Sixers are pink-hot, but BBL’s debut gets a cool reception

49 Have your say

    The new T20 Big Bash – Australian domestic cricket’s biggest gamble. Six state teams out, replaced with eight city-based franchises. New names, new colours, new team line-ups. Support for the new concept was far from unanimous in cricket circles; but the true test would be what unfolded when the new league started.

    First up would be the Sydney Sixers, one of two Sydney-based teams, at home against the Brisbane Heat. The Sixers in pink, the Heat in teal.

    Early signs weren’t particularly promising. Half an hour before the game, there looked to be only around 5000 people inside the ground. The crowd built up in the final minutes, though during the early overs it was already clear the attendance would be below expectations.

    Brisbane won the toss and elected to bat, sending experienced international players Brendon McCullum and Matthew Hayden out to open the innings. Hayden retired from first-class cricket four years ago, but has played the T20 circuit in India since then and still looks match-fit.

    Another old warrior opened the bowling for the Sixers, with Brett Lee charging in from the Paddington End. And he looked in form early, conceding only four runs from the opening over. In his second over, a bouncer struck Brendon McCullum in the head, forcing the New Zealander to retire for treatment.

    James Hopes replaced McCullum, but after scoring 18 he departed, being the first player to be dismissed in the history of the new league; with Dwayne Bravo the first successful bowler. McCullum returned, but would score only one more run.

    The Sixers brought Stuart MacGill into the attack. The old leg-spinner, returning to action having not played at any level for a few years, immediately hit the spot with the ball and tightened up the game. In his first over, he tempted McCullum into a lofted drive, but the shot went straight to Mitchell Starc at long on.

    Hayden went on to score 29, and Daniel Christian top-scored with 32. But too many of the Heat batsmen gave their wickets away easily; and the scoreboard wasn’t ticking over quickly enough. Only 50 runs were scored from the first ten overs, and although the Heat increased the tempo in the second half of their innings, they never looked to have anywhere near enough.

    The Heat finished their innings on 8 for 139, leaving the Sixers exactly seven per over to win.
    Stuart MacGill kept his bowling tight, finishing with 2 for 21 from his four overs. Brett Lee was even more economical with 0 for 19 from his four.

    And the entertainment rolled along. Player’s theme music was played for each new batsman, as well as for a boundary, fall of a wicket, or a bowling change. Cheer girls danced routines and formed human pyramids at the fall of the Heat wickets. During the innings break, the Sixers’ mascot dog ran around the outfield. As the teams emerged for the second half, a spectacular fireworks display lit up the sky.

    The Heat made a big move for the first over of the Sixers’ innings, giving off-spinner Nathan Hauritz the new ball. And he kept the bowling tight, as it took a few overs for Sixers’ openers Brad Haddin and Michael Lumb to find their rhythm.

    Haddin found his groove when Alistair McDermott bowled to him. McDermott, a late signing for the Heat, had no number on his shirt, but he had bad numbers on his bowling sheet after Haddin smashed two sixes and a four in an over.

    Lumb was soon out, with Nick Maddinson taking his place at the crease. The runs flowed freely.

    The crowd, although small, were getting into the spirit. Celebrities spotted in the crowd were interviewed, including Mel Doyle, Kristina Keneally and Adam Goodes. Tweets from the crowd were scrolling across the scoreboard. The Mexican wave, which in these days exists solely as an excuse to boo the members, went around the ground.

    Big hits and wickets were appreciated and applauded. With this being the Sixers’ first game ever, there was little merchandise being worn by the crowd; but plenty of Australia and New South Wales Blues shirts were being worn.

    With Haddin in form, hitting boundaries and sixes, the Sixers’ score was well ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par score. Haddin and Maddinson put on 79 for the second wicket. Haddin, under fire after his get-out shot in the recent Test in Hobart, bounced back to form with a series of lobs over the infield and big hits, including one that hit the roof of the Members’ Stand, on his way to an innings of 76 off 59 balls.

