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BBL week ahead: May the cream commence rising

30th December, 2015
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Usman Khawaja must play in New Zealand. (Image: Sydney Thunder)
Expert
30th December, 2015
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Two weeks into the Big Bash League, and we’re already starting to get an idea of which teams are and aren’t in contention for the playoffs in the second-last week of January.

With the Perth Scorchers winning very well under the open roof in Melbourne last night, they join the logjam of teams with two wins and four points, and it’s this group of teams that will probably battle it out to claim the remaining spots in the top four.

Wins are everything from now on, and there’s no doubt the couple of teams with 1-2 records really cannot afford to lose too many more if they want to join that group of teams immediately above them.

It’s quite likely that the coming week will be massive for a number of sides for a number of reasons, and here are a few things to look forward to heading into the third week of the tournament.

Big Bash-a-palooza
Prepare the favourite chair for some serious butt-groove creation over the next week. After barely coping with no BBL action on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – which by the sound of James Sutherland’s tone will quite likely not be the case next season – we’re in the middle of a 17-day BBL marathon to Monday 11 January, in which 19 matches will be played. There will be eight matches over the next seven days.

There will also be three WBBL matches broadcast over the next three days, too, including the wonderful news that Saturday’s WBBL Melbourne derby that precedes the men’s equivalent will be shown on the primary Network Ten channel, before the BBL double header that night. After drawing wonderful ratings in their initial forays on OneHD, all eyes will be on what sort of numbers the girls can draw on the main channel.

Sydney Thunder can secure maiden semis appearance this week
They’ve won the same number of games this season than they did over the last three seasons and have never finished higher than last summer’s seventh place. But by this time next week, the Thunder – everyone’s second team, perhaps? – could have one foot in the BBL playoffs.

Over the four previous seasons of the BBL, 10 points from five wins has been enough to guarantee a berth. Indeed, Perth have three times hosted semi-finals on the back of five wins, including most recently last season, though in fairness, each team only played seven games in BBL01.

The Thunder are undefeated and outright leaders heading into the third week of the competition, and are twice away this week in very winnable games against Hobart (Friday) and Brisbane (Sunday). They’ve discovered the right mix of experience, x-factor, and reliability, and that makes them a dangerous side from here on.

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Lynn playing for recognition
He proved on Tuesday night that when fit, and when he’s really ‘on’, there aren’t too many cleaner strikers of the ball that Brisbane Heat skipper Chris Lynn.

Lynn’s 51-ball 101 must surely now put him toward the top of the batting option list for the World Twenty20, and even the January one-dayers against India. There’s no reason why he can’t be just as effective a batsman over the longer version of the shorter forms of the game.

But with Brisbane now 0 and 4 and their playoff chances all but shot, Lynn can actually be a little selfish and ensure he finishes his campaign as one of the BBL’s dominant batsmen. And in a misfiring Heat top order, he’s not going to have to worry about too many teammates taking runs off him. Essentially, how strong a tournament he finishes with now is entirely up to him, and that can only help his national selection chances.

And speaking of big…
Lynn hit some monstrous sixes in Brisbane on Tuesday night, but I will be astounded if Dan Christian’s 117m bomb onto the ‘Gabba roof is topped in 2015-16.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then do yourself a favour, hold all calls for the next 49 seconds and click the window above.

It’s a big week ahead for… Shaun Marsh
Justin Langer said of his Boxing Day omission that “…when Shaun Marsh gets angry and hungry, then that’s when I like having him in the team,” and though twin MCG centuries from Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja probably don’t help his Test recall chances, this week represents the commencement of Shaun Marsh trying to prove the national selectors wrong.

After making 76 against the Renegades in Melbourne last night, Marsh over the next week is also in line to face the Sydney Sixers in Perth on Saturday, and Adelaide in Adelaide on Tuesday.

With an eye toward the World Twenty20, and the ODI line-up far from settled currently, Marsh will have plenty of opportunity to remind the selectors of his worth and mount a case for inclusion in the limited overs squads to face India.

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Who’s this week’s Premiership Favourite™?
It’s hard to go past the Thunder, on current form. My initial picks, Hobart and Adelaide, have both looked a little scratchy in recent outings, while the Thunder just keep rumbling along, if you allow the obvious pun.

If they can win these next two games on the road, two of their final three games being at home will set their season up very nicely.

Even though they’re still learning how to play at Spotless Stadium themselves, after switching from the cavernous ANZ Stadium in recent seasons, the Thunder remain a few steps ahead of opposition teams. Plus, they’re now drawing a significant and vocal crowd in the west of Sydney who would to see them home.

Tip of the week: Renegades to win the Melbourne Derby, Saturday night.

I wrote in the first week of the competition about my reservations of the Melbourne Stars’ bowling line-up, and I’ve seen nothing since to ease those concerns. Their batting looks strong; Wright, Pietersen, Maxwell, Handscomb, and David Hussey are all hitting the ball pretty well.

But the bowling still looks unthreatening to me, and I can’t help but wonder if they might be shooting themselves in the foot by playing ‘keeper Tom Triffitt, when perhaps they’d be better served by Handscomb ‘keeping and picking another bowler? John Hastings may or may not be right to return by Saturday, and Evan Gulbis is another useful allrounder in the Stars’ squad.

The Renegades, however, just look more complete as a team to me. They bat deep, real deep; Tom Cooper not batting last night and listed to come in at no.7 is a luxury most teams would love. In Nathan Rimmington, they have one of the cannier short-form bowlers getting around, and also have useful spin experience in Xavier Doherty and Nathan Hauritz.

Despite the ten wicket loss to Perth, and I think they’re still a big chance in the Derby.

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