Yes folks, the Big Bash League is here, and the Melbourne teams will clash in just 16 days – the first match of the tournament. Both teams are once again coming into the fray with strong sides, and having made the semi-finals in BBL|02, expect some hard, fast and big hitting cricket.
Renegades Captain Aaron Finch was incredibly destructive last summer, and in the opening Melbourne derby smashed 111 not out at Etihad Stadium. The Stars had their moments too; Lasith Malinga tore the Perth Scorchers a new one early on in the competition.
Ahead of a much bigger Big Bash League, here’s a few keys for both teams that could potentially see them hoist the trophy come the final on February 7th next year:
Twice the side has made the semi-finals; twice they have lost to the Perth Scorchers. Depth in the Stars squad extends from the openers right through to the death bowlers.
Rain and losing players to international duties were the main factors for the Stars just scraping into the semi-finals. However, there is plenty to talk about for the upcoming season, and that includes these three players:
From the UK comes a reliable and explosive all-rounder that took apart the Hobart Hurricanes two seasons ago. Wright signed a multi-year contract and can be a vital core in offering services to the Stars.
Having a bit of a stop-start campaign last year, there is every belief Wright can come in and grab two quick wickets or score some quick runs. Either opening or first drop, Wright’s consistency will be a deciding factor in his impact against the opposition. Everyone in the crowd, look out.
Underestimating McKay could come back to haunt opposing sides. His record in short-form cricket is superb (65 wickets in 54 Twenty20 games @ 24.7). Key to McKay being a match winner is the variation of his slower balls and change of pace. Plenty of batsmen have been lulled into a false shot and paid the price.
Not content to simply throw the willow away either, McKay has put the ball into the MCG stands before. As has been the trend in the last 12 months, bowlers have been a far greater influence in Twenty20 cricket than in previous seasons.
Is being 38 years of age stopping the veteran Victorian? Well, 342 runs in BBL|02 – third on the table – suggests no. Experience counts in every format, and Hodge became a leader with the bat, both on and off the field.
The 88 he scored against the Adelaide Strikers, and a sublime 118 run partnership with Glenn Maxwell against the Sydney Sixers were two big highlights after switching from the Renegades. Everyone will be lining up at the gates to watch Hodge put the ball over the fence many times.
Just how much of influence the captain is on his side has been indicated by the prowess opening the Renegades batting. His 111 not out in the opening game of BBL|02 was a beautiful mix of strokeplay, innovation and brutal shots.
The one thing to admire about Finch is maturity. Granted, work is required in the first-class arena, but when it comes to the white ball, Finch is red hot, pun intended. Named man of the tournament last year, Finch is back again in a big way.
Nicknamed “The Postman”, there is hardly a time where Rohrer doesn’t deliver on the field. Left-handed and clever, Rohrer applied himself in the middle order last season, both for the Renegades and state team New South Wales.
He has a strike in T20 above 137, decent for any middle order batsman. Rather than hammer the ball to all parts, Rohrer knows how to work an innings by playing shots all around the wicket. Second on the Renegades statistics table for most runs last season, Expect more of the same this summer.
Underrated and definitely underplayed, Rimmington took eight wickets in BBL|02 for the Renegades, at an economy rate of 7.5. In Twenty20 cricket, those are excellent numbers. Like McKay, Rimmington has a change of pace that makes him one of the harder bowlers to face.
Not only that, Rimmington is backed up by a squad that starts at the top, finishes at 11 and hardly a gap in between. Being able to tie up an end in Twenty20 cricket is not the easiest of tasks, and Rimmington can do this simply by putting the ball in the right areas consistently.
To say the Big Bash League will be hotly contested is a small understatement – all of the eight sides have the potential to make it to the final. In the case of the Stars and the Renegades, whoever wins the first derby on December 20 will have a big leg up on both the competition, and the Melbourne rivalry.
PREDICTION: Stars: 3rd Renegades: 2nd