    Maddinson and Haddin both departed with the finish line in sight, but Steve Smith and Moises Henriques finished the game off, and the Sixers took out the first win in the history of the new competition by seven wickets.

    So was the opening night for the new T20 Big Bash league a success? The cricket was entertaining enough, especially Haddin’s innings. It was good to see Matthew Hayden batting again, and Stuart MacGill still has some good bowling in him.

    The crowd figure was never announced or posted on the scoreboard, but it looked about 12,000; a disappointing number, with the original expectation being about double that. The Sixers and the new Big Bash league still have work to do to build support, with this crowd well short of what the New South Wales state team attracted in last year’s T20 competition.

    Overall I’d rate it a pass, but only just. There’s still more to be done to turn the team of players in pink drawn from far and wide into a team the locals of Sydney identify with. In this new league, there’s also a new cross-town rival. And it’s not until I’ve checked out the Thunder as well that I’ll know who my team will be in this brave new world of franchise T20 cricket.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • December 17th 2011 @ 8:38am
      Steve said | December 17th 2011 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      I don’t know what people expect. The NRL is a 100 year old competition and gets crowds of around 12000 regularly.

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      • December 17th 2011 @ 1:11pm
        Sam el Perro said | December 17th 2011 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Not in Brisbane they don’t.

    • December 17th 2011 @ 8:48am
      Matt F said | December 17th 2011 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      The crowd was a little dissapointing. The problem with having 2 teams in Sydney and Melbourne is that, instead of adding new fans, the extra team just splits the existing supporter base in half. It will be interesting to see the attendance figures of the one-team cities are like.

      Though it didn’t help that all the turnstiles around the game malfunctioned. People weren’t let in until almost 6:30, despite a fair queue developing really early (not just members but GA as well.) Obviously that didn’t hurt the attendance figure, as I doubt anybody would have left because they had to wait outside a bit longer, but it’s not a good look when fans are waiting 15-30 minutes longer just to get in the ground. In the end they just let everyone in without scanning any tickets.

      I thought they did a good job creating atmosphere. Continuous crosses to the crowd to get their thoughts was a nice bit, though they seemed to only interview either drunks or “celebrities” (props to the crowd booing Kristina Keneally.) The fireworks susprised everybody, though doing it as the players were walking out wasn’t the best idea as they had to wait out in the middle for the smoke to clear! But overall the atmosphere was good and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

      Like you I’d give it a pass mark, but just. It was OK but has room for improvement. The potential is there. Apparently their next home game is against Warne’s team which should bring a fair few people through the gates. It will also be interesting to see what crowds the Thunder get. Historically anything less then at least 20,000 (which if my theory about the 2 teams splitting the existing audience is correct is what will happen) won’t generate the best atmosphere at ANZ stadium.

      • Roar Guru

        December 17th 2011 @ 10:30am
        mds1970 said | December 17th 2011 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Under the oid format NSW were regularly getting 25-30,000; so it’s disappointing that the Sixers drew less than half that. Maybe the existing fan base has split and there are more Thunder fans than Sixers fans – but unless the two teams draw more than the previous NSW team drew, the new format is not a success.

        I got there just after 6:30 and had no trouble getting in, but it’s not a good look if there were delays at the turnstyles with a crowd well short of expectations. If the 25,000 that had been forecast had turned up, it could have been a major issue.

        • December 17th 2011 @ 11:28am
          Matt F said | December 17th 2011 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          Crowds for NSW games last Big Bash were 15021, 16609 and 19849. I thought they were higher then that but 12k doesn’t look so bad now. I’m sure they would have liked 15-20k or even higher but if the Thunder can match the Sixers crowd then they, combined, will beat the Blues figure.

