Sydney Thunder opener Alex Hales has refuted suggestions his back-tracking fielding on the edge of circle is against the spirit of the game, as his side eliminated Hobart from the BBL.
The Big Bash League is in its final stretch for the summer, with the final five games of the regular season to be played over the next four days.
Incredibly, only two teams (defending Champions Adelaide and previously-constant finalist Perth) definitely can’t qualify for the finals, with three teams effectively battling it out for the final spot in next week’s semis.
Hobart, the Sydney Sixers, and Melbourne Renegades are already locked in, but can still determine their final finishing order. The Hurricanes, one win clear of the other two with a game in hand and with the healthiest Net Run Rate in the competition are the frontrunners to take top spot.
But it is a bit weird that we’ve just sat through a three-night BBL hiatus during and after the Canberra Test to get to this point, particularly after two nights off during the Brisbane Test as well. In a season where length has been the number one criticism – and notwithstanding the misconceptions driving that criticism – it seems odd that there were five clear nights over the last thirteen days.
If reports of a condensed BBL09 next summer are on the money, this certainly won’t continue. And in fairness, next summer is unlikely to include two Tests being played in last January and early February, let alone one of those being a day/night Test in a time zone that would allow BBL games to be scheduled elsewhere after a day’s play.
A December 26 to February 16 window next season will require some very clever planning to fit 59 games in 52 days, particularly with limited over internationals to be wedged in there as well. More double and even triple-headers seem an obvious answer.
BBL games will certainly follow days of play in the Boxing Day and New Year Tests, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if we saw ODIs starting earlier to allow a BBL game in Perth to follow.
But all that is by-the-by as far as these last five games go. For the six teams still in the hunt, they’ve still got a job to do.
The Hurricanes, Sixers, and Renegades’ equations are all pretty simple and don’t require much dwelling on.
(18 points, 9 wins from 12 games): A win over Red Melbourne tonight will secure top spot and all the Bellerive hosting rights, and if that doesn’t come through, a win over the Sydney Thunder in Canberra on Saturday will do the trick.
(16pts, 8 from 13): Beat the Melbourne Stars on Sunday, and they should secure a top two finish, with their superior NRR over the Renegades. Might be secure it before Sunday, if the Renegades lose in Hobart tonight.
(16pts, 8 from 13): Have to beat Hobart in Hobart tonight and have cross-town rivals the Stars do them a favour by beating the Sixers on Sunday, to secure a top two finish. Getting Test opener Marcus Harris will help, assuming he can beat the three men Matthew Wade will inevitably stack at point.
Beyond the current top three, though, it all gets a bit interesting. Hand me that abacus and that Sidchrome tool kit…
(12pts, 6 from 12): Win and Green Melbourne are in. Might only need to beat Brisbane in Brisbane on Friday night, but the Pink Sydney game at the MCG on Sunday gives them a double chance. Some heavy losses to the Sixers and Renegades could even see them sneak into second overall, if they can manage a couple of sizeable wins.
Turning their NRR positive would be invaluable, and Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis are the kind of calypso crazy-cricket trumps to do just that.
(11pts, 5 from 13, 1 NR): It’s squeaky bum time for Lime Sydney, with a win over Hobart in Canberra on Saturday not necessarily being enough on its own to get them in. They’ll need the Stars to lose both their remaining games, and then hope the Heat don’t beat the Stars so well that they lift their NRR above the Thunder’s.
But the arriving cavalry in the form of Usman Khawaja and Super Pat Cummins could be the difference between the Thunder pulling off the ‘just enough’ and pulling off the absurd. Cummins has done everything else this summer, I don’t see why performing such that unlikely scenarios become likely is suddenly above him.
(11pts, 5 from 13, 1 NRR): Brisbane’s equation is actually pretty simple. They are BBL|08’s Steven Bradbury.
The Heat literally need the Stars and Thunder to fall over in front of them, from which their own win over Green Melbourne would sneak them into fourth. Still need to win with a decent NRR lift, though, on the off chance the Thunder out-meteorologise the Hurricanes on Saturday.
ADELAIDE v PERTH (Adelaide, Saturday): Loser will probably finish last, and will also have to buy the first three rounds on their quick end-of-BBL-season jaunt to Bali.