Brisbane Heat (3-0) v Sydney Sixers (2-2) @ The Gabba
Preview - The Brisbane Heat will be seeking their 4th straight victory to start BBL6 when they take on Sydney Sixers at the Gabba on Tuesday night. After narrow victories against the Strikers and Thunder, the Heat put in by far their most complete display with a thumping 7-wicket victory against an over matched Hobart side. After opening last season with five straight losses, the Heat are thriving under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum, and a fourth straight win would go a long way to locking up home finals' berth. The Heat will have higher goals though, and a Top 2 finish should be in their sights and a potential home semi-final. The Sixers have been up and down like a yo yo in this BBL, trading great victories with awful defeats throughout the first four games, to leave them delicately poised at 2-2 coming into this game. Some of their senior guys have been struggling a bit and it will be interesting to see if they make a couple of changes for the trip to Brisbane. After finishing in last place in 2015/16, this is a massive game for the Sixers if they want to get back into the finals in 2016/17.
Squad Changes - Nic Maddinson is back as a permanent member of the squad after bring a late inclusion against the Heat. Batsman Jordan Silk is also back in the 13-player squad, replacing Soumil Chibber who is yet to play a game for the Sixers. Young tearaway Henry Thornton may be on the verge of a game with Doug Bollinger struggling. The Brisbane Heat make just the one change to their 13 with former Test batsman Alex Doolan coming in for Nathan Reardon. Reardon is off to the Northern Knights in the New Zealand T20 league to get some playing time before possibly re-entering the Heat line-up later in the season.
Sydney Sixers Scouting Report - It's time for the Sixers' big name batting lineup to stand up in this match as they enter the second half of the season. With Jason Roy and Nic Maddinson returning, all the Sixers' Top 5 have played International Cricket and they should be a team that can score 180+ and really dictate games from there. Jason Roy has looked in great nick each game, however has not fully capitalised on this form and I think the Sixers' staff will be disappointed he hasn't turned all starts into at least one half century. It's an interesting time for Nic Maddinson. Having been dropped from the Test side, he looked a bit all over the shop after being a late inclusion agains the Strikers. I would be getting Maddinson back up to opening batsman ahead of Daniel Hughes, and trying to get him to play his natural game. Sam Billings has been the Sixers' most in form batsman the last two games and is really striking the ball well. He simply has to bat in the Top 4 now he has proven himself in this competition, and I would be stunned if he did not bat ahead of Daniel Hughes and Brad Haddin.
I was a bit critical Ben Dwarshuis after the first couple of games, however he has bounced back and bowled outstandingly in the last two games. Tall off spinner Will Somerville has been a real surprise packet for mine. He was a bowler I thought oppositions might have been able to get a hold of, however he has been extremely economical as well as picking up wickets. Sean Abbott has always been a real wicket taker in the middle overs and he had a spectacular game in Adelaide, claiming five of them. However the most impressive thing about Abbott's spell is he only went for 16 runs, as he has an economy rate of over 8 runs per over in T20 cricket and can go the journey at times.
Brisbane Heat Scouting Report - The Heat had a great batting line-up on paper coming into BBL6, however it's on the park that counts, and their big guns are delivering so far. Brendon McCullum is not just bringing his wealth of experience and aggressive captaincy, but some blistering starts. McCullum is striking at over 200 during the BBL and is giving his side a great launching pad. Jimmy Peirson is struggling a bit, however, with the side settled and winning, I think they will press on with him after he showed promise in the opening game. T20 can be a fickle game where it's hard to be consistent, however Chris Lynn could well be the man of the tournament for two consecutive seasons if he keeps his amazing form going. In BBL6 some of the West Indian imports and big names have failed to fire, however Lynn just keeps on pumping out match winning scores.
The Heat's bowling still looked a weakness coming into BBL6, however they have really hit their straps. With veteran leg spinner and T20 specialist Samuel Badree up front, the Heat are really controlling the Power Play. Medium fast bowler Mark Steketee is getting better every game and growing in confidence with the faith the Heat are placing in him. The likes of Wildermuth, Swepson and Floros, however, have been hit and miss, and I think the big name Sixers' batting line-up will really target those three in their first over.
Verdict - If the Sixers continue on their pattern of form so far from BBL6, they will bounce back with a vengeance here. I get the feeling the Sixers' staff would be putting the onus on some of their big name batsmen to stand up here, and I wouldn't be surprised if Nic Maddinson or Jason Roy put in a big performance here. What the faster bowlers of both sides here can't afford to do is bowl too many fuller balls in the slot, as the short straight boundaries at the Gabba are an easy pick-up shot for the many class batsmen in this game. Expect plenty of change-ups and the use of the short ball to try and defend the longer boundary. The Heat looked a bit like a team of individuals in their first couple of games, however winning breeds confidence and I think they are starting to gel as a unit. Expect this game to be a real cracker, with 190 being about a par score on an outstanding batting surface at the Gabba.
The Lurker - "The Lurker does not lose back to back games, you can take that to the bank. I am having a real crack here and tipping the Sixers in a massive upset against the unbeaten home side. Jason Roy is due to fire so look for him to score 25+ into a Sixers win. Also for the Heat I think Cutting can take the most poles.