By Jamie Pacheco of www.bettingmaestro.com
Last time out I advised a back of a somewhat inexperienced England side to win their T20 Series against New Zealand outright (at odds of 2.88) or to win it 3-2 (4.33).
Thankfully for us, they went ahead and did just that, winning precisely 3-2; coming back from 2-1 to go on and follow up their World Cup success with a well-earned series win.
Once again, they did it the hard way, needing a Super Over in the fifth match, but the rationale that some of the less glamorous names would be able to fill in for the star attractions proved true. Not all of the understudies were success stories of course, with Lewis Gregory among those not making the most of their chances.
But Middlesex man Dawid Malan was brilliant, remarkably top-scoring for England in four of the five games including a brilliant century in the final game. Tom Banton didn’t get a big score but his cameos were scored quickly enough.
Matt Parkinson caught the eye with the ball; the leg-spinner building on strong domestic performances over the last couple of years.
The Big Bash is coming up so let’s try to follow up our England T20 success with another win.
Getting one’s head round it all
The Bash is a bit of a strange tournament in that past performances don’t really give us a particularly good indication of how teams might fare the next time round.
Just as an example, the Melbourne Renegades looked one of the weakest sides last year on paper, had never made a final before, yet went on to win it. And the year before the Adelaide Strikers pulled off a similar stunt. A few years back the Perth Scorchers were one of the most reliable teams in sport (more on them in a bit) but didn’t look quite the same side two years ago, while last time out they finished rock bottom.
So for me, the better clue as to who might go well is the team’s strength in terms of players for this particular edition. Not that focusing on that is straightforward, either.
The local players move around a lot more than they do in say the T20 Blast and one has to think about which of the Australian internationals will be available for some, or none of the Bash. The Test players are in action towards the start of the tournament and the ODI ones during a two-week stint towards the end of it as they play three matches in India; so we have to work out which teams are more and less affected by this.
To complicate matters further, while most of the overseas players like Rashid Khan or England’s Sam Curran are available for the whole tournament, others like South African pair Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers are only there for some of it.
The Bash rules have changed this year meaning that similar to the IPL, the Top 2 from the Group Stages gets two bites of the cherry in terms of trying to make the final. If you finish fourth or fifth you make the play-offs but would have to win four play-off matches in a row to win the tournament, which I think is practically impossible.
So I think the key here is about trying to identify who can finish Top 2 in the Group Stages as much as who can handle the pressure of the Play-Offs.
Dismissing five from eight
I can’t understand why Hobart are 6.00 joint-favourites. Their relative success over the past two seasons was mostly down to the brilliance of D’Arcy Short, Mathew Wade and Jofra Archer but Wade is on Test duty and will miss a fair chunk of the tournament while Archer is highly unlikely to be released by England at all.
Short will be there and will be their key man but unless they recruit a big player to come in for Archer between now and the start, I’m not sure there are enough options in the squad to make up for those two major losses.
The Sydney Thunder are another side who look a bit thin on the ground in terms of proper quality but they could be dealt a huge boost if Usman Khawaja isn’t included in the Tests- a real possibility- because his Bash record as an opener is outstanding. They made good signings in terms of their overseas players with all-rounder Chris Morris and opener Alex Hales giving the side decent balance but I’m not sure that’s enough to give them a real chance.
At least they’re considerably bigger at 10.00 but I can’t see them finishing any higher than fourth at best, so have to be written off.
The other Sydney, the Sixers, are a very different sort of side.
In their case they’re a compact unit who know each other well and have plenty of T20 specialists rather than good players in other formats that do a job in the Bash. They’ve gone for English pair Tom Curran and James Vince, who are decent overseas signings, and they’re not a side to ever stop trying. But they come under the ‘hard to beat’ category rather than the potential winner one, so we’ll give them a miss, too.
Then there are the Scorchers (8.00).
