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Greatest ever BBL teams: Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder

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Roar Guru
20th May, 2020

The Big Bash has been around for nine seasons, although the past two seasons have been treated more like a business rather than a cricket tournament.

It’s given non-contracted state players a decent income and many new stars have been unearthed for the shorter formats. In this four-part series, I’ll be making the all-time BBL XI for two sides per article.

Just like in the Big Bash, I’ll only be having two overseas players per XI.

First up are the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder.

Sydney Sixers all-time XI

1. Michael Lumb
T20 stats – 4972 runs, 24.01 average, one hundred
T20I stats – 552 runs, 21.23 average, three fifties
BBL stats – 1212 runs, 26.93 average, six fifties
The English top-order batsman was involved in the Sydney Sixers from day one. Opening the batting, Lumb gave the Sixers fast starts with his aggressive batting and it would pay off most times. The fourth highest run-scorer for the Sixers, he was an important player for them. Unfortunately, Lumb had to retire in 2017 due to an ankle injury or else he would have played more games for the men in magenta.

2. Daniel Hughes
T20/BBL stats – 1458 runs, 28.58 average, eight fifties
Hughes has played for both Sydney teams, but he’s been far more successful at the Sixers. Having opened the batting most times for the Sixers, Hughes would be the one trying to bat 20 overs while the rest around him would take more risks. A strong player square of the wicket, he’s been a phenomenal player for the Sixers.


3. Nic Maddinson
T20 stats – 2059 runs, 20.59 average, eight fifties
T20I stats – 45 runs, 11.25 average
BBL stats – 1607 runs, 20.87 average, eight fifties
Maddinson has been poor for the Melbourne Stars, but he was a dangerous batsman for the Sixers. Not afraid to go over the top, the left-hander from Nowra struck fear into the opposition bowlers. The second highest run-scorer for the Sixers, Maddinson played a vital role in the Sixers’ successful seasons.

4. Steve Smith
T20 stats – 4014 runs, 31.6 average, one hundred
T20I stats – 681 runs, 29.6 average, four fifties
BBL stats – 714 runs, 32.45 average, five fifties
Jordan Silk has done a decent job for the Sixers, but I couldn’t go past Smith. Due to playing for Australia in the past six years in all formats, Smith has had limited opportunities for the Sixers, but he’s hardly failed. His reputation itself creates fear into the bowlers’ minds. He captained the Sixers to their maiden title in BBL01, and Smith remains an integral part of the Sixers in the future.

5. Moises Henriques (captain)
T20 stats – 3775 runs, 26.58 average, 18 fifties
T20I stats – 159 runs. 31.8 average, two fifties
BBL stats – 1831 runs, 27.32 average, nine fifties
It’s a bit hard not to include the Sixers’ highest run-scorer of all time. An outstanding player of spin, Henriques has played countless match-winning innings for the Sixers. His ability to bat according to the match situation is what has stood out so far in his T20 career. He is captain of this side for what he has done with limited resources at times.

Moises Henriques of the Sixers bats during the Big Bash League

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

6. Josh Philippe (wicketkeeper)
T20/BBL stats – 798 runs, 33.25 average, seven fifties, 16 catches, seven stumpings
It’s scary to think what Philippe is capable of, considering he’s only 22. I was juggling between him and Brad Haddin, but Philippe has made an impressive contribution to the Sixers over the two seasons he’s been at the Sixers. His ability to play shots all over the ground can make him into a solid white-ball player for Australia. With the lack of firepower in the middle order, I’ve gone ahead with Philippe as the finisher in the Sixers’ all-time XI.

7. Tom Curran
T20 stats – 873 runs, 18.57 average, two fifties, 149 wickets, 23.46 average, 8.67 economy
T20I stats – 38 runs, 12.66 average, 21 wickets, 25.57 average, 9.1 economy
BBL stats – 318 runs, 24.46 average, one fifty, 42 wickets, 19.61 average, 8.32 economy
Curran has been a world-class all-rounder for the Sixers. His late-order hitting has won them many games in the two years he’s played in the BBL. But his primary skill is his bowling, and he hasn’t failed to deliver. With a back-of-the-hand slower ball, a slower bouncer and a yorker, Curran is a death-overs specialist. He has signed with the Sixers for two more seasons. I hope Curran remains loyal to the men in magenta and plays his whole BBL career for the Sixers.

