Round 2 of the Big Bash League concludes tonight with the Sydney Sixers hosting Melbourne Stars at the SCG.
The table-topping clash, coming into Round 2, the winner of this match could find themselves the outright points table leader in BBL|03, depending the outcome of the Brisbane-Hobart game on Saturday night.
The sheer list of names in their squad means the Melbourne Stars are again one of the tournament favourites for the 2013/2014 competition, and their clinical dismantling of their cross-town rivals on the opening night of BBL|03 has done nothing to quell that favouritism.
By contrast, the expectation of the Sixers comes mostly from the perspective that Sydney demands a winner.
With the Thunder’s losing streak now extending into its third year, the Sixers are determined to ensure that they are the team to watch in the Harbour City.
Beating the competition favourites will certainly get you that sort of attention.
The Stars welcome back crowd favourite Sri Lankan paceman, Lasith Malinga, who will play out the rest of BBL|03.
Key Battle: Brett Lee v Luke Wright
Fresh from claiming the scalp of British and American television talk show host Piers Morgan, Lee still shapes as a major weapon for the Sixers at the ripe old age of 37.
If Lee can get his line and length right, his still-evident pace makes him one of the harder bowlers to get away.
Of course, the opposite is also true; should Lee stray away from his areas, then his pace can be very easily used against him.
And there may be no better batsman at the moment to use Lee’s pace against him than England allrounder, and Stars opening bat, Luke Wright.
With an uncanny ability to manufacture shots, intertwined with sots straight from the textbook and others not so orthodox, Wright’s unpredictability makes him very difficult to bowl to.
And he’s quite adept at clearing fences, too, as he showed last week in the BBL|03 opener.
Dark Horse: James Faulkner
Now released from Test duty, where he’s been the Ashes-winning 12th Man in all four Tests, Faulkner actually hasn’t played cricket since a Shield game in late November.
In fact, it’s only three games since he made 116 in the last one-dayer in India on November 2.
Since then he was spoken of as a genuine chance to play in Brisbane and Adelaide, and even Melbourne, but finally, he gets a chance to show what he’s got.
December 21, 2012 @ MCG: A 118-run partnership between Twenty20 veteran Brad Hodge, and the modern T20 prototype Glenn Maxwell, saw the Stars post a very handy 6/177, after stumbling early on to be 2/17.
Maxwell raised his fifty from 32 balls, and added another 31 from 18 balls before falling for 82.
Dan Smith and Stephen O’Keefe got the Sixers off to a reasonably solid start, and Brad Haddin added to this, but the Sixers lost 4/23 in 16 balls into the 18th over, putting the brakes on the run chase rather dramatically.
The great Shane Warne took 2/32, his best bowling of BBL|02, as the Sixers fell 21 runs short.
Facts and Figures
Sixers top-order batsman Mark Cosgrove shares an unlikely stat at this early stage of BBL|03: his 1/10 from one over last week in Sydney Smash 4 gives him a share of the leading bowling strike rate!
Another to share that leading strike rate is Stars quick, Jackson Bird, who currently also holds the tournament’s best bowling figures.
His 4/31 from four overs against the Renegades in the Big Melbourne Derby ranks at No.9 on the best overall figures in KFC BBL history.
For all the evident young talent in the Sixers batting order, of those available for this game, only Michael Lumb and Stephen O’Keefe broke 100 runs for BBL|02, partly explaining the fall from Champions in BBL|01 to 7th last summer.
The Stars batting order boasts three of the top eleven run-scorers in the history of Twenty20 cricket, in Brad Hodge (2nd – 5706 runs), David Hussey (3rd – 5372), and Cameron White (11th – 3901).
If Hodge makes 47 or more runs in this match, he’ll go past former West Indian captain Chris Gayle.