It was bad enough losing stalwarts like Shaun Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Michael Klinger and Hilton Cartwright to retirement and other franchises but to then lose their two best bowlers in Andrew Tye and Jason Behrendoff to injury just gives them too many problems to solve.
So far Liam Livingstone is their only overseas signing for a Top 3 position in the batting and he should do well but with a few question marks about the experience levels of coach Adam Voges, I can’t be siding with them, either.
The Brisbane Heat are also as short as 6.0 with some bookmakers but that’s a poor price. It’s mostly based on the fact that they’ll have AB de Villiers around for the second half of the tournament, one of the very best limited-overs batsmen to have ever graced the game.
a) he’s obviously not there for the first part and may find it hard to hit the ground running given he’s never played Bash cricket before.
b) he hasn’t enjoyed much success in T20 franchise cricket before anyway and
c) he doesn’t actually play much these days, so his signing is arguably two or three years’ too late in terms of the impact it could make.
As ever, they look a little weak in the bowling department where apart from classy spinner Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, they don’t have anyone who can change a game with the ball.
So who’s the bet?
The two Melbournes (last year’s finalists) are hard to split but my preference goes for the runners-up, the Stars.
They’ll have Steyn available for the first half and fellow fast bowler Pat Brown (who was decent enough in England’s T20 win over New Zealand) for the second half and I think that between them they’ll take plenty of wickets, which is an area they’ve struggled in over the past few years. Nepalese spinner Sandeep Lamichhane should keep batsmen honest in the middle-overs and will benefit from having played in the competition last year.
But the best thing about the Stars is their riches when it comes to local players. Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa are important members of the ODI side while Marcus Stoinis and Peter Handscomb have been but aren’t in the side at the moment. All the better for us because it means that they won’t miss a week or two of Bash action by touring India.
Hopefully if the aforementioned trio have to play those ODIs, they’ll already have enough points on the board by then to challenge for a Top 2 finish and unlike some other sides, have other players in the squad who can come in and fill the void.
The fly in the ointment is Maxwell, the big-hitting batsman and skipper, who is currently taking time out from the game to deal with some mental health issues.
Only he will know if he feels he’s ready to return to cricket in time for the competition but even if he doesn’t, they’re certainly well-stocked in terms of batting resources though it’s anyone’s guess who might take over as captain. Stoinis would be my own guess but of course it may not come to that. The 6.50 on them looks decent enough.
And I’m also going with the Adelaide Strikers but in their case, for a Top 2 finish.
Following what I said about past performance not being that big a deal, I’m not put off by the fact they finished seventh from eight last year.
They won it the year before, by the way, it says a thing or two about Rashid Khan’s stock in T20 cricket that he was first pick in the draft for The Hundred a few weeks ago and he’ll be joined by Englishman Phil Salt, who’s been excellent in the Blast for the last few years.
Of all the sides in the tournament, they seem to be the one who put the most thought into how they want to play the game and the roles of each individual player.
And unlike last year, they’ll have fast bowlers Billy Stanlake and Peter Siddle around for the whole tournament and they’ve added the uber-experienced Cameron White to their ranks who will now be playing for his third Bash side. It was exactly in their middle order that they looked a little light last year so he’s a good signing.
As an added bonus they welcome back captain Travis Head, who is highly unlikely to be called up to play Tests after a poor Ashes series in the summer; he missed most of the tournament last year on international duty and his return will more than make up for vice-captain, wicket-keeper batsman Alex Carey playing in those ODIs.
There’s a lot to like about them at a decent-looking 3.25 for a Top 2 Finish in the Group Stages.
Back the Melbourne Stars to win The Big Bash @ 6.5 with Ladbrokes/Skybet
Back the Adelaide Strikers to Finish Top 2 in the Group Stages @ 3.25 with Unibet.
Over the next few weeks, you can read more tips from Jamie on www.bettingmaestro.com ahead of the Big Bash including wagers on tournament top batsman and tournament top bowler.
You can also read plenty of evergreen content, including analysis of the best bookmakers when it comes to betting on cricket.