Thursday, December 16, 2015, 7.40pm AEDT, Spotless Stadium, Sydney, Watch on 10 Network
Last season finish
Sydney Thunder: Seventh, second last
Sydney Sixers: Fourth, lost grand final
WHAT a way to kick off the new KFC T20 Big Bash League season.
The Sydney Thunder welcome cross town arch rivals the Sydney Sixers for the aptly titled derby, the Sydney Smash.
The Sixers are in the market for the title again this year, on the fourth line of betting at $7.50 with sportsbet.com.au.
But their rivals the Thunder aren’t expected to offer too much resistance, the rank outsiders at $12.
And despite having plenty of cracks at it over the four years of the competition, the Thunder have never defeated the Sixers. Ever.
Although, in this one, the playing field might have been levelled out slightly, with the Sixers set to miss captain Steve Smith for the season opener.
Smith, Australia’s captain and best bat has been ruled out after struggling in the first test against the West Indies in Hobart with a sore hip and dodgy knee.
Much maligned former Aussie all rounder Shane Watson will suit up for the Thunder and only half hid his pleasure at Smith being rested ahead of the game.
“That certainly weakens their squad,’’ Watson said.
“The Sixers’ depth was always going to be a challenge with the Aussie stars coming and going.
“That’s one thing we’ve got here, and that’s depth.
“We won’t be affected as much as them.
“We’ll be ready to go Thursday, that’s for sure.
“If we play to our best, and I’m confident we will, with the squad we have I think throughout this tournament we’ll be very hard to beat.”
But Watson obviously wasn’t counting on gun bat Usman Khawaja to be out for the Thunder, meaning both sides will be missing marquee run scorers for their first game of the season.
Watson is set to be the x factor the Thunder have missed in previous seasons as he joins two of the most prolific Big Bash League bats in Jacques Kallis and Mike Hussey, who will captain the side in his last season of competitive cricket.
Head coach Paddy Upton’s squad has scored a combined 12,835 runs and taken 418 wickets in T20 cricket.
“Having three genuine all-rounders to pick from in Jacques Kallis, Andre Russell and Shane Watson gives us the opportunity to have one real joker player in the eleven,” Upton said.
“We can actually decide to pick an extra batter or an extra bowler, we’ve got the luxury on that on 11th spot that we can pick according to the conditions and the opposition.
“It’s wonderful to be in a position where we have 13 or 14 players to pick eleven from.“
But the Sixers have a perennial who is who of short form master blasters in Nick Maddinson, Michael Lumb and Brad Haddin, along with Jordan Silk, Moises Henriques and Ryan Carters.
They are going to rack up some big scores this season.
But they won’t have Test bowler Josh Hazlewood – who has 50 wickets in the calendar year – leaving an opening for the Thunder that gives the underdogs as good a chance as any to snap their losing streak against their cross town rivals.
They will, however, be able to call upon any of Doug Bollinger, new men Johan Botha, Jackson Bird and Kyle Abbott, as well as fringe test man Steve O’Keefe.
And the Thunder will have to deal with Test spinner Nathan Lyon, who will be keen to remind the Aussie selectors of his prowess in the shorter form of the game.
It’s still an imposing bowling attack, but the Thunder must capitalise.
They look ok with the rock with being spectacular.
Gurinder Sandhu has been one of the better bowlers in the Big Bash League in past seasons, while Clint McKay, Kallis, Watson, Windies man Andre Russell and Fawad Ahmed will all get their chance.
Last time these two teams met, the Sixers sent legendary fast bowler Brett Lee off in style chasing down the Thuder’s total of 4/154 in a remarkable thriller that was won with a boundary off the last ball of the match.
Silk smashed an unbeaten 69 off 43 balls, including 43 off his last 13 to ensure victory, joining O’Keefe in scoring the 23 runs required off the last over.
For the Thunder, Kallis whacked five fours and two sixes in his 56 form 43 at the top of the innings, while Blizzard made 51 off 36 balls.
Sydney Thunder: Mike Hussey (captain), Fawad Ahmed, Aiden Blizzard, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Jacques Kallis, Chris Hartley, Clint McKay, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Andre Russell, Gurinder Sandhu, Shane Watson
Sydney Sixers: Nic Maddinson (captain), Sean Abbott, Jackson Bird, Doug Bollinger, Johan Botha, Ryan Carters, Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Brad Haddin, Trent Lawford, Michael Lumb, Nathan Lyon, Jordan Silk
Match Result: Sydney Thunder win ($2.25 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Highest opening partnership: Sydney Thunder ($1.80 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Most sixes: Sydney Sixers ($2 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Wait for it. The Thunder can snap their Sydney Smash hoodoo here. Every thing has to go right, but they have the cattle to topple a Sixers side that will be missing at least three of their best players. Kallis and Hussey have to do what they do best, Blizzard needs to hit them out of the screws and all rounders Russell and Watson must stand up with the willow. And then they must capitalise on the missing Smith and try and tie the Sixers down with an even bowling attack that provides many reliable options, but few out and out stars. If none of that happens, then the Sixers win this in a canter, but we’re going to back the Thunder in to bust the curse and get home in a thriller – the perfect way to kick off the new Big Bash League season. The $2.25 quote represents value. The Sixers’ master blasters are experts at clearing the rope and they certainly have more big hitting fire power than the Thunder and they get the nod for most sixes.
Top run scorer tips
Aiden Blizzard ($6.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
The Thunder have the big names in Kallis, Hussey and Watson, but we’re going with talented stroke maker Aiden Blizzard. Blizzard often lives up to his name with the bat, a Blizzard of big hitting fury, but has some times got himself out with a silly shot or a bit of laziness. Clubbed 51 from 36 balls the last time these two teams met, so he has form. This guy has over 1800 runs in T20 cricket and is a super talent and will want to be among the top run scorers in the Big Bash League this season. He could be well on his way to doing that if he can craft a big score against the Sixers and if it gets his team over the line, he will be a hero.
Brad Haddin ($4.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Free from the shackles of international cricket, Haddin has had the chance to focus on his family. And we reckon that might bring about some serious runs in the short form of the game as he enters the twilight of his career. While the runs became few and far between at international level, watch the swashbuckling wicket keeper pick apart attacks in the Big Bash. Maddinson is a monster at the top of the order and Silk, Carters and Lumb can hit it a mile, but Haddin is the man the Thunder will most fear in this one.
Top wicket taker
Gurinder Sandhu ($3 with WilliamHill.com.au)
It seems strange that Sandhu hasn’t played more than just the two one day internationals for Australia, but, at just 22, time is on his side. Standing at 194 centimetres, Sandhu possesses prodigious bounce and a serious back for taking wickets in the short form of the game – he took more than any other bowler in the Matador Cup last campaign. He’s very difficult to score off, with an economy rate under seven – remarkable for T20 cricket – and that is the key for him here. Must fire if the Thunder are to win this clash. Has the pace and power to bowl them to victory.
Nathan Lyon ($4.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Make no mistake, Lyon is the best bowler in this squad at the moment. He is aching to break back into the Australian one day and T20 teams and therefore will be hell bent on impressing here. Coming of a New Zealand series where he was the equal highest wicket taker and a bag of three wickets against the Windies, Lyon will be tough to score off and his ability to choke bats out often makes them throw away their wickets. Good slowies are hard to find in T20 cricket. Lyon is a gem. Back him in.
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