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The opening week of the Big Bash League is always very exciting. Teams enter the BBL tournament with re-inforced squads and after having learned from their mistakes in the previous seasons. This is why the quality of cricket and the intensity of the contest keeps on going up.
Sydney Thunder plays its first match against the Melbourne Stars to open their BBL 08 season. We believe Sydney Thunder has one of the better squads in this year’s BBL with two huge English signings headlining their player pool.
Melbourne Stars were terrible in BBL 07 and that has led to a drastically revamped squad. There are some very good players in that lineup as well but some holes that need to be plugged too. The lack of some familiar names from that side will add the pressure on the rest of the squad.
Sydney Thunder finished 6th last season, which seems like an accurate result for the kind of performances they put in. The side was too dependent on Shane Watson for its runs and death bowling, basically winning when he performed and losing when he did not.
For BBL 08, Sydney Thunder has reinforced its batting by the inclusion of Joe Root and Jos Buttler. Root is not a household name in franchise T20 cricket, probably because he does not get the time to play too much and also because of the perception that his power game is not quite the most explosive.
We think Sydney Thunder has made a very good buy and they should reap rewards from having one of the best batsmen in the world in their side. Jos Butler struggled in the BBL until he started to open. This is where he will start from in BBL 08, of that we have no doubt, and take the most advantage of the seven matches for which he is available.
Then there is Shane Watson. The man seems to have lost none of his sharpness since retiring from international cricket. Watson helped the Chennai Super Kings win the IPL and was very good in the recently concluded T10 tournament as well.
The likes of Callum Ferguson, Jason Sangha, and Ryan Gibson will help add some depth to the batting order as well.
The spin bowling department of Sydney Thunder is in good hands. Chris Green and Fawad Ahmed are very dependable in T20 cricket while also being very different to each other. Fawad Ahmed is the traditional spinner that gets some spin from the surface while Chris Green fires it in during the powerplay or the death overs.
The matchup between Fawad and Maxwell will be one to watch out for.
The fast bowling department of Sydney Thunder is a little weak. Gurinder Sandhu can be predictable, Daniel Sams is a good addition but still quite inexperienced, and so Shane Watson may well have to shoulder plenty of bowling responsibilities as well.
SR Watson, Jos Buttler, JE Root, Callum Ferguson, Christopher Green, Jason Sangha, Nathan McAndrew, Sam Rainbird, Daniel Sams, Fawad Ahmed, Gurinder Sandhu.
Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright are no longer a part of the Melbourne Stars after having retired from all cricket. That leaves a huge gap in the batting order and makes the Stars susceptible.
For the Melbourne Stars to do well in this match and in the BBL overall, Ben Dunk at the top of the order will have to find the kind of form he displayed in BBL 06. Dunk was a huge disappoint last season after having failed to score runs consistently at the top of the order.
If he can play with some consistency then Nic Maddinson and the three all-rounders following him should be able to have an impact.
The most important player for the Melbourne Stars in BBL cricket is Marcus Stoinis. The all-rounder can bowl four overs in every match and must bat at the top of the order. We would have him bat not lower than three so that he can have an impact.
He was at his best in BBL 07 every time he came out to bat early. Hopefully, the Melbourne Stars would have learned from that.
Glenn Maxwell and Dwayne Bravo add more flexibility to the side as well. Maxwell is a huge threat in T20 cricket provided he gives himself a little bit of time while Dwayne Bravo is seeing a surge in his batting as well.
Both of them are excellent bowlers with Bravo’s ability to pick wickets at the death being particularly invaluable.
With Travis Dean in the batting ad Adam Zampa in the bowling, the Melbourne Stars should be able t put together a decent side on the park.
The problem for the Melbourne Stars is going to be to find some depth in its batting lineup because we think they have got the bowling covered.
Ben Dunk, Travis Dean, N Larkin, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Dwayne Bravo, Evan Gulbis, Adam Zampa, Sandeep Lamichhane, Jackson Coleman, Michael Beer.
The side winning the toss is likely to want to bat first
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
The weather forecast in Sydney for match day is mixed. There is some rain expected in the morning but hopefully, that should clear by the time the match gets underway. The pitch should be flat and excellent for batting allowing the batsmen to unfurl their full range of strokeplay.
Sydney Thunder has won the last four matches it has played against the Melbourne Stars. It seems to have the upper hand heading into this contest as well. With the likes of Watson, Root, and Buttler on its side, a fantastic spin-bowling duo, and some dependable batsmen to round things off, we think they should be able to win this match as well.
Back Sydney Thunder to win.
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