BBL07: Are the Strikers changing the ‘bowl first’ Twenty20 instinct?

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    In 35 Big Bash League games last summer, the team winning the toss batted first only seven times. And on all seven occasions did said team winning the toss and batting lose.

    On Monday night at the Sydney Showground, the Adelaide Strikers won the toss and batted for the third straight time in BBL07. Their 25-run win made it three-from-three batting first this summer.

    It was the fifth time this summer the team winning the toss batted first; Hobart beat Adelaide – coincidentally – last Thursday night after batting first in Hobart, while the Thunder lost to the Heat in Brisbane on December 27 after electing to bat first.

    Hobart followed this up with a batting-first win over the Sydney Sixers in the first of Monday’s double header, taking their tally to two-from-two.

    For the removal of all doubt, teams electing to bowl first are no certainty to win; so far in 22 games in 2017-18, 16 teams have sent the opposition in, but only ten of them went on and won the game. Perth have done it four times themselves, and it mightn’t surprise you to learn the Melbourne Stars and Sydney Sixers have lost three games between them after electing to field.

    There has been a decent history of teams preferring to know what target they’re chasing, however. Last summer, 28 teams bowled first in 35 games; the summer before, it was 19 of 35 bowling first. In 2014-15 it was 18 of 35, and you have to go all the way back to BBL03 in 2013-14 to find a clear preference to set the total – only ten teams bowled first in the 35 games.

    It’s in this context that Hobart’s and especially Adelaide’s change of approach stand out. Strikers captain Travis Head said his team now prefers batting first during their win over the Thunder on Sunday night, and with a batting lineout that includes Jake Lehmann at seven and a death-bowling attack comprising Rashid Khan, Ben Laughlin, Michael Neser, and the surprisingly effective Peter Siddle, it’s no great surprise.

    Peter Siddle

    (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

    If you know you can stop runs in the finals overs, run made at the start of the match become twice as valuable.

    There’s no doubt the super-talented Jofra Archer is spearheading the Hurricanes’ sudden preference to defend a total, too.

    At the rough halfway point of the season, it will be interesting to see not just how many more times Head can win the toss, but to see how many other teams start agreeing that runs on the board are actually important again.

    BBL07 table

    After the Scorchers beat the Renegades on Monday night in Perth to complete the double header, the Big Bash League table looks this way.

    PERTH 10, ADELAIDE 8, MELBOURNE RENEGADES 8, BRISBANE 8; Hobart 6, Sydney Thunder 4, Sydney Sixers 0, Melbourne Stars 0.

    Upcoming games

    TUESDAY – GAME 23: Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Stars, Adelaide Oval: The Strikers are edging closer to confirming a semi-final berth with a win over the fading Stars, who even with six games to play, look like sending Kevin Pietersen out on something of a high is about their only motivation left in BBL07.

    The Strikers on the other hand, are playing like a team determined to prove that they are indeed a top four team. A big win in front of the home crowd should silence what remaining critics there are.

    Tip – Strikers have too much to play for.

    Michael Neser

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    WEDNESDAY – GAME 24: Brisbane Heat v Hobart Hurricanes, the ‘Gabba: The Heat come into this game down a bash brother with Chris Lynn’s national call-up, only for him to be ruled out for three or four weeks with a calf injury anyway. The Heat are playing well at the moment, even if it is a bit ugly-but-effective at times. But Hobart are on a roll now after a slow start to the season, and could even push for the top four with a win at the ‘Gabba. Stranger things have happened – especially between these teams at this ground!

    Tip – Brisbane at home, but games between these two are always tight.

    THURSDAY – GAME 25: Sydney Thunder v Perth Scorchers, Sydney Showground: The Scorchers have one foot in the semi-finals already, and are playing like they’re in tune-up mode already. This game will be a test though, with the first chance to see how they cope without their newest Australian reps.

    The Thunder can still force the BBL top four issue by stringing wins together, but it’s still not clear they have the bowling to do that (yet Clint McKay still hasn’t played a game). What’s more, now they have to find runs without Jos Buttler at the top.

    Tip – Scorchers shouldn’t be troubled.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • Columnist

      January 9th 2018 @ 10:08am
      Brett McKay said | January 9th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      For those following my tips – and you’d be mad if you did – I’m running at 13/22 so far this tournament. Essentially a coin-flipping exercise…

    • January 9th 2018 @ 10:36am
      Paul Potter said | January 9th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      I think it’s also a case of it being a lot harder to score at two runs a ball (for a middle order batsman) when you know you have to compared to when teams are batting first.

      • Columnist

        January 9th 2018 @ 2:04pm
        Brett McKay said | January 9th 2018 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        I think it’s certainly becoming harder, Paul, for sure. And that’s no doubt due to death bowlers becoming a lot more effective at not leaking runs…

    • January 9th 2018 @ 12:04pm
      Darren said | January 9th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      Brett – anyone you want to put the mozz on this week?
      Talking up Brad Hogg and then he comes out and plays like a 47 year old was brilliant.

      • Columnist

        January 9th 2018 @ 12:25pm
        Brett McKay said | January 9th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        It’s a pretty healthy body of work I’m building, isn’t it, Darren!

        Obviously, Travis Head won’t win another toss now…

        • January 9th 2018 @ 1:40pm
          Darren said | January 9th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          Haha – you were a bit stiff as I can’t remember the last time Hoggy bowled two waist high full tosses in a row. But I did think – gee he hasn’t handled the pressure very well!

          If Travis can’t win a toss from now on I recommend you to do a glowing review of South Africa’s whole team before the next series.

          • Columnist

            January 9th 2018 @ 2:03pm
            Brett McKay said | January 9th 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            I did say after pondering Brendon McCullum back into super form that I was available for requests…

          • January 10th 2018 @ 11:13am
            dan ced said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            Travis won’t win the next toss.. he’s in the ODI squad 😛

    • January 9th 2018 @ 2:08pm
      Doctor Rotcod said | January 9th 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

      Speaking of tosses,Joe Root won four,Steve Smith one.Much good it did either of them…

    • Columnist

      January 9th 2018 @ 9:54pm
      Brett McKay said | January 9th 2018 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

      Ha, Travis Head did lose the toss tonight!

      Interesting that the Stars batted first though..

    • January 10th 2018 @ 3:32am
      NaBUru38 said | January 10th 2018 @ 3:32am | ! Report

      Cricket should copy baseball, and make teams alternate more often, say every 5 overs.

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2018 @ 9:07am
        Brett McKay said | January 10th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        This was (sort of) tried in Australia, splitting one-day games into two innings of 20 and 25 overs. It didn’t last…

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