THE tournament officially launched on Thursday night with a Sydney derby, but everyone knows a real Big Bash League competition only truly kicks off with a huge double-header.
The two biggest sporting cities in this country host back-to-back games on Sunday, with expectations on all four competing teams sky high.
Let’s take a look at the teams and find some winners.
Sydney Sixers vs. Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, 4:20pm, AEDST
The Sydney Sixers and the Hobart Hurricanes kick off the big double-header of Twenty20 action on Sunday afternoon.
The Sixers were one of the surprise teams of last season.
After finishing in fourth position the Sixers went on to defeat the Adelaide Strikers in an against the odds win away from home; and just fell short in the final against the Perth Scorchers at Canberra’s Manuka Oval.
The star of last season was veteran Aussie quick Brett Lee.
Lee was brilliant throughout the regular season; bowling 32 overs taking nine wickets at just seven runs per over.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, Lee is now retired and their next best option – Mitchell Starc – will miss the entirety of the Big Bash League season with an injury sustained in the day/night test match in Adelaide.
Along with Lee and Starc, the Sixers will be without Josh Hazlewood for the majority of the season, with international duties taking precedent over domestic cricket.
However, with Captain Moses Henriques, Sean Abbott and Stephen O’Keffe still amongst their ranks, along with new recruit Johan Botha; the Sixers will still be competitive throughout the BBL season.
The Hobart Hurricanes were one of the biggest disappointments of BBL|04, with their well-balanced squad unable to put together the requisite wins to make the Big Bash finals.
With Ben Dunk and Tim Payne will likely play at the top of the order and will be one of the more dynamic combinations in the competition.
It is the addition Kumar Sangakkara that gives Hobart the best reason to be optimistic this season, with the Sri Lankan superstar capable of making even the most toothless batting attack look ominous.
Along with Sangakkara, West Indies Twenty20 captain Darren Sammy comes into the ‘Canes side.
With a strike rate of 150, and a respectable bowling average of less than 25, Sammy is one of the best all-rounders in the BBL and will add great versatility to a team that lacked exactly that last season.
The Sixers kick off the Big Bash League on Thursday night against the Sydney Thunder, meaning the men in magenta have two games in four days to compete with, along with their opponents.
With a stronger squad on paper, more rest and the Sangakkara factor playing in the Hurricanes’ favour it points towards a Hobart win on Sunday.
Expect the Hurricanes to kick off their season in style with a win on Sunday at the SCG.
Winner: Hobart Hurricanes – $2.30
Melbourne Stars vs. Sydney Thunder
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, 7:25pm, AEDST
The Melbourne Stars host the Sydney Thunder in the second leg of Sunday’s huge double-header, with both teams looking to improve on disappointing showing last season.
The Stars have had arguably the best squads throughout the four years of Big Bash cricket, but their inability to progress past the semi-final stage has resigned their seasons to failure.
BBL|05 will be English heavy-hitter Kevin Pietersen’s second season in the Melbourne green.
Pietersen was brilliant throughout his maiden Big Bash season, with average of 43.67 and a strike rate in excess 120 – if any batsman can supersede these numbers; it is K.P.
The Stars have a strong batting line up around Pietersen too, with Luke Wright, James Faulkner, Rob Quiney and captain David Hussey all capable of anchoring an innings.
Oh, and Glen Maxwell did not get the nickname “The Big Show” for nothing – he can singlehandedly win a match for the Stars.
The bowling department is the area the Stars will lack true star power, with Ben Hilfenhaus and Scott Boland he only recognised ‘out-and-out’ bowlers at their disposal.
Their reliance on all-rounders will be tested at stages throughout the season, and an area of exploitation for their opponents.
The Sydney Thunder have been the biggest disappointments of the Big Bash League since the tournament’s inception.
They are the only team in the history of the competition to never make the finals, with questionable recruiting and expectations on big name players to carry a team now proven not to be a feasible way to run a franchise.
The appointment of Michael Hussey two years ago was a masterstroke for the Thunder; with the man they call ‘Mr Cricket’ working tirelessly to invigorate the Sydneysiders.
The Thunder now boasts genuine star power across the board, with Shane Watson, Jacques Kalis and brilliant West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell now all in electric green.
Add to that the reliability of Ben Rohner and Clint McKay, and the battle for supremacy in Sydney may be swinging away from magenta and over to electric green.
Both teams have short turnarounds for this game, with the Thunder playing the Sixers on Thursday night while the Stars travel to Adelaide to play the Strikers.
Despite having one less day to prepare for the match, the Stars should be able to get past the vastly improved Thunder – with the home venue the decisive factor in going with the Melbourne team in Green.
Winner: Melbourne Stars – $1.40