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Matador Cup 2016-17 preview

Roar Guru
23rd September, 2016
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Joel Paris will be a key player for the Warriors. (Photo: Twitter)
Roar Guru
23rd September, 2016
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Always a great introduction to the Australian cricket season is the one-day domestic competition.

What a great little venture this has become, as we look forward to the fourth instalment of this newly-designed tournament, to be held this year across three states: New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. With 23 matches sprawled across 22 days, we will see New South Wales host 15 matches, and eight to be played across Western Australia and Queensland.

Perth locals can rejoice at the thought of one-day domestic cricket returning to their state for the first time in four years; last year the competition was played in its entirety in NSW. The Cricket Australia XI will again feature as part of this year’s tournament to provide a seven-team competition, with each team playing six matches. In a bright result for cricket lovers, 13 of the matches will be broadcast on Channel Nine. In this comprehensive preview, we look ahead to this upcoming series which has become an eye-catching launch into the summer.

Quick Recap: 2015 Matador Cup
The Blues were clearly the best side, losing just one match throughout and eclipsing the Redbacks in the final. We saw 16 individual centuries scored across the whole tournament, two of which came from leading run-getter Steve Smith (435 runs at 145). Mitchell Starc, whose crushing yorkers were a feature of the tournament, claimed 26 wickets at a phenomenal average of just 8.11. This tournament saw the introduction of the Cricket Australia XI side, who managed just one win against Tasmania.

New South Wales

Captain: Moises Henriques
Coach: Trent Johnston
Last year: Winner

Draw
The Blues are the only team who will not play outside of their home state. They will begin their campaign against the Cricket Australia XI on October 7, and will play two matches each at Hurstville Oval, Drummoyne Oval and North Sydney Oval.

Squad
Moises Henriques ©, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Harry Conway, Ed Cowan, Ben Dwarshuis, Chris Green, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Steve O’Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Gurinder Sandhu.

The defending champions enter the tournament with a very strong squad. Steven O’Keefe has recovered from his leg injury only weeks ago, but the Blues will miss pace ace Mitchell Starc, who almost single-handedly hurled this side to a title win last year.

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Blues Moises Henriques celebrates after taking a wicketMoises Henriques will be looking to lead the Blues to back-to-back titles.

Steve Smith also remains unlikely to play any part in the tournament, and while Josh Hazlewood and Patrick Cummins have not been named in the listed squad, they could be available for a handful of matches as Hazlewood finishes his rest ahead of a big summer and Cummins returns from yet another injury setback.

On paper, they still have one of the strongest squads, particularly due to a classy and powerful batting unit. Maddinson and Cowan played big hands at different times in helping the Blues to last year’s win, and the support from youngsters like Hughes and especially Patterson will be important. 23-year-old Patterson is fresh off some big scores playing for Australia A in recent months, and while his form fluctuated at times, he remained one of the side’s most dangerous run-scorers.

The Blues are only going to be helped by a mountain of experience both domestically and internationally coming from players like Nevill, Moises Henriques, Nathan Lyon and Doug Bollinger.

Prediction: Expect NSW to go very close if not all the way once again. Runners-up.

South Australia

Captain: Callum Ferguson
Coach: Jamie Siddons
Last year: Runners-up

Draw
As the Redbacks look to seek redemption following last year’s crushing defeat in the final, they face a challenging start pitted against strong sides in Western Australia and Victoria. They begin their campaign relatively early, with that match against Western Australia on October 2.

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Squad
Callum Ferguson ©, Wes Agar, Tom Andrews, Nicholas Benton, Alex Carey, Tom Cooper, Michael Cormack, Alex Gregory, Jake Lehmann, Tim Ludeman, Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald

The first thing most pundits will be taken aback by is the overflow of youth in the Redbacks’ squad this season. Callum Ferguson is in the driving seat in the absence of Travis Head, who will possibly be plundering South African bowlers to all corners of the ground for Australia.

The Redbacks were required to cobble together a mix of experience and youth in their squad rather promptly with Daniel Worrall, Joe Mennie and Adam Zampa called into the Australian squad. In essence, the South Australians have lost most of their frontline bowling attack to international duty, and this will bring about some opportunities for young quicks Wes Agar – brother of West Australian Ashton – and Alex Gregory.

Michael Cormack is a young spinner from North Adelaide who may get some opportunities, and young all-rounder Cameron Valente and batsman Jake Weatherald – who made his first-class debut earlier in the year – will surely see a match or two.

Ferguson leads an extremely young squad into this campaign, so expectations will undoubtedly be tempered for this side. I’m not sure they will be able to find as many wins as last season given the lack of experience, and there will be a heavy reliance on Ferguson, Tom Cooper, keeper Tim Ludeman and young gun Alex Ross with the bat.

Kane Richardson – who has had reasonable success as a limited-overs quick – will be expected to lead this young bowling attack from the front. Fresh young spinner Tom Andrews at just 21 years of age impressed enough in the 2015 domestic summer to earn an upgrade from the rookie list, and can be expected to feature prominently in this tournament.

