The Big Bash - where we’re at
One of the biggest domestic T20 tournaments in the world, the KFC Big Bash, is already more than halfway through its regular season. The standings are beginning to take shape, and though there are teams beginning to separate themselves from the pack, all eight sides are within a game of the top four. We’re in for an exciting last few weeks, so let’s take a look at how each side is placed heading into the latter half of the season.
The Hurricanes have undoubtedly been the most impressive side in the tournament so far, and as a result find themselves atop the table with a 6-1 record despite having played less matches than every other team bar Brisbane. They have been ably led by the dominant opening pairing of D’Arcy Short and Matthew Wade, who are first and fifth respectively in the tournament. Short has been particularly impressive, averaging an incredible 59.16 at a strike rate of 141.43, and racking up four half centuries in his seven matches. Their dominant form means halfway through the season they are the favourite to take out the tournament.
The Renegades sit in second place in the standings, but in a testament to how close the tournament is they have only needed a 5-4 record to reach the position. They have already played nine matches compared to most other sides seven or eight, and their net run rate of -0.263 belies their place in the standings and suggests they haven’t played as well as it might suggest. Their batting has failed to fire, with 22-year-old Sam Harper their leading run scorer having averaged 27.5 in his nine matches.
Their bowling has been better - Kane Richardson is the second leading wicket taker in the tournament despite having played only seven games, picking up 14 at an average of 15.85. He has, however, conceded 7.97 runs per over. Usman Shinwari has probably been the pick of their bowlers, the left-armer from Pakistan conceding just 6.14 runs per over in his seven matches.
The Thunder are in third with a 4-4 record and an impressive 0.304 net run rate. Their team is one whose strength lies in the top order of their batting lineup, and Jos Buttler’s 273 runs at an average of 39 and a strike rate of 135.14 is testament to that. He has, however, now left the squad for international duties, joined by fellow Englishman Joe Root, who had been a feature of the Thunder’s middle order. Captain Shane Watson will now have a greater responsibility at the top of the order, where he has so far been solid without firing on all cylinders.
Their bowling lineup has, at times, seemed one or two quality players short. Fawad Ahmed has been important, picking up 10 wickets while conceding a reasonable 7.42 runs per over. Daniel Sams has played a big role as an all rounder, but while he has picked up 11 wickets he has conceded 8.92 runs per over throughout the tournament.
Last years winners haven’t been as impressive in the first half of this years tournament, and find themselves in the middle of the pack with a 4-4 record. Without doubt, Rashid Khan has been their best player. The leg-spinner has picked up 13 wickets at the very impressive average of 12.07, and has conceded an extraordinary 4.9 runs per over - significantly less than any other player to have bowled a decent amount of overs. The rest of their bowling lineup has largely failed to fire - Billy Stanlake is their second leading wicket taker with nine, but he has conceded 9.16 runs per over.
From a batting perspective, South African recruit Colin Ingram has been a great pickup, averaging 28.12 at a strike rate of 142.4 and providing the kind of big hitting that the team expected from him entering the tournament. Jake Weatherald has been good and Jono Wells solid further down the order, but they will need contributions from more players if they are to repeat their heroics from last season.
The Sixers have been led by a bowling lineup which has shown a propensity to get wickets, with three of their bowlers finding themselves in the top seven wicket takers for the tournament. Steve O’Keefe leads all-comers with 15 at 16.46, and has been economical too, conceding just 7.26 runs per over. Sean Abbott has 12, though he has been a little more expensive, while Englishman Tom Curran has nabbed 11 wickets while conceding 7.44 an over.
Their batting, however, has left a little to be desired. Of their top three run scorers - Dan Hughes, Jordan Silk and Moises Henriques - all have a strike rate of between 114 and 126, not enough for a team to challenge at this level of competition. Their most impressive run-scorer, perhaps tellingly, has been Curran, who in seven innings has amassed 167 runs while striking at 146.49.
The big-hitting Brisbane Heat are one of the most intriguing teams in the competition. They find themselves in sixth place with a 3-4 record, but their net run rate of 0.59 is the second best in the league. Despite this, they are the comfortable favourite to end the season at the bottom of the table. Their destructive batting lineup has been a little inconsistent, though not their main problem. Chris Lynn, as expected, has led the charge, accumulating 313 runs (the second most in the league) at 52.16 and a strike rate of 133.19. Brendon McCullum has, for the most part, struggled, though he has shown a recent return to form, while young opener Max Bryant has impressed with the power hitting which has seen him rack up a strike rate of 161.15 seven games into the season.
Their bowling lineup has, in contrast, been largely disappointing, with no one bowler able to demonstrate an ability to consistently take wickets. Brendan Doggett (who has played just four matches) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have the most with six - the latter of whom has conceded just 5.58 runs per over and been very impressive - while a glut of players have four or five throughout the tournament.
The typically dominant Scorchers have struggled so far this season, and after eight games are sitting in second last with a 3-5 record. Ashton Turner has been fantastic with the bat, scoring 300 runs at an average of 50 and with a strike rate of 136.36, but unfortunately he has had very little support. Cameron Bancroft, whose suspension for ball-tampering ended a couple of games into the tournament, has been their second leading run scorer with 191 in just five games, but he is not a power hitter and has a strike rate of just 123.22 - not a major problem if there are other players firing, but aside from Turner it has been slim pickings.
Their bowling has been better. AJ Tye has 10 wickets at 7.51, while Jason Behrendorff has been incredibly difficult to get away, particularly for a quick, conceding only 5.85 runs per over and grabbing eight wickets in his six matches. As has been the case in previous years, their bowling lineup has done the bulk of the heavy lifting, and if they want to get back into contention their batting lineup will need to improve.
The seemingly perennially disappointing Melbourne Stars once again find themselves at the bottom of the table, though with a 3-5 record it could certainly be worse, and they still have a chance to work their way back into finals contention with six matches to go. Their batting has been, to be blunt, terrible, with their leading run scorer, Ben Dunk, averaging just 20.37 with a very poor strike rate of 114.78. Marcus Stoinis was whacking 150.51 runs per 100 balls, but he has since departed for international duties and they are desperately waiting for his return.
Their bowling hasn’t been a whole lot better, with Dwayne Bravo leading the charge with nine wickets - though these have come at the relatively unimpressive average of 26.66 and a strike rate of 8.00. The Stars have time on their side, but they will need improvements with both the bat and the ball if they want to work their way up the table.
The Big Bash League, in what will be its longest season in its existence, has been every bit as entertaining as it has been in previous years. With this season shaping up to be as close as ever, and all eight teams still in contention over halfway through, it appears the last few weeks will be compelling viewing.