          Interestingly only 2 games last year got over 20k; The Bushrangers 1st MCG game and the final (though some games have attendance figures missing)

    • December 17th 2011 @ 9:18am
      Football Fan said | December 17th 2011 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I’d be very surprised if there was 12k there. Bit of a whimper to start but we’ll see if it takes off around the other states, especially when bigger ‘names’ lob in town to play.. (with all respect to the 6ers and Heat)

      • December 17th 2011 @ 9:32am
        Matt F said | December 17th 2011 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Read in the paper this morning that it was 12,289

    • December 17th 2011 @ 9:41am
      Rhys said | December 17th 2011 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      As rightly pointed out, it’ll take time for teams to build their own unique supporter base. Though fortunate enough to be able to see it via Foxtel, I can see the profile of the BBL will be limited until/unless there is at least partial free-to-air coverage.

      It’ll be interesting to see the crowd for the Stars v. Thunder clash tonight at the MCG – surely 50,000 would have to be the minimum organisers would be hoping for.

      • Roar Guru

        December 17th 2011 @ 10:44am
        mds1970 said | December 17th 2011 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Free-to-air won’t touch domestic cricket ever again. Especially not in prime-time. And a FTA network would play it on hours delay; or even if it had been live, after the injury time-out and a couple of other delays, the game went overtime past 10:00, and a FTA broadcaster would have stopped the coverage before it finished.

        50,000 would be the benchmark for the Stars v Thunder game at the MCG tonight. Although if Melbourne’s support has been split like it appears Sydney’s has, they may not get there.

        • December 17th 2011 @ 10:50am
          Ian Whitchurch said | December 17th 2011 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          I keep saying cricket needs to accept it’s not a popular sport in Australia and build from that, and people keep disagreeing with me, but the evidence keeps building up.

        • December 17th 2011 @ 12:15pm
          Football United said | December 17th 2011 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          50000 seems a bit extreme, even with warne. the bushies didn’t really get over 30 000 last year.

          • December 17th 2011 @ 3:44pm
            Fake ex-AFL fan said | December 17th 2011 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            Yeah, would be very surprised by 50K. Just haven’t really noticed much buzz around this game, would guess around the 30K mark would be a half decent result.

            • Roar Guru

              December 17th 2011 @ 10:12pm
              mds1970 said | December 17th 2011 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

              Only 23,000 at the MCG, even with Warnie’s comeback.

              Have Cricket Australia killed the golden goose?

    • December 17th 2011 @ 9:45am
      agga78 said | December 17th 2011 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      I would hardly call it sport myself, more entertainment just like the David Beckham match last week, it looked like a football match and there plenty of goals but it had nothing, no drama no contest and this is the same with the big bash, it looks like a cricket match, it has plenty of sixers, wickets etc but it has no real contest like a test match.

      I suspect the crowds for the big bash will be very good and rate well for the 1st couple of years, but in 3-4 years time when the novelty wears off and people have no real passion for the clubs the crowds will dip. This is crickets last hope of staying relevant in the minds of people all around the world, unfortunately test cricket is a 19th century game being played in the 21st century and as a result they need to make hybrid versions of it to continue playing test cricket.

      • Roar Guru

        December 17th 2011 @ 11:33am
        The Cattery said | December 17th 2011 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        sport is entertainment.

        Sports that don’t offer a lot of entertainment, like underwater hockey and walking don’t attract a lot of patronage.

        • December 17th 2011 @ 11:50am
          stabpass said | December 17th 2011 @ 11:50am | ! Report

          I agree with what you are saying, but a bat and ball sport will always be popular, depends on what form it takes i suppose.

    • Roar Guru

      December 17th 2011 @ 10:54am
      The Cattery said | December 17th 2011 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      I’ve been reading in the HS this morning that they are expecting 50k at the MCG tonight.

      • Roar Guru

        December 17th 2011 @ 11:05am
        mds1970 said | December 17th 2011 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        I read in the Sydney Morning Herald and mX that they were expecting 25,000 last night. It didn’t happen.

        Tonight will be interesting. I’m off to Newcastle now to watch the soccer, but I’ll be listening to the radio with interest as I drive home tonight.

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