Prediction: The Redbacks will still find some wins when their experienced players lift, but I’m not sure they will get another chance for a title win this year. 6th.

Queensland

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Captain: Jason Floros
Coach: Phil Jaques
Last year: 6th

Draw
The Bulls will appreciate the re-structure of the fixture which hands them back some matches in their home state again. They will take on the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania in Queensland, these being the side’s opening two matches. They will then travel to Perth, playing their next two matches against Western Australia and South Australia at the WACA, and will finish off with matches against NSW and Victoria in Sydney.

Squad
Jason Floros ©, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman, Cameron Gannon, Peter George, Marcus Labuschange, Chris Lynn, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Nathan Reardon, Matthew Renshaw, Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson.

Jason Floros is an interesting choice as captain for Queensland’s 2016 title fight, mostly because just 12 months ago he failed to play a single game in this tournament. Strong improvement from the all-rounder and a growing presence in the T20 arena for the Brisbane Heat has landed him this opportunity, however veteran gloveman and ex-captain Chris Hartley has been left out of the squad.

In a really disappointing season last year, the Bulls slumped to sixth on the table, despite missing important players throughout. They enter this tournament as a bit of a wildcard and certainly have plenty of power-packed batting to help post some heavy scores.

If all of Joe Burns, Chris Lynn, Nathan Reardon, Jimmy Peirson and even Ben Cutting down the order can play at once, expect some fireworks from start to finish from the Bulls. Their side possesses two of the most prodigious young talents in Australian cricket right now: Matt Renshaw with the bat, who made his first-class debut last year at just 18 years of age, and leg-spinner Mitch Swepson, who already looks to have the goods, and has had some comparisons drawn between himself and Shane Warne.

Their line-up comes across as underrated on paper, and there is every chance they can rocket up the ladder this time around. Mark Steketee and Luke Feldman are bustling quick bowlers who will give their all, and Peter George has flourished at times since his move from South Australia. It’s easy to forget a Queensland side with five players from this squad clinched a win in the final of this tournament only three years ago.

Prediction: No reason why the Bulls can’t cause some trouble this year. 5th.

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Victoria

Captain: Peter Handscomb
Coach: Andrew McDonald
Last year: 3rd (after finals; 2nd before finals)

Draw
The Bushrangers will open their season in a fierce battle against the young Redbacks in a replay of the 2015 elimination final which saw the Bushrangers tossed out despite a strong season. They will then have the tough assignment of the Warriors at the WACA following this, but it will get easier with the Cricket Australia XI and Tasmania to follow, although neither of these opponents are ones to be taken lightly.

Squad
Peter Handscomb ©, Fawad Ahmed, Aaron Ayre, Michael Beer, Dan Christian, Jackson Coleman, Matt Doric, Marcus Harris, Ian Holland, Jon Holland, Glenn Maxwell, Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis, Cameron White.

Despite the Victorians losing the bulk of their frontline pace attack for a variety of reasons – Scott Boland, Chris Tremain and John Hastings with the Australian team and Peter Siddle left out of the squad – their best possible starting side for this tournament will still be very strong.

The most important players heading in will be new captain Peter Handscomb, who appeared comfortable in this role for Australia A, old stagers Cameron White and Rob Quiney and dangerous all-rounders Dan Christian and Marcus Stoinis who are arguably two of the Bushrangers’ most valuable commodities. Dynamic cricketer Glenn Maxwell is in some blistering form following his T20 onslaught in Sri Lanka, and will continue with his original team despite a last-gasp bid to head north of the border – a move vetoed by Cricket Australia.

Victoria have the best spin group of any squad for this tournament, and a lot of attention will be on youthful quicks Jackson Coleman, Matt Doric and Aaron Ayre, who won’t be afforded any time with the training wheels on as they lead this new-look attack.

Cricket watchers will also get to see former Warrior Marcus Harris in blue for the first time, a young batsman with so much potential that just hasn’t even had the surface scratched as yet. Oh yeah and Michael Beer is now a Victorian player – am I the only one who missed this?

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Prediction: A young pace attack may face a tough introduction, but if their all-rounders can fire, they are still capable of winning most of their games. Huge reliance on Handscomb’s durability and form, as he comes into this tournament as Victoria’s captain, sole wicket-keeper and one of their most vital middle-order cogs. 3rd.

Tasmania

Captain: Tim Paine
Coach: Dan Marsh
Last year: 5th

Draw
Another side without the benefit of playing in their home state, the Tigers will play two games inside three days to begin against Queensland and the Cricket Australia XI, the new side stacked with youth which managed to defeat the Tigers last year. They will follow with matches against New South Wales and Victoria, before rounding out their campaign against Western Australia on October 15 and the Redbacks on October 19.

Squad
Tim Paine ©, Xavier Doherty, Ben Dunk, Dominic Michael, Alex Doolan, Jake Doran, Ben McDermott, Beau Webster, Simon Milenko, Hamish Kingston, Cameron Stevenson, Jackson Bird, Andrew Fekete, Cameron Boyce.

