Pakistani legend Wasim Akram is the latest big name to put his hand up to be involved in cricket’s bushfire appeal match.
Sometimes the ladder lies … and in an action-packed BBL season, sometimes power rankings are the best way to see who is most threatening amongst the eight franchises.
After passing the halfway point of the BBL|09 season, this week could be the most important in shaping the league for the finals, so let’s take a look at who is poised for a strong finish with only five or six games remaining for each side.
1. Melbourne Stars (8-1, +0.987)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The number of wins the Melbourne Stars have after nine games, or the number of teams Marcus Stoinis outscored this week with his 147* on Sunday night?
How about both?
The Melbourne Stars being the best side throughout the regular season shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Stars have infamously played their best during the season in years’ past, only to crumble in finals, but it’s safe to say this season is different.
The Stars haven’t just been winning games, they’ve been completely obliterating teams, with their dominating win over the second-placed Sixers showing how far above the rest of the competition this side is.
While other sides have lost their best players to national duties, the Stars have been blessed with the availability of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis for the entirety of the BBL|09 season, with both players seemingly unstoppable at the moment.
With two matches against the Scorchers next week, the Stars are well and truly in the box seat for the minor premiership, with first place in BBL|09 as important as ever due to the new finals format.
As their cross-town rivals create history for all the wrong reasons this summer, the Melbourne Stars finally seem destined for their own history and no one seems to be able to stop them.
Next match: Perth Scorchers at Optus Stadium, 15th January
2. Sydney Sixers (6-3, -0.003)
Last week’s ranking: 2
It’s safe to say the Melbourne Stars killed any momentum the Sixers were carrying, as well as provided them with a reality check of the gap between first and second this season.
However, despite the loss, the Sixers still sit in second-place and with five sides below them fighting for three spots, they can almost guarantee themselves a spot in finals with two wins this week.
Not the worst situation to be in after Sunday night’s record-breaking loss.
Despite not performing their best this week, the Sixers still recorded a crucial win over the third-placed Strikers on Wednesday, keeping a safe distance between them and third which this season is the difference between one or three wins sending you to the Grand Final.
Some are still refusing to give the Sixers the credit they deserve this season, but with only five games left to play – and other sides fighting their own inconsistencies – the Sixers’ can almost play stress-free cricket as they sit pretty in second.
The Sixers will return to finals in BBL|09, with their two matches next week determining whether they’ll be in “The Qualifier”, “Knockout” or “Eliminator” in the newly-revamped finals format.
Next match: Hobart Hurricanes at the SCG, 16th January
3. Brisbane Heat (4-4, -0.076)
Last week’s ranking: 5
Despite the loss to the Scorchers on Saturday night, the Brisbane Heat still managed two season-defining wins over the Thunder and Hurricanes this week.
Their eight-over frenzy against the Thunder was the perfect see-ball hit-ball matchup the Heat so desperately needed, allowing them to record an important win over the in-form Thunder.
Their thumping win over the Hurricanes put a dent in Hobart’s finals chances – a side the Heat have been neck and neck with all season – and also limited the eventual-damage to their net run rate after their loss to Perth on Saturday.
Though they lose their leading run-scorer in Tom Banton, the Brisbane Heat welcome none other than South African legend AB de Villiers into their big-hitting line-up, with the former-Protea ready to lead the Heat to their first finals appearance since BBL|06.
With AB ready to go, all eyes will be on Brisbane as this could be the week they make themselves known to the league.
With two matches against the Strikers, who – despite the win over the Renegades – haven’t been able to recapture their early-season form, and a matchup with the bottom-placed Renegades, the Heat could easily be holding a 7-4 record come the end of the week.
Next match: Adelaide Strikers at the Gabba, 14th January
4. Adelaide Strikers (4-1-3, +0.561)
Last week’s ranking: 4
It took the Strikers until Sunday to record their first win in 2020, with the boys in blue heading into their Renegades clash on a three-game losing streak.
They almost snatched a win against the Sixers on Wednesday, but a third loss meant the once-ladder leading Strikers were suddenly battling for a top-five spot.
Luckily, a meeting with the 0-8 Renegades awaited the Strikers on Sunday, who put on nothing short of a masterclass with bat and ball and leapfrogged back to third place.
The Australian tour of India has seen stand-in captain Alex Carey leave, while Travis Head returned and immediately made an impact against the ‘Gades.
While the win over Melbourne handed the Strikers very important “track position” on the ladder, it came against a side yet to win a game this tournament, making it hard to determine whether or not the Strikers from late-2019 are back.
