SYDNEY THUNDER v SYDNEY SIXERS
The wait is over and we have the KFC Big Bash season six ready with all the fireworks. To kick-start the tournament, we have the Sydney derby with defending Champions Thunder taking on Sixers at the Spotless Stadium on Tuesday, December 20.
Thunder have been the tournament’s basement team for the first four seasons. They could amass only five wins in 30 matches without any inkling of how to turn it around. Last season saw them undergo that transformation with Usman Khawaja, Michael Hussey, Jacques Kallis and Shane Watson leading a team that went on to win the tournament.
Sixers have an exact reverse success story in the tournament. The inaugural season winners, Sixers went on to reach the semi-finals and finals in the next two editions. But last season saw them replace their crosstown neighbors at the basement and finish with the wooden spoon. Is that an aberration or have Sixers progressively declined is a point of interest this season.
The architects of last season win – Kallis, Hussey, Watson and Khawaja are all missing in action for one reason or the other. While Hussey and Kallis have retired, Watson is injured for the initial rounds while Khawaja is on international duty. Then of course is the distraction of the potential drug ban on premier all-rounder Andre Russell.
It’s easy to believe that all’s not well for Thunder and write them off. But do that at your own peril! In Eoin Morgan, they have gone for a shrewd replacement who will be captaining in Watson’s absence and is a huge presence with the bat. The return of Pat Cummins is another big boost for the Thunder who looks fresh and ready to contribute. Watch out for the exciting Arjun Nair who may surprise a few.
Sixers have a formidable record against Thunder barring the reverse from last season. They too have a weakened line-up thanks to the presence of Australian Test regulars Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Nic Maddinson and Jackson Bird.
Their foreign contingent is very strong, though, with Jason Roy and Sam Billings an explosive combo to have in the team. The absence of regular bowlers puts pressure on Sean Abbott who shouldered huge responsibility last year. Will he be able to replicate that form once again?
A very tough call, as both sides look short of quality in inspiring confidence. Thunder are trying to adjust to the changes affecting their squad while Sixers have a lot to do in the wake of absent regulars. Thunder are offered odds of 1.90 to emerge victorious which don’t look a juicy punt on returns.
Morgan will have a huge responsibility to lead the team – literally – with the bat. Odds of 5.00 (William Hill) make him an interesting punt to lead the run charts for Thunder. Roy looks set to impress and odds of 4.25 make him a top punt to lead with the bat for Sixers. With the ball, keep an eye on Cummins – odds of 4.75 to be Thunder’s best bowler.