nightmare going for 56 from his 4 overs without a wicket. Sometimes you can tell with Tait whether he is on or off from his first few balls. He doesn't usually regather pace and rhythm if he starts poorly. Still, he is a match winner, and the Hurricanes need him firing if they are going to limit sides. Stuart Broad showed fleeting signs in Game 2 of what he might be able to bring to the table. It's his first stint in BBL and he might have been a bit taken aback by the standard. However, I expect a world class fast bowler like Broad to learn and get stronger as the BBL progresses. Clive Rose has been doing a really steady job in the Power Play to date, while Cameron Boyce is a wicket taker in the middle overs. Bluestone Arena is a really difficult ground to defend, so I don't think the Hurricanes should be too discouraged by their bowling performance.
Verdict - The Heat deserve favouritism coming into a game back home for the first time in front of a pumped-up home crowd. However, the Hurricanes are the sort of side that can slip under the radar and come in and ambush them, as they did to the Sixers in Sydney. With the Gabba having short straight boundaries, expect the likes of Broad, Tait and Ben Cutting to bowl some short stuff and some slower ball bouncers as they look to defend the much longer square boundaries the Gabba has. Spinners might not be as effective as in most BBL games this summer, as you would expect the Gabba wicket to be harder and truer and balls to slide on to the bat, and those short straight boundaries will make the spinners a target for batsmen that are set. I expect this game to be one of the higher scoring games of the BBL so far. The Gabba is traditionally a high scoring T20 venue, and the wickets won't hold up like they did in recent games at the SCG, Spotless and Docklands last night. I'll leave predicting who is going to win to The Lurker,
The Lurker - "I am all over the Heat tonight,they are dead set morals. The Hurricanes had a win first up but I don't rate them.Have a lash at the high bat double of Brendon McCullum into George Bailey. Also have a crack at Jimmy Piersen to score 25+ into a Heat"