8. Steve O’Keefe
T20 stats – 68 wickets, 26.27 average, 6.79 economy
T20I stats – six wickets, 24.83 average, 7.84 economy
BBL stats – 50 wickets, 27.1 average, 6.61 economy
O’Keefe is a highly underrated spinner in the BBL. How many Aussie spinners can keep things quiet with a skiddy new ball and pick up wickets by applying the pressure? O’Keefe never turned the ball much, but his accuracy always created pressure while his spin counterparts would take the breakthroughs. While he has retired from first-class cricket, O’Keefe has plenty of cricket left in him to continue playing for the Sixers.


9. Mitch Starc
T20 stats – 140 wickets, 17.5 average, 7.15 economy
T20I stats – 43 wickets, 18.65 average, 6.91 economy
BBL stats – 34 wickets, 13.82 average, 7.64 economy
It was tough choosing between Ben Dwarshuis and Starc, but Starc had a far superior bowling average. He can swing the new ball, take wickets, and is one of the most challenging bowlers to smash in the death overs. Need I say anything else?

10. Sean Abbott
T20 stats – 107 wickets, 21.38 average, 8.42 economy
T20I stats – three wickets, 20.33 average, 6.1 economy
BBL stats – 99 wickets, 21.21 average, 8.47 economy
He is the highest wicket-taker in Sixers history and the second highest wicket-taker in the Big Bash. I don’t think I need to explain any further.

Sean Abbott

(AAP Image/David Moir)

11. Nathan Lyon
T20 stats – 54 wickets, 20.51 average, 7.21 economy
T20I stats – 1 wickets, 48 average, 9.6 economy
BBL stats – 41 wickets, 19.68 average, 6.97 economy
The GOAT has been brilliant for the Sixers, taking wickets in the middle overs. Although wrist spinners dominate white-ball cricket nowadays, Lyon has shown that traditional off-spinners can still play a part if they’re accurate and keep applying the pressure.

Sydney Thunder all-time XI

1. Usman Khawaja
T20 stats – 2294 runs, 29.79 average, two hundreds
T20I stats – 241 runs, 26.77 average, one fifty
BBL stats – 1380 runs, 37.29 average, two hundreds
When on song, Khawaja just oozes class. He didn’t have the greatest BBL last season, but he’s been a fine opener for the Thunder. The highest run-scorer for the Thunder, Khawaja has been consistent most times and showcased his T20 skills with his lap sweeps and reverse sweeps.

Usman Khawaja of the Thunder bats

(Photo by Chris Hyde – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

2. Shane Watson
T20 stats – 8522 runs, 29.28 average, six hundreds, 216 wickets, 27.02 average, 7.9 economy
T20I stats – 1462 runs, 29.24 average, one hundred, 48 wickets, 24.72 average, 7.65 economy
BBL stats – 1014 runs, 26.68 average, one hundred, 19 wickets, 27.78 average, 8.25 economy
A quality white-ball player, Watson has excelled in nearly all the T20 leagues he has played in. An explosive opener, Watson gave the Thunder many fast starts, and when his hamstrings weren’t troubling him, he’d have this knack of picking up wickets in the middle overs. He is one of the greatest white-ball players Australia has produced.


3. Callum Ferguson
T20 stats – 2812 runs, 26.28 average, two hundreds
T20I stats – 16 runs, 5.33 average
BBL stats – 1530 runs, 25.5 average, one hundred
Since moving to the Thunder, Ferguson has improved his T20 game. He had the shots but didn’t show enough consistency in the BBL. Ferguson is an accumulator and does that role very well for the Thunder before teeing off in the death overs. Captaining the Thunder last season, they were one game away from a Sydney Smash final. He still has a few seasons of cricket left in him to become a Thunder legend.

