AFTER four straight years of semifinal failures, it was only fitting that Melbourne Stars had to settle for silver last season on their first dig in a T20 Big Bash League final.
That hasn’t deterred the punters, however.
Stephen Fleming’s charges are the $5.50 title favourites at CrownBet.com.au, where they share the top line of betting with their cross-town rivals, the Melbourne Renegades.
Stability is the key for the Stars, who will enter BBL06 with the exact same 18-man roster that qualified for a home final at the MCG in 2016-17.
International stars Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright will be crucial in the top order once again, along with Rob Quiney, Marcus Stoinis and captain David Hussey.
The one key issue, as has so often been the case for the green half of Melbourne, will be the availability of their homegrown talents.
Australia’s ongoing Test series against Pakistan means the in-form Peter Handscomb is unlikely to feature in the early fixtures.
Once he returns, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa will be called away for the ODI games from mid-January onwards.
Perhaps the biggest blow is the absence of star seamer John Hastings, who underwent knee surgery last week and won’t feature at all.
Yet the personnel problem seems much less severe than it has been in recent seasons.
The Stars should get a full season out of both Scott Boland and Dan Worrall, neither of whom were included in the Aussie squad for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
Big-hitting allrounder Glenn Maxwell was the perpetual 12th man in the 3-0 series win over New Zealand, so he could be available for the bulk of the campaign as well.
Even should a few unforeseen circumstances crop up, the squad now looks well equipped to deal with it.
Their batting runs as deep as any team in the comp, while the likes of Michael Beer, Evan Gulbis and Ben Hilfenhaus provide plenty of depth with the ball.
With reigning champs Sydney Thunder losing several key players and perennial title shouts Perth Scorchers battling a host of injuries early in the season, it’s little wonder the settled and well-rounded Stars are favourites to top the table.
Melbourne Star Big Bash futures betting
Odds provided by CrownBet.com.au
Melbourne Stars team futures:
To win the title – $5
To reach the final – $3.30
Top four – $1.55
Most defeats – $11
Top Stars batsman in BBL06:
Kevin Pietersen – $3
Luke Wright – $3.75
Glenn Maxwell – $4.25
Marcus Stoinis – $5
Rob Quiney – $9
David Hussey – $15
Sam Harper – $34
Seb Gotch, Peter Handscomb, Tom Triffitt – $41
Top Stars bowler in BBL06:
Scott Boland – $3.25
Adam Zampa – $4.50
Ben Hilfenhaus – $6
Daniel Worrall – $6.50
Michael Beer, James Faulkner – $11
Evan Gulbis, Marcus Stoinis – $13
Glenn Maxwell – $14
Luke Wright – $34
David Hussey – $51
William Hill’s BBL06 outright winner special
If you fancy the Stars to go all the way, WilliamHill.com is running a huge BBL06 betting special for the main outright market.
To qualify, all you have to do is stake $50 or more on your tip to win the title.
If your team reaches the semifinals, the bookie will pay $1 for every six they hit in the group phase of the 2016-17 T20 Big Bash League.
For example, let’s say we back the Stars for BBL outright winners. If they make the top four and smash 57 sixes along the way, we will pocket $57 regardless of whether they go on to claim the title.
The offer only applies to bets placed before the start of the season, so follow this link to sign up at William Hill and make your move.
Players to watch
Kevin Pietersen – While KP wasn’t the most consistent performer in Big Bash 2015-16, he wound up third on the overall scoring charts with 323 runs, four 50s and a 159.11 strike rate. Imagine what he could do if he really got going? The South African veteran has enjoyed a solid hitout in the T20 Ram Slam and should be in every punter’s thinking for top tournament runscorer in BBL06 ($10 at CrownBet).
Peter Handscomb – A Test call-up out of the blue, 50 on debut at Adelaide Oval, a crucial century at the Gabba – what a summer it has been already for the young Vic. The fact Trevor Hohns and company have overlooked Handscomb for the white ball is a massive boon for the Stars. He was a huge factor in the run to the final last term and should bring some big runs into the second half of the campaign in BBL 2016-17.
Glenn Maxwell – This could be an important season for ‘The Big Show’. Having talked the talk for many years now, Maxwell has failed to walk the walk with any semblance of consistency. He isn’t a regular starter for the Aussies, so he should have plenty of opportunity to prove his worth in the Big Bash Twenty20. CrownBet’s $41 quote for Maxwell to top the BBL batting tables is great value compared to other online bookies.
2016-17 Big Bash League fixtures
Hobart Hurricanes at Blundstone Arena – Monday, December 26, 2016
Melbourne Renegades at the MCG – Sunday, January 1, 2017
Sydney Thunder at Spotless Stadium – Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Melbourne Renegades at Etihad Stadium – Saturday, January 7, 2017
Adelaide Strikers at the MCG – Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Perth Scorchers at the WACA – Saturday, January 14, 2017
Brisbane Heat at the MCG – Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Sydney Sixers at the MCG – Saturday, January 21, 2017
Melbourne Stars BBL06 squad
* denotes international player on Visa contract
David Hussey (captain)
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