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.
Some of the Hobart Hurricanes’ role-players will need to flourish during BBL09 if they are any hope of replicating last season’s ladder-leading efforts.
The Canes’ batting order will require a temporary re-shuffle now that opening batsman Matthew Wade has cemented his place in the Australian Test team, and there are moving parts in the bowling attack as well.
“I’m not as confident as previous years because we’re going to have a few things against us,” he said.
“Jofra Archer’s not playing and Matthew Wade will be out for the first half [of the season]… and I’m not sure if our batting is as strong.”
The Hurricanes fell agonisingly short of hosting a home Final in BBL08, losing to fourth-placed Melbourne Stars in the semi-final despite finishing the minor rounds comfortably clear in first.
Losing Archer to England duties altogether and Wade until mid-January for BBL09 leaves the side looking significantly weaker on paper in comparison to 12 months ago.
Wade’s absence leaves a gaping hole at the top of the order next to D’Arcy Short, after the pair enjoyed a season for the ages in BBL08, leading the competition for runs and forming a formidable duo at the top of the order.
Batting will only be more difficult for them both this season, as countless hours will have been invested by other franchises over the winter, searching for flaws in their respective games. In this era of data and footage, weaknesses are prone to being found and exploited, especially now that clubs such as the Stars and Melbourne Renegades have engaged data analysts from companies like Cricviz.
Bev reckons there are two players who could be given the chance to open alongside Short.
“Caleb Jewell can play the opening position, [but] he’s still in the early part of his career so it would be a big step up for him,” he said.
“I probably would have to say Ben McDermott [might open]. He’s a big hitter so maybe he could come in up there.”
McDermott played a steady hand at number four last season, averaging in the mid-30s. But he was often building on a platform laid by Short and Wade, so is fairly unproven against the new ball.
If McDermott opens, South African batsman David Miller – signed as Archer’s international replacement – would be the logical player to come in at his previous position of four, or somewhere else in the middle order.
“I was at the Australia-South Africa ODI at Blundstone Arena last year and he (Miller) played very well that day, so he knows the ground,” Bevis said.
“I think we probably needed to strengthen our middle order a bit. We were lacking a bit there last year, so I’m very excited by him.”
Another Hurricanes player whose role could prove vital is newly signed Tasmanian bowler Nathan Ellis. Bev has Ellis earmarked for a breakout season, despite the 25-year-old having never played a BBL game.
“He’s a right-arm medium-fast bowler and he can bowl quick,” he said.
“I reckon he’ll make a name for himself during BBL09. He could take 15 wickets or more during the season – I’m definitely banking on it.”
Matches – and in turn, seasons – can often hinge on a side’s fifth bowling option, which well-entrenched batsmen have been known to cash in on. If a part-time or inexperienced bowler is wayward, a restricted run rate can quickly balloon, changing the complexion of the contest.
Should Ellis be able to sufficiently tie up an end while fellow seamers Riley Meredith and Stars recruit Scott Boland do some damage, it could go a long way to helping the Hurricanes remain in playoff contention.
If the side is capable of staying in the top three until the end of the Australian Test summer, they could find themselves right in the title hunt once Wade is welcomed back.
They have assembled the parts capable of covering for the absence of Wade, Archer and the retired Johan Botha, but will require those parts to play above their pay grades.
I predict the Hurricanes will finish fourth.