Hobart Hurricanes (1-2) v Adelaide Strikers (1-2) @ Blundstone Arena
Preview - Hobart will be desperate to get back into the winners circle, after back-to-back losses, when they host the Strikers at Bluestone Arena on Monday. The Hurricanes' massive victory over the Sixers in Round 1 must seem like a distant memory after back-to-back thumpings at the hands of the Stars and Heat. The Hurricanes' bowling has come under stress in both games, with them unable to pick up early wickets, nor contain teams. The Strikers finally got their season up and running with a wild 48-run victory over the Sixers on New Years Eve. After the disappointment of a narrow loss to the Heat and a beating in Perth, the Strikers managed to defend a modest 152 with ease, putting in by far their best fielding and bowling performance of BBL6 so far. After a couple of season out front running, the Strikers are now in a real dogfight just to make the finals, and the loser of this game will be in real trouble at 1-3 half way through the preliminary rounds. The Strikers went to Hobart last year and managed to secure a commanding victory by 6 wickets.
Squad Changes - The only change to the Hurricanes 13 player squad is local Beau Webster coming in for Ben McDermott. Webster is a promising all rounder, having played 21 First Class games for Tasmania averaging over 30 with the bat and 50 with the ball. He will be making his T20 debut, having never played in the BBL before, should he be selected. The Strikers have named an unchanged squad, which is no surprise, given their impressive victory over the Sixers on New Years Eve.
Hobart Hurricanes' Scouting Report - The Hurricanes' top order has misfired in the past two games after their outstanding display to open the season against the Sixers. The Hurricanes racked up 200 against the Sixers, thanks to an explosive half century to D'Arcy Short, and an excellent 63 from in-form opener Tim Paine. However, in back-to-back losses, the Hurricanes' top order has lost three wickets in each of the Power Plays against the Stars and the Heat. Sitting on 3 for 32 against the Stars, and 3 for 42 against the Heat, the Hurricanes have been forced to rebuild and settle for smaller scores than might have been possible should they have only lost one wicket in the Power Play. Kumar Sangakkara has not fired a shot as yet with just 43 runs from three games batting at Number 3 for the Hurricanes. Sangakkara has made start each game, scoring over 10, however has failed to capitalise, and the Hurricanes really need some big scores from him if they are going to be a force in this competition.
Shaun Tait has had a poor last couple of outings, going for 90 runs combined from his last 7 overs, while picking up just the 1 wicket. It might be foolish to write Tait off, however I just wonder whether he has the sort of express speed to worry the really top line players. I think it might be a smart move to take Tait away from the Power Play and try and give him more of a crack at the middle order and lower order where he can really intimidate and do more damage. Stuart Broad looked the best he has all BBL6 in Brisbane. Whilst he only picked up 1/24 from 3 overs, Broad started with a lot more aggression and was unlucky to have key man Chris Lynn dropped. While Clive Rose has been doing a steady job in the Power Play, he has only picked up one wicket for the BBL, and the Hurricanes really need some early strikes if they are going to limit teams.
Adelaide Strikers' Scouting Report - The Strikers batting remains a concern despite their first victory of the season over the Sydney Sixers. Despite the top order of Brad Hodge, Jake Weatherald and Ben Dunk laying a great platform at 1/90 from 9 overs, the Strikers could only manage 152, and were bailed out by an outstanding bowling display. Hodge looked in great nick at the top of the order and I would be very surprised if he doesn't stay there for the duration of BBL6. Star batsman Travis Head hasn't been able to get anything going with the bat as yet, and the Strikers really need a couple of half centuries from him if they are going to be any threat in this competition. Jake Lehmann got out in really soft fashion last game, while Keiron Pollard was scratchy but at least managed 27 from 20 balls with one towering six which might just kick start his campaign.
With the ball, Adelaide finally displayed the sort of tactical nous and execution which carried them to back-to-back finals' series in the past two years. Ben Laughlin returned to the side with a bang, taking the remarkable figures of 2 for 10 from 4 overs, and showing all the guile and energy that has made him one of the better T20 bowlers in the world. Chris Jordan also got a confidence boosting 2 for 27 from 3 overs. The English all-rounder has not quite hit his straps and still looks a bit raw, but might just be starting to find his feet. Billy Stanlake will be getting the attention of the Hurricanes here after his raw pace and bounce caused the Sixers plenty of problems in Adelaide. Expect Stanlake to attack George Bailey with a few short balls and try and take out Hobart's key man.
Verdict - Make no mistake, this is a match up between two very desperate teams, both sitting on one win and two losses. The loser of this game drops to 1-3, and it will be pretty difficult to make the Top 4 from there. So I expect a really hard fought contest and this game to go down to the final over. Really, at Blundstone, you need 180 just to be competitive, so I am expecting whoever bats first to post a score in and around that mark. I expect Adelaide to really build on their victory against the Sixers with their best performance of the BBL to date. I think their batting looks OK on paper, however it's time to deliver, and the short square boundaries at Bludstone might bring out the best in Travis Head and Keiron Pollard. I expect Ben Dunk to be up for a big game against his old side in Hobart. It's going to be a tricky outing for the likes of Cameron Boyce, Liam O'Connor, Clive Rose and all the part timers in this game, with the short square boundaries at Bluestone. I think the faster men might enjoy the majority of the success tonight.
The Lurker - "I'm blaming a shocking hangover for my New Years' Day effort, taking home just one victory from two games is not something I'm too comfortable with! The Lurker is sticking with the Strikers after they did the job for me in Adelaide. It's going to be tight one down in Hobart, however I think the Strikers batting might finally fire tonight against a weak looking Hobart bowling outfit. Have a crack at Head to score 25+ into a Strikers win, as well as Cameron Boyce to jag the most poles for the Hurricanes."