The Hobart Hurricanes are one of two teams in the BBL not to win the competition, despite making the final twice.
On the back of three straight wins in the last week, and with the arrival of former South African captain AB de Villiers imminent, the Brisbane Heat are third on the Big Bash League table and now a genuine threat.
But I’ve been scratching my head as to how they’ve even managed to win some of these games.
On Thursday night at the Gabba, they did their best to shoot themselves in the foot, losing 4-19 in five overs to slump to 5-71 in the 11th over, chasing Hobart’s modest 126.
They got there, but it was a battle.
Ben Cutting and Jimmy Peirson could only add another 23 runs over the next four overs, with 12 dot balls among the next 25 they faced to the end by the 15th over.
At 5-94, they required 33 to win from 30 balls, but neither Cutting nor Peirson looked particularly comfortable.
The Hurricanes would have known that a wicket in the next over could be the start of a huge momentum swing on the way to an unlikely win for the total they posted.
But over four balls in the 16th over, Cutting hit two sixes and Peirson a four to swing the momentum right back to the home side. With 15 to win from 24 balls, the Heat could control the last stage of their chase more.
A nine-run 18th over made it three required from 12 balls, with Cutting clearing the midwicket fence in the 19th over to give his side what looked on paper to be a comfortable, five-wicket win with ten balls to spare.
After winning just one of their first four games, three on the trot has rocketed the Heat up to third on the table.
Well, Brisbane are now third on the #BBL09 table.
But gee, there's still some question marks about them..
— Brett McKay (@BMcSport) January 9, 2020
And so, having yelled at the TV a bit more than I should have during their most recent run chase, I was convinced Brisbane’s batting numbers would reveal the real issues.
But it turns out their batting is the reason they’ve rocketed into contention. And de Villiers arriving is only going to make them more dangerous.
The first surprise was five players with more than 100 runs to their name, which is the most of any of the current top five BBL teams.
Chris Lynn’s 251 runs puts him the top handful of run-scorers this season, and behind him, Tom Banton, Max Bryant, Matt Renshaw and Cutting all fall into the range of 118-168 runs. All five are scoring at a strike rate better than 132.
Only Lynn and Renshaw have faced more than 100 balls, but Banton and Bryant have both faced more than Cutting’s 89.
Some context around this:
The Melbourne Stars have only Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell with more than 100 runs to their name, and they’re also the only two batsmen to have faced more than 100 balls.
In hindsight, the Stars should really have been the focus of the article I intended to write when I first sat down.
The Sydney Sixers, Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder all have four players north of 100 runs, and all have four players facing at least 100 balls, bar the Strikers, who have only three.
The Brisbane bats, on average, don’t face many balls per innings. They have good strike rates, but all sit in the range between Bryant’s 12.1 balls per innings and Lynn’s 22.1.
But the standout number is how often they find the boundary – Banton sits at 3.8 balls faced per boundary, Bryant 3.9 balls, and Lynn 4.1.
Again, for context, only Adelaide’s Jake Weatherald with 4.3 balls per boundary and Maxwell’s 4.6 come close to the Brisbane top three’s effectiveness.
Of the top five BBL teams’ best contributors with the bat – 30 players in all – only eight of them will find the boundary at a rate better than 20 per cent of their total balls faced.
Of those eight, Banton’s 26.6 per cent, Bryant’s 25.9 per cent and Lynn’s 24.5 per cent are the best by some margin. Only Weatherald’s 23.3 per cent comes close.
For all the destruction they seem to have caused, the Sixers’ Josh Phillipe only finds the boundary with 15 per cent of his balls faced, and Stoinis sits further back at 13.9 per cent.
So I’m now laying off the criticism of the Heat’s batting, no matter how hare-brained it might seem. They’ve still only won one game chasing down a total in four attempts, and their other three wins have all come setting big targets first.
But the efficiency and effectiveness of their boundary hitting means that bowling teams can’t just hope to contain them if electing to send the Queenslanders in first.
And they’ve done all this without AB de Villiers.
I didn’t know how at first, but the numbers show the Brisbane Heat are right in the frame for BBL|09.