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If Big Bash League did not appear to be gearing up for an exciting finish a couple of days ago, it certainly appears to be heading for a nail-biting finish. The recent results have turned the qualification scenarios upside down, making all the remaining league matches of significant importance.
Even though Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat are both languishing near the bottom of the table, they both are still pretty much in contention to qualify for the playoffs. The two teams are set to lock horns on 21st January at Adelaide Oval, Adelaide.
Adelaide Strikers have had a rather strange sort of tournament and they'll be looking to make amends in the back-end of the league stage. They looked well-set in the early part of the tournament but then lost steam. Just when they found their rhythm back again, a loss to Melbourne Stars deflated them so much that they are still struggling to get out of that.
As it currently stands, the Strikers have 20 points against their name with a net run-rate of -0.205. They are still in a pretty good position as far as the progression goes but they'll need to register a win here to sustain this position. The fact that they are playing this match at home is likely to help their cause.
It's been a while since Strikers last played a match and a week's long break would have worked wonders for them. They would no longer be fatigued and the time would have helped them to get over 68 all-out in their last match. With Rashid Khan absent, they faltered with the ball in their last match as Stars hammered a total of 179 runs. The Strikers' miseries were more seen in the death overs wherein Andre Fletcher and Hilton Cartwright took full advantage of the inexperience of Strikers' bowlers.
The Strikers have a decent batting unit and their 68 all-out innings can be rather seen as a one-off collective failure. Given that their batsmen have otherwise done well in the tournament, the Strikers won't be too bothered. The only cause of concern for the Strikers will be their bowling, which appears to be one-dimensional without Rashid Khan. If the bowlers can leave a mark in the upcoming match, the Strikers will present a strong challenge to Brisbane Heat.
Jake Weatherald, Alex Carey, Philip Salt, TM Head, Matt Renshaw, Ryan Gibson, Michael Neser, Danny Briggs, Wes Agar, Liam O'Connor, Peter Siddle.
Brisbane Heat had one of the worst on-paper teams coming into the tournament and they have done pretty well up until now. What is more commendable is that they have done so with Chris Lynn being absent for the most part. Just like the Strikers, Brisbane Heat suffered a poor batting collapse in the last match and will be looking to turn things around as we approach the business end.
Brisbane Heat are currently placed on the sixth spot with 21 points to their name. A win here, however, will push them into the top four, putting them in a sweet position to qualify for the playoffs. Besides, they have a negative net run-rate as of now so they'll have their eyes on the margin on their wins as well. Net run-rate can come into the picture should things get tight for the qualification.
Looking at the Brisbane Heat's lineup, one thing is pretty clear - that is they are heavily dependent on their all-rounders to take them through. After their top-four, they have four players who can contribute in multiple facets of the game. Having said that, there is a clear dearth of heavy-hitting power in their middle-order and that put extra pressure on Chris Lynn to do the heavy lifting.
Chris Lynn has been in terrific touch ever since he has returned to play for his side. Also, the addition of Joe Denly and Joe Burns has ensured that Brisbane Heat have no loose ends left. On paper, Brisbane Heat have a decent side, but it certainly lacks strength in few departments. Over-reliance on Chris Lynn to score quickly is visible, but that is more or less compensated by the depth that they have in batting. Against the Strikers, it will be imperative for Lynn to fire and if that happens, Brisbane Heat will stand a true chance.
Joe Burns, Chris Lynn, Joe Denly, Marnus Labuschagne, Lewis Gregory, Jimmy Peirson, Jack Wildermuth, Mark Steketee, Xavier Bartlett, Mitchell Swepson, Morne Morkel.
With playoff hopes hinging on this match, this match is as close as it can get. The two sides have pretty similar vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Without Rashid Khan, Adelaide Strikers' bowling looks wafer-thin. However, Brisbane Heat's over-reliance on Chris Lynn means that they cannot go all-out against the Strikers' bowlers. The fact that the Strikers are playing at their home turf gives that wee bit of advantage. However, Brisbane Heat have shown better grit and have a better recent record in the tournament. For that reason, placing your money on a Heat win should be the way to go here.
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