The second match of the Big Bash League season is a repeat of a playoff match from last term as the Sydney Thunder take on the Brisbane Heat in the first game of the new campaign for both teams at the Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Both these sides had a good chance of landing the title last year but neither could get the job done. They return for more this time around having an equally strong hope over their chances, something an opening win here will only enhance.
For much of last season it looked like the Sydney Thunder were the team to beat but they couldn’t quite go with the pace and ended up being beaten fairly early in the postseason. The fact they made it to the playoffs was a positive though and with the Thunder actually able to play home matches in Sydney this term you would expect a natural improvement from a side who had all boxes covered last season except maybe for strength in depth.
There has been some big changes at Thunder HQ since last season. Their captain Callum Ferguson has called it a day and the coach Shane Bond has moved on as well. Usman Khawaja has taken over the captaincy while former England coach Trevor Bayliss is in charge of the side. He has a decent cricket brain which might help the Thunder with the X-Factor and the Power Surge but ultimately this team need to keep their best players on the field.
The Brisbane Heat made it back to the playoffs after a few years in the wilderness last season but couldn’t get past the Challengers where they were well beaten by the Perth Scorchers. That was definitely progress though and with The Gabba being their home ground for the majority of this season they will be aiming to better last term and put a second title in the cabinet. On paper at least this looks a tougher task for the Heat it has to be said.
Brisbane have also had a change in their coaching ranks. Darren Lehmann has been relegated to the position of the assistant coach and there has been a change on the field too. Ben Duckett and Tom Abell have come in for Dan Lawrence and Lewis Gregory but the Heat are going to be missing some key players to the international arena. Jimmy Peirson has the captaincy full time which the Heat hope will free Chris Lynn up to show his explosive best batting.
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The Sydney Thunder will be without their captain Usman Khawaja for this match as he is in the Australia squad for The Ashes. They will also be missing Saqib Mahmood too as he is currently with the England Lions.
Brisbane Heat will be without Tom Abell as he is also with that England Lions side but perhaps more importantly Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser are both away with Australia. Ben Duckett and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are around though.
At the present time both these teams look better with the bat to me than they do the ball so I’m going to take the over on the boundaries in this match at a Manuka Oval ground where the ropes are usually very accessible and the pitch is usually very good for batting. In the main the matches we saw here last season were pretty high scoring and while the bowlers get up to speed for the competition I expect the early ones this term to be as well.
The boundaries line looks fairly low at 35.5 here and while we have to remember there are only four traditional powerplay overs in this competition, if teams have players in when they take the power surge those overs can soon make up for it. We saw Sydney Sixers hit 29 boundaries in their innings on Sunday with set batsmen in at the right time so these two can certainly combine to hit 36 across the course of the two innings.
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