This summer’s Big Bash League (BBL) kicked off with a flying start for the Hobart Hurricanes, seeing them win five consecutive games.
At around the halfway point of this summer’s Big Bash League mentioned that although I hadn’t published any top four predictions, I had loosely pushed the eight teams into three broad categories.
Now that we’re at the point of having just four teams left in the competition, that decision not to declare anything upfront has proven a very wise one indeed.
Though I’d be quite happy if you’ve completely forgotten about it, my groupings couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Adelaide and Perth were definitely going to make the top four, and the Sixers and Stars definitely weren’t,” was my thinking.
“Hobart … and the Renegades in a middle group that were probably good enough to make the top four and play finals, but they would need something to go right, or someone to really fire with either bat or ball every game,” I’d decided.
So I got the Sixers and Stars very wrong. And Adelaide and Perth for that matter. I feel like I can claim a moral victory about the Renegades, but Hobart have finished four points clear on top of the ladder with someone firing with either bat or ball every game.
And that makes the semi-finals a really interesting prospect because it feels to me like BBL|08 is Hobart’s to lose from here.
Stacked up against the Renegades, Sixers and Stars, the Hurricanes have been way more consistent, way better performed across the board and significantly less reliant on one player to play the game of their life.
Yet the ever-present lottery feeling that surrounds Twenty20 cricket means that none of the four sides can be ruled out of winning the whole thing from here. It’s perhaps questionable when three of the teams deserve to win, but that will matter for little when they flick the switch to light up the BBL trophy on Sunday night.
Hobart’s case for going all the way looks pretty obvious.
They have the two leading run-scorers in the competition and there are only 12 runs separating D’Arcy Short (602 runs) and Matthew Wade (590). Plus they also have three of the top five opening partnerships and four of the top nine.
There’s no question that when Short and Wade go big Hobart win, but behind their two star openers only three runs separate George Bailey (326) and Ben McDermott (323), who have provided nice consolidation in the middle order when required. And, according to ESPN CricInfo, Hobart’s 40.07 runs per wicket average this season is the best for any team in a BBL season by some distance.
The Hurricanes have three bowlers in the top ten wicket-takers for the competition, with James Faulkner, Jofra Archer and Riley Meredith constant threats. That Faulkner will be back for Hobart tonight only makes their case stronger, as does them being unbeaten at Bellerive Oval this summer.
Their opponents tonight, the Melbourne Stars, won through to a sixth semi-final in eight BBL seasons on the back of some Glenn Maxwell madness last Sunday, and it really feels like they’re going to need something very similar to progress to what would be just their second final.
If you’ve not watched much the BBL this summer, the summary of the Stars is thus: if Maxwell or Marcus Stoinis have fired, then they’ve done all right. If neither fired or if neither played, they battled.
Peter Handscomb’s done a little bit, Ben Dunk’s done a little bit, Dwayne Bravo has done a little bit and Adam Zampa has done a little bit, but not really enough and certainly not often enough.
Stoinis ranked third in the competition for runs, but the next best – Maxwell and Dunk – come in 19th and 20th. After that, the next best is Handscomb at 39th. Stoinis and Bravo sneak into the top 15 wicket-takers with 14 each, but Zampa and Sandeep Lamichhane fall outside the top 20.
The Melbourne Renegades aren’t much better.
Kane Richardson is the leading wicket-taker this summer, and his BBL form has earnt him a recall to the Australian ODI side to tour India. Dan Christian and Cameron Boyce sneak into the top 20.
They have no-one in the top ten run-scorers and none of the batsmen have topped 300 runs for the season. Cameron White has missed their last couple of games and Mohammad Nabi will miss the finals after being recalled to the Afghanistan squad. That’s two decent quality named in a squad rather lacking in it.
They’re really only hosting the second semi-final tomorrow night because the Sydney Sixers completely took the gas last Sunday to be all out for 74, their lowest-ever BBL total.
The Sixers have three of the top six wicket-takers in Sean Abbott, Tom Curran and Steve O’Keefe and only one batsman, Daniel Hughes, ranked in the top ten run-scorers. Their next five best with the bat all fall between 23rd and 29th for the competition and only two of them have topped 260 runs for the season.
Which means, yes, I’ve gone full circle on the Sixers. They didn’t enthuse me for a long time, then just to spite me they did enough to secure a spot in the finals, and now they’re battling again. And I can’t really see how Nathan Lyon helps the situation either.
Which means that I guess I’m leaning towards a Hurricanes-Renegades final to be played in Hobart on Sunday. On paper that looks like the logical conclusion, though arguably the two form teams are currently Hobart and the Melbourne Stars. Sadly, they can’t both qualify for the Final.
But such has been the up and down, consistently inconsistent and unpredictable nature of the BBL this summer, you’d be mad to rule anything out as far as possible final match-ups go.
Stars-Sixers? Hurricanes-Renegades? A Melbourne derby for the final?
Yes. No. Maybe. Can you repeat the question?