This summer’s Big Bash League (BBL) kicked off with a flying start for the Hobart Hurricanes, seeing them win five consecutive games.
We can equivocally draw a line under two of the competition’s eight teams with 13 games remaining. With a season-defining week ahead, another team or two could find themselves out of it sooner than later.
Both the Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat will not be making the top four; Perth is all-but mathematically eliminated and Brisbane has fallen into an almighty hole.
The three-time champion Scorchers never really got going this season, poor batting and patchy bowling seeming to dog them interchangeably over the length of the tournament. Losing their two strike bowlers to international duty part way through was ultimately the hammer blow.
Still, in more recent times at least, Perth has been bested in final over thrillers that could’ve certainly gone their way. A fresh start by way of international support wouldn’t go astray either.
For the Heat, one suspects a more thorough program of change will be in order. The team’s list is simply not up to it, outside of a high potential top three or four which hasn’t delivered for the past couple of years. Brisbane’s bowling stocks have always been a sore point but when the top order isn’t firing it looks even worse.
For the other six teams, there’s still a full quarter of the competition to come with which to make their move. It looks as though an 8-6 or better record is going to be what it takes to guarantee a finals berth, and five of the six teams have enough gas in the tank to get there.
For one – our number one, the Hobart Hurricanes – that box has already been ticked.
1. Hobart Hurricanes (Last week: 1)
Just the one game for the ‘Canes this week, and it was the team’s second loss of the summer. Once again it was Hobart’s defence which got them into trouble, unable to halt the charge of Josh Philipe and James Vince during the chase.
Games against the Strikers and Heat this week afford an opportunity to sew up a spot in the final four, ahead of much higher stakes in the final week of the home-and-away season. The team rounds out the round robin against the Renegades and Thunder in the second week of February, two teams it could meet in the back end of the tournament.
2. Sydney Sixers (Last week: 3)
The aforementioned win against the ‘Canes puts the Sixers into the challenger spot. I’m still not certain what’s helping the magenta crew win, but whatever it is they’ll be hoping it sticks around for games against the Strikers and Thunder this week.
Steve O’Keefe has come from the clouds as a handy short form bowler, while Josh Philipe (86 not out) was unwanted by the Perth Scorchers before the season. Tom Curran was an inspired choice as an international player. They’ve been the clear surprise of the competition to date, and look consistent enough to ride that moniker all the way to the top four.
3. Melbourne Renegades (Last week: 6)
The on-again, off-again Melbourne Renegades were certainly on the past week, Now in second on the ladder (though with a game in hand), the ‘Gades punished both the Sydney Thunder and Perth Scorchers for two Net Run Rate-boosting wins.
What’s been most encouraging for Melbourne fans is the team hasn’t just been about scoring runs. Kane Richardson is now the competition’s leading wicket taker and has the second best average of bowlers with at least 20 overs bowled. Cameron Boyce is turning the screws, conceding just over six runs an over as a leg-spinner.
Melbourne have two games to come, one in each of the weeks of the competition remaining. They’re tough ones: against the Sydney Thunder and Hobart Hurricanes. They’ll want one more to be in the hunt for a finals berth, and two will probably lock them in. A win against the Thunder in particular would be helpful. The Renegades suddenly look like one of the best three teams in it, but some poor early performances might come back to bite them.
4. Sydney Thunder (Last week: 4)
Losing Joe Root and gaining Chris Jordan has helped bring balance to this season’s Thunder side. Centuries to Shane Watson and Callum Ferguson have helped matters too.
The Thunder currently have the second best Net Run Rate in the tournament, but it probably won’t figure given the farcical No Result which was awarded against them last weekend. However, Sydney certainly controls its own destiny from here, with games against the Renegades, Sixers and Hurricanes (the three teams above them in these rankings) to come. They’ll need two at least to make it into the top four.
5. Adelaide Strikers (Last week: 5)
The Strikers are holding the line for now, but are more or less out of chances now with a 4-6 record and four games remaining. They’ve got three of those four games this week; come next Monday they’ll either be eliminated or pushing for a home final.
Something of note: Rashid Khan has taken a bit of tap in recent weeks, his stock ball a little less venomous than earlier in the tournament. Without that pressure, the rest of the Strikers bowling attack has had to adjust, and as we saw in their two losses this past week that has not worked well for them.
6. Melbourne Stars (Last week: 8)
Melbourne has scored the fewest runs in the competition to date, running just over seven runs per over. They’ve been getting it done more recently on the back of some timely individual performances, and against weaker opponents like the Strikers and Heat. Shunting them to last place was a bit extreme, but even though the Stars sit in fourth on 6-5 I don’t see them stringing together another two wins given their patchy form to date.
Counter-argument: the Stars play Perth, Brisbane and the Sydney Sixers (the last one at home) in their final three games, needing two of them to get to the magical eight win mark that’ll put them in contention. Melbourne plays the last game of the season, and it’s set up to possibly be win-and-in for them.
7. Perth Scorchers (Last week: 5)
8. Brisbane Heat (Last week: 7)
Better luck next year.