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Big Bash power rankings: Week 1

16th December, 2018
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Expert
16th December, 2018
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The best short-form cricket competition in the world is back, figuratively and literally bigger than ever. Each week we’ll be running through the games, power rankings style.

Before we begin, a quick recap on what’s changed. A new broadcast agreement has bought with it an expansion in the number of games each team will be playing in this season of the BBL.

BBL|08 is a full home-and-away round robin tournament. Everyone is playing everyone twice, though some of the return leg match-ups will be played at a regional venue in the home team’s state.

Said new broadcast agreement has also bought with it broadcast competition. Fans now have a choice of watching on free-to-air TV or Fox Sports, which is sure to stoke the broadcast innovation fires for all.

That’s secondary. As far as this column is concerned, the expansion to 14 games is great because it means the tournament becomes far less of a crapshoot.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: T20 cricket is extraordinarily random. It’s set up to be that way, but it makes an exercise like this challenging from the outset.

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There’s not a lot to go on at this point, but we need to start somewhere, so here’s the first BBL power ranking for the 2018-19 season.

The rankings are based on some combination of pedigree, list position and the form of individual players.

After this week, we’ll have a lot more to go on. Given that, it should come as no surprise who sits in the one seed.

1. Perth Scorchers

Games this week: 0 home, 2 away
Last season’s minor premier, the Scorchers start on top because that’s just what they do in the Big Bash.

With limited change to its roster – the retirement of Mitch Johnson and the move to coach for Adam Voges – and the prospect of extensive squad availability throughout the tournament, Perth should feel confident in its final prospects from the outset.

There are some unknowns: the move to Perth Stadium and whether the top of the batting order can make the sorts of headway needed to put up big totals in T20. Perth has about two clubs worth of bowlers, with defence looming as its biggest strength once again.

2. Adelaide Strikers

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Games this week: 1 home, 1 away
Adelaide won it all last year, the team’s first title after plenty of regular-season success over the competition’s history.

Like Perth, the Strikers have a fairly settled line-up and look to be strongest in defence.

There’s not a lot of depth outside of its prospective best 11, but with only Travis Head likely to be missing for the whole tournament, it’s unlikely to matter.

Michael Neser, Ben Laughlin and Jonathan Wells of the Strikers walk a lap of honour with the trophy after winning the Big Bash League Final match between the Adelaide Strikers and the Hobart Hurricanes at Adelaide Oval on February 4, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia.

(Paul Kane/Getty Images)

3. Brisbane Heat

Games this week: 2 home, 0 away
Relying on hitting high scores is a recipe for high variance, and that’s what we’re likely to see from the Brisbane Heat this season.

The team has one of the strongest batting line-ups in the competition, centred on the opening pair of Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum.

The Heat also added reborn paceman James Pattinson to its line up, addressing a clear weak spot.

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However, Brisbane will still be relying on Ben Cutting to bowl four overs and bat at six or seven, which has proven to be an issue in recent seasons.

4. Hobart Hurricanes

Games this week: 0 home, 1 away
The surprise finalist from last season – and, really, they had no place being there with a 5-5 record and the third-worst net run rate in the tournament – Hobart has made a number of changes to its line-up.

It too has a sound-looking bowling attack, though one which will rely on the all-round talents of James Faulkner and Johan Botha.

The Hurricanes have the strongest prospective top six in the competition even with Botha in the last slot.

5. Melbourne Stars

Games this week: 0 home, 1 away
The green Melbourne team are in something of a rebuild – if there is such a thing in a one-off, two-month tournament.

The Stars shed a bunch of players, particularly from their batting card, and they look better for it.

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From one to four Melbourne’s run-scoring ability is much improved, but they don’t have much in the middle or in their tail.

The Stars have plenty of options to cobble together a sound defensive unit, though you’d think if they make it into the top four, it’ll be on the back of some high scores.

Glenn Maxwell of the Melbourne Stars plays a shot

(AAP Image/Rob Blakers)

6. Sydney Thunder

Games this week: 1 home, 0 away
It has been feast or famine for the Sydney Thunder in the BBL, and right now it’s looking like more of the latter once again.

The Thunder has very little power hitting in its line-up outside of what’s left of Shane Watson and will instead be hoping a steady stream of less risky runs can build defensible totals.

The club has a potent bowling unit on paper, but will surely not see Pat Cummins bowl a ball and will have to wait until the second half of the season for Englishman Chris Jordan, at which time they’ll lose Joe Root and Jos Buttler.

Usman Khawaja could also become available in the second half of the tournament once the Test summer is complete, but it’s unlikely.

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It could all come together for the Thunder, but then again, given the way it has built its list, it’s more likely than not they’ll be on the sidelines come mid-February.

7. Melbourne Renegades

Games this week: 1 home, 1 away
The ‘Gades have made half a dozen changes to their team, with a mix of old heads and relatively inexperienced players now calling Docklands their home.

Without Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris, Melbourne will have to rely on the likes of Cameron White, Tim Ludeman, Tom Cooper and Dan Christian for runs.

Bowling has historically been the Renegades’ biggest weakness, and as best as I can tell it hasn’t gotten any better for them this off-season.

They could bat their way to wins, but BBL history says defence wins matches.

8. Sydney Sixers

Games this week: 1 home, 0 away
For one reason or another the Sixers seem to have built a T20 side well suited to the Sheffield Shield.

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There’s no power in the line-up bar the late-career renaissance of Joe Denly, and the Sixers will struggle to find 20 overs of quality bowling all summer.

It might be up to leg-spinning sensation Lloyd Pope to give us something interesting out of the SCG this BBL.

So now that I’ve said all that, watch the Sixers romp their way to a 14-0 season and the club’s second BBL title.

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The tournament gets underway on Wednesday, and I for one can’t wait.

I’ve always loved the idea of Major League Baseball, with every club playing pretty much every day for five months of the season.

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The BBL is as close as we’ll ever get to something like that, particularly now there are 56 home-and-away games over a 53-day feast of white-ball cricket.