Perth Scorchers (2-1) v Sydney Thunder (0-3) @ WACA
Preview - The Scorchers are back home after a two-game road trip, looking to score their third victory of the season over the winless Sydney Thunder. The Scorchers bounced back from a terrible performance in Sydney against the Sixers, to claim a thrilling last ball victory against the Renegades. Ashton Agar was the hero, hitting Aaron Finch's last ball for 6, with the Scorchers requiring 3 for victory having suffered a dramatic collapse when they looked on course for an easy victory. The Thunder's season is on life support after a heartbreaking loss to the Heat at Spotless Stadium. The Thunder had the Heat well and truly on the ropes at 6/62 chasing 159 before Chirs Lynn went berserk to pull the game out of the fire for the Heat. The Thunder were guilty of 3 relatively simple dropped catches as they fumbled away their first genuine opportunity for a win after listless displays against the Sixers and Renegades. Last season, the sides met at Spotless Stadium where the Scorchers ran out 30-run winners. Perth have an excellent record against the Thunder, having won 4 from 5 overall.
Squad Changes - The Sydney Thunder wicketkeeper batsman, Jay Lenton, is all set to make his debut replacing the struggling Luke Doran. Lenton is an imposing left hand batsman with plenty of runs under his belt in Sydney Grade cricket. He has a little more experience than Luke Doran, who looked a little overwhelmed by the occasion so far this year. Gurinder Sandhu wins back a place in the the squad in place of Kerrod White. Sandhu has gone off the boil in the past twelve months and will need a big performance if he wishes to work his way back to being a permanent member of the team. The Scorchers are forced into two changes to their 13-player squad, with both Hilton Cartwright and Ashton Agar picked in the Test Squad for the SCG New Year's Test. Cartwright seems a massive chance to make his debut, with the selectors having dispensed with Nic Maddinson. Batsman Cameron Bancroft and leg spinner James Muirhead enter the squad with a chance of playing their first BBL game of the season. Bancroft could consider himself desperately unlucky to be outside the squad, given in his 12 T20 games he averages over 30, at a respectable strike rate of 127. However, such is the depth of the Scorchers' batting he has had to bide his time. James Muirhead is the forgotten man of Australian circle over the past few years. Muirhead burst on to the scene in 2013 and played five T20 games for Australia before he suffered from the yips and was dropped all the way down to local Grade cricket. It's been a long road back, however it's good to see him back in the mix.
Perth Scorchers' Scouting Report - The Scorchers will be looking for Shaun Marsh to get back to his best after two rare failures after his comeback from a hamstring injury. Marsh has been a huge reason why the Scorchers have played four BBL finals and won two titles, average 40 at the top of the order and playing a calm, controlled, aggressive brand of cricket. Marsh has been a bit circumspect in the first couple of games and I wouldn't be surprised if he is a lot more aggressive from Ball 1 back on his home wicket in Perth. His opening partner, Michael Klinger, made a crucial 71 in what proved to be a real dogfight against the Renegades. Perth look really well served with their Top 4 batters this year, with both 1st drop Ian Bell and 2nd drop Mitchell Marsh looking in excellent touch. The Scorchers have way more depth in their batting than any other side in the BBL. To boast the likes of Sam Whiteman, Cameron Bancroft, Adam Voges, Ashton Turner and Mitchell Johnson in their lower middle order is a huge advantage. Their roster man needs a big pat on the back.
With the ball, the Scorchers continue to be one of the most disciplined and organised bowling and fielding outfits. I thought they might really miss Brad Hogg, however that hasn't really eventuated in the opening two games with Perth limiting both Adelaide and the Renegades under 150. Both those sides have pretty decent batting line ups, so that's a fair indication. Against the Sixers, they also fought hard with only 130 on the board, so I think Head Coach Justin Langer would be really happy with his troops. English import David Willey is having another excellent Big Bash, taking wickets at regular intervals. Willey is also really controlling the Power Play by taking a key early wicket or not going around the park, as plenty of other quicks are in this competition. Mitchell Johnson was not quite at his best on his return to the side in Melbourne. However, he loves bowling in Perth and I expect him to be far more of a threat here. I'm still a bit worried about the Scorchers' spin bowling stocks, even thought Ashton Turner did a stellar job in Melbourne, claiming 2 for 25 from 4 overs.
Sydney Thunder Scouting Report - The Thunder have made a dreadful start to BBL6, and the main reason for that is they simply haven't been able to put scores on the board. In three games they are yet to score over 160, meaning their bowlers are under pressure from the get-go to make breakthroughs. There is no room for error. I'm a bit stunned they continued with Kurtis Patterson and Ryan Gibson at the top of the order after Shane Watson's return. C'mon guys lets be serious. Shane Watson is a world class T20 opening batsman, it's a no brainer. Eoin Morgan found some form stroking 52 from 43 balls again the Heat. If I were the Thunder, I would be batting him at Number 3 and dropping one of the openers down the order. Get your best players in early when you're struggling. Big West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell is yet to fire with the bat in BBL6. I expect Perth to try the short ball and not let him free his arms. Russell is a proven big game player over the years, having played in an amazing five title winning T20 franchises around the world in the last year, and the Thunder need him more than ever here.
Pat Cummins was back to near his best with an explosive display of fast bowling against the Heat. While Cummins figures of 2 for 46 off 4 are not the best on paper, the signs were there that he is ready to slip into top gear. Cummins was desperately unlucky not to have 4 or 5 wickets as the Thunder put down some simple chances. He really blasted out Brendon McCullum and Alex Ross and had Chris Lynn hopping at times. Cummins just needs to be a fraction smarter. Whilst his pace is his best asset, sometimes he need the change- ups as they should be even more effective when the batsmen are worried about being hit. He got a bit carried away in one over, continuing to bowl flat out as Chris Lynn took him around the park. Fawad Ahmed was outstanding against the Heat, with figures of 2 for 19 off 4. Ahmed enjoyed the slow conditions and used some subtle changes of the wrist to perplex the Heat middler order. Both spinners, Ahmed and Green, have done a really steady job so far, however will be tested in Perth with the short straight boundaries.
Verdict - On paper and reading the form line it is hard to see anything other than a big Scorchers win here. However I will say it again, one team wants to win and the other team needs to win, and that makes this interesting. This is the Thunder's last chance, they can't afford a 4th straight loss, and as a hopeless underdog on the road, they can bunker down and perhaps produce their best performance of the BBL. Pat Cummins and Andre Russell have the potential to cause the Scorchers some problems in the fast and bouncy conditions, so it is really a case of whether the Thunder bats can step up to the plate. I expect at least one of the experienced top order of Watson, Morgan or Russell to pay a defining innings with the bat here as time is running out. Having said all that, it's hard to go past Perth given they play the WACA so well and are such a well coached and well drilled outfit. I expect something out of Shaun Marsh this game, and I think Mitchell Johnson could return to near his best. If the Thunder bat first, I expect them to make their highest score of BBL6 by getting over 160. However I'm not sure it will be quite enough. They might need 180 plus to win here.
The Lurker - "The Lurker is all over the Scorchers here back at home against the hapless Thunder. The Thinder might finish on a doughnut this year they way they are shaping up and I can't see them getting the chocolates in Perth. Get on Shaun Marsh to score 25 + into a Scorchers win and Mitchell Marsh to hit 3 + horns for the match"