4. Michael Hussey (captain)
T20 stats – 4569 runs, 37.45 average, one hundred
T20I stats – 721 runs, 37.94 average, four fifties
BBL stats – 776 runs, 35.27 average, seven fifties
I didn’t get to see Michael Bevan play, but I am fortunate to have seen Mr Cricket. He doesn’t seem like a T20 player, yet the stats show otherwise. Signing for Sydney Thunder in 2013, he slowly started to change their fortunes. After being the lone warrior in BBL03 and BBL04, Hussey finally had a decent enough team to compete in BBL05 as the Thunder won their maiden BBL title. He is captain of this side for transforming the Thunder.

5. Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper)
T20 stats – 5782 runs, 30.43 average, 40 fifties, 137 catches, 27 stumpings
T20I stats – 1134 runs, 26.68 average, eight fifties, 25 catches, four stumpings
BBL stats – 475 runs, 36.53 average, five fifties, six catches
He is England’s greatest ever white-ball player, no doubt about it. He came into the Big Bash in BBL07 and was almost flawless for the Thunder with bat and gloves. With the stability of the top order, I have Buttler at number five to accelerate the innings.

6. Andre Russell
T20 stats – 5365 runs, 26.95 average, two hundreds, 291 wickets, 25.88 average, 8.27 economy
T20I stats – 540 runs, 20 average, 26 wickets, 37.46 average, 9.08 economy
BBL stats – 296 runs, 21.14 average, 23 wickets, 23.4 average, 7.97 economy
There’s Andre Russell, and then there’s Andre Russell 2.0. The latter version has been a beast in T20 cricket from 2015, winning T20 titles everywhere. An explosive batsman who can chase down 50 off 18 single-handedly, Russell can also clock over 140 kilometres and ruffle batsmen. Russell played an integral part in the Thunder’s success in BBL05 with his late-order hitting and pace bowling. It was tough deciding between him and Eoin Morgan, but an all-rounder like Russell in T20 cricket is gold.

Andre Russell celebrates a wicket for the Sydney Thunder

(AAP Image/Paul Miller)

7. Arjun Nair
T20 stats – 236 runs, 21.45 average, 22 wickets, 27.09 average, 7.74 economy
Nair’s T20 game has been improving each season. The all-rounder has developed into a handy lower-order batsman with important cameos for the Thunder. His off spin is improving following a remodelled action, and he can play for Australia one day. Only 22, the Thunder all-rounder’s game will continue to improve.

8. Daniel Sams
T20/BBL stats – 52 wickets, 18.36 average, 8.13 economy
He is the leading wicket-taker in Thunder history. There are almost no questions regarding Sam’s inclusion. A left-arm seamer with a similar action to Mustafizur Rahman, Sams has a knack of taking wickets – especially in the death overs. If he continues to shine in the BBL, he will get a T20 call-up sooner rather than later.

9. Fawad Ahmed
T20 stats – 110 wickets, 24.24 average, 6.85 economy
T20I stats – three wickets, 22.67 average, 8.5 economy
BBL stats – 60 wickets, 26.91 average, 6.93 economy
On the slower pitches in Spotless Stadium, Ahmed was a real handful. A right-arm leggie, Fawad Ahmed’s biggest strength is his control over the variations he has. He’s played most of his BBL career for the Thunder and left a great impact on the field and assisting the younger Thunder spinners. He would be a good coach or mentor after retirement.


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10. Dirk Nannes
T20 stats – 257 wickets, 22.25 average, 7.42 economy
T20I stats – 28 wickets, 16.39 average, 7.52 economy
BBL stats – 23 wickets, 22.43 average, 7.15 economy
Nannes played for the Thunder when they were a bang average side. But he was so pleasing to watch. Nannes was deceptively quick. He clocked close to 150 kilometres sometimes. His thunderbolts shook opposition batsmen, and he was the one bowler that stood out for the Thunder during a poor period.

11. Clint McKay
T20 stats – 144 wickets, 22.38 average, 7.88 economy
T20I stats – four wickets, 45.75 average, 8.07 economy
BBL stats – 46 wickets, 24.5 average, 8.16 economy
McKay joined the Thunder during the decline of his career, but he was still a handy bowler for them. The medium pacer went for runs a few times, but he was a genuine wicket-taker. Among the likes of Russell, Khawaja and Ahmed, McKay was an integral part of the Thunder team that won BBL05.