If it was a win over any other side, the Strikers would find themselves higher on the power rankings; but a win over the lowly Renegades, who haven’t managed to come close to a win this season, provides nothing more than track position on a claustrophobic ladder.
Next match: Brisbane Heat at the Gabba, 14th January
5. Perth Scorchers (4-4, -0.153)
Last week’s ranking: 7
The Scorchers are back, but with a tough run home, it could be too little, too late.
But with power rankings it’s not about the upcoming games, it’s about the current form, and the Scorchers showed the league what they’re capable of this week.
A strong win over the Renegades in Geelong tested the Scorchers more than they likely expected, potentially kicking them in to gear for a run-fest against the Heat on Saturday night, where Mitch Marsh’s 93* led the Scorchers to a whopping 3-213.
The win over Brisbane was huge for the Scorchers, keeping them in touch with the top-five battle as they also prevented the Heat from escaping the midfield pack.
But though they share a 4-4 record with two other sides, the Scorchers find themselves up against the Stars twice next week, at a time when two losses could put a line through their finals hopes.
However, a win in their match-up against the Hurricanes on Monday night could mean there’s one less team they’ll be battling for eighth, as the Scorchers simply have to take it one game at a time throughout their hard schedule to finish the season.
Only one side has managed to overcome the Melbourne Stars this season, and it seems as though if Scorchers are to play finals, they’ll need to become the second.
Next match: Hobart Hurricanes at Blundstone Arena, 13th January
6. Sydney Thunder (4-1-4, +0.022)
Last week’s ranking: 3
With a match-up against the red-hot Melbourne Stars, it was always going to be a tough week for the Thunder, though they won’t be happy with the loss in the rain-affected Brisbane clash.
After suffering two losses this week, Sydney missed the perfect opportunity to create some space between them and the other teams fighting for their finals spot, but now the Thunder find themselves as one of those sides.
Their no-result game to start the season provides them with a very handy point, which is currently proving just as valuable as a win at the moment.
But the Thunder have played an extra game compared to the other sides they’re battling, meaning they can’t afford to have another week like this one.
Sydney will host both the Renegades and Sixers next week, with the difference between going 2-0 and 1-1 potentially deciding whether they play finals or not.
Despite their relatively healthy net run rate and strong win over the Hurricanes to end the week, the Thunder – who clearly don’t look the same as they did a fortnight ago – are in for a season-defining week next week, as are many sides.
Next match: Melbourne Renegades at Manuka Oval, 15th January
7. Hobart Hurricanes (3-5, -0.435)
Last week’s ranking: 6
With six games left to play this season the Hurricanes are still a finals possibility – and while they’re only two wins behind third place – the ‘Canes look the least likely to make a last-gasp surge up the table.
A batting collapse against the Heat made their Saturday night meeting with the Thunder crucial in their battle for finals and though they only just missed the mark, the loss left the Hurricanes with a disappointing 0-2 week.
The Hurricanes will be feeling the loss of D’Arcy Short – who was a late call-up to the Australian ODI squad – with the pressure now on Wade and McDermott to provide the stability and aggressiveness required for the ‘Canes to play finals.
It’s likely the Hurricanes will know by the end of the week whether they’ll be returning to finals or not in BBL|09; with two do-or-die matches against the closely-positioned Scorchers and Strikers as well as a tough game against the Sixers on Thursday.
With their weak net run rate, the Hurricanes not only need to win, but need to win big to climb back into the top-five which, if their current form is anything to go by, unfortunately won’t happen.
Next match: Perth Scorchers at Blundstone Arena, 13th January
8. Melbourne Renegades (0-9, -0.789)
Last week’s ranking: 8
The Renegades have played nine games and are still without a win.
They showed glimpses of looking like they were capable of putting together a solid performance, only to fall victim – yet again – to momentum swings they simply haven’t had an answer for all season.
With Aaron Finch and their leading wicket-taker Kane Richardson leaving for international duties, the Renegades struggling batting line-up, as well as their weak bowling attack, became even less threatening and it showed.
Only one side has ever gone winless throughout a BBL season; when the Sydney Thunder went 0-8 in BBL|02, and though they’ve already lost nine games, if they can avoid going winless through fourteen matches, at least they’ll dodge another piece of unwanted history.
However, the reigning champions don’t have anything that suggests they’ll avoid that dreaded 0-14 record, with the league still yet to see any signs of the side that won it all last year.
Next match: Sydney Thunder at Manuka Oval, 15th January