The Tigers’ squad is an interesting one, and boasts plenty of international experience combined with some impressive young talent. Tim Paine will skipper the side and he combines with powerful left-hander Ben Dunk, 28-year-old Dominic Michael and veteran of four Tests Alex Doolan to make up a formidable top order.

Melbourne Stars bowler Jackson BirdJackson Bird will be a key player for the Tigers.

Beau Webster is an impressive young star who scored runs at will in first-class cricket last season and Ben McDermott promises to be a good all-round cricketer who can seriously crunch a ball. The Tasmanian squad has the feel of flying under the radar, and could prove a handful too with the new ball in the hands of Jackson Bird and Andrew Fekete, who have both had large success in domestic cricket of all forms.

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Xavier Doherty is the vice-captain and he will combine with leg-spinner Cameron Boyce to make up what will be a feared spinning pair as both have solid experience in Australian limited-overs colours. Highly-rated young gun Jake Doran will be one to keep an eye on too when he is given opportunities.

Prediction: No doubting some of the quality in their squad, not sure they can push the top three but their balance in batting and underrated bowling unit could see them surprise. 4th.

Cricket Australia XI

Captain: Will Bosisto
Coach: Brad Hodge
Last year: 7th

Draw
The newest addition to this competition will play their opening two matches at Allan Border Field before playing their remaining four games in Sydney. Their first two matches against Queensland and Tasmania loom as ones they may be able to win if everything goes right. Their best chance, though, could come against the inexperienced Redbacks on October 15.

Squad
Will Bosisto ©, Matt Short, James Bazley, Jake Carder, Ryan Gibson, David Grant, Sam Grimwade, Sam Harper, Liam Hatcher, Josh Inglis, Ryan Lees, Arjun Nair, Thomas O’Donnell, Jhye Richardson.

A crop of 14 of the most promising young talents in Australian circles, the Cricket Australia XI, in their second year of existence in this tournament, will have the benefit of being coached by former Victorian stalwart Brad Hodge. A legend in domestic cricket circles, Hodge himself knows this format so well, averaging 43 with the bat in over 250 matches.

He heads up this group that includes the son of former Australian all-rounder Simon O’Donnell, off-spinning prodigy Arjun Nair from New South Wales, and talented young leaders in Will Bosisto and Matt Short. Others to watch in these matches will be Victorian keeper/batsman Sam Harper, Queensland all-rounder James Bazely, who debuted last season, and impressive young fast bowlers Ryan Gibson, Ryan Lees and Jhye Richardson – all of whom you might remember from various domestic matches last summer.

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A few faces depart the Cricket Australia XI after last season, following their promotion to respective state sides; namely Marcus Harris (Vic), Hilton Cartwright (WA), Jimmy Pierson (Qld) and Mitch Swepson (Queensland). These players are examples of the pathway that this squad can present to young players, and this tournament will again be an opportunity for the next generation to showcase their skills.

Prediction: Once again it’s hard to see this side finishing anywhere other than at the bottom of the table, but this team wasn’t introduced solely for wins and losses, it’s about the bigger picture. 7th.

Western Australia

Captain: Adam Voges
Coach: Justin Langer
Last year: 4th

Draw
For the first time in this variation of the tournament, the Warriors will receive some home matches, and you can bet they will be difficult to beat at the WACA. Their first match will be on October 2 against the Redbacks, the first of three in a row in Perth with matches against Queensland and Victoria to follow. Their next three matches will be in Sydney against Tasmania, the Cricket Australia XI and New South Wales respectively.

Squad
Adam Voges ©, Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Hilton Cartwright, Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh, David Moody, Joel Paris, Nathan Rimmington, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jonathan Wells, Sam Whiteman.

A line-up already with a wealth of international experience, those who are yet to represent Australia from this squad can be tipped to do so in the future. One of the strongest and most experienced squads on paper, the Warriors will benefit from a serious injection of class at the top of the order through experienced campaigners Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh.

Cameron Bancroft will add to that quality, so you can expect the Warriors to post some large scores especially if the top three can fire. The Warriors have one of the best young keeper/batsman prospects in Sam Whiteman, and he will help combine with Ashton Agar and Ashton Turner for some lower-order runs.

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Following some super impressive efforts for Australia A, the Warriors have included promising young all-rounder Hilton Cartwright, who can be expected to play most if not all matches, and make an impact with bat and ball. Jason Behrendorff is fit and he will form a lethal left-arm partnership with Joel Paris as the pair look for early wickets and hit the WACA strip with pace and swing.

This squad will be a very difficult team to beat this season. Right now, their starting XI just about picks itself, and make no mistake it is strong in all areas; perhaps only the lack of a match-winning spin bowler will hurt their flexibility, so a lot of reliance will be placed on the pair of Ashtons to shoulder the slow bowling load.

Prediction: If there are no injury concerns and the key batsmen and quicks can dictate play, the Warriors are capable of pinching this year’s title. Champions.

Final Predictions
1. Western Australia
2. New South Wales
3. Victoria
4. Tasmania
5. Queensland
6. South Australia
7. Cricket Australia XI