Excitement has reached a fever pitch among T20 fans as the 2017/18 Big Bash season is just around the corner and it promises to be a rollercoaster ride.
Last season the Perth Scorchers beat the Sydney Sixers by nine wickets in the final to claim their third title and cement their status as the most successful team in BBL history. They are the favourites to win a fourth trophy this season, but the league is extremely competitive and several teams are in with a great chance of seizing glory. Here are the leading contenders, along with the most attractive T20 Big Bash odds at Oddschecker:
The champions have kept the bulk of their title-winning squad together and will aim to turn their vast experience into another successful campaign. A lot will rest on the shoulders of 37-year-old star batsman Michael Klinger, the highest run scorer in BBL history.
Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Mitch Marsh are all part of the Australian test team currently tearing apart England in the Ashes, and Klinger will need to shine in their absence. He will be ably supported by all-rounders Ashton Agar and David Willey, while Andrew Tye, Mitchell Johnson and Jhye Richardson lead a strong attack and coach Justin Langer always impresses. They justify their status as favourites, but Perth is a huge scalp for anyone to claim and they will be under intense pressure all season.
The Renegades have a vastly experienced group of T20 specialists and shrewd business in the close season could see them finally challenge for the title. They have always underwhelmed in the BBL’s six-year history, with only one finals appearance to their name, but they could go far this time around. Captain Aaron Finch, second only to Klinger in the all-time run scoring stakes, will be key, and he is joined by the returning Brad Hodge. When Finch heads off for Australia duty, the evergreen Hodge will lead the line and the former Strikers skipper should have no problem in that department as he hit 281 runs last season at a strike rate of 130.
Cameron White and Dwayne Bravo are also big hitters, and veteran Bad Hogg is excellent with both willow and leather. Hogg and Hodge are the two oldest players in the league, and that experience could prove vital if they still have enough hunger and energy to drive the Renegades forward.
The Stars look a great bet to win the title this season at odds of $6.50 as they have assembled a formidable collection of monstrous blasters. They signed Ben Dunk, the league’s top scorer last season, in a massive coup, and he will line up alongside Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright and Glenn Maxwell in an outrageously stacked batting department.
The Stars have endured a long run of near misses, perennially reaching the finals but falling just short of glory, and now is the time to shake off the always-the-bridesmaid tag. They will not struggle for runs, so their success is likely to depend on the efficacy of the Stars’ attack, but the odds on them look really appealing right now.
The Heat have received a huge boost ahead of BBL07 as Chris Lynn shrugged off a shoulder injury and declared himself fit for the season opener. Lynn’s career has been blighted by injury, but when fit he is by far the most devastating batsman in the league and has many more sixes than anyone else in Big Bash history.
Brisbane handed him the biggest contract the league has ever seen in October, and he will be central to their chances of success. It is hard to think of a better one-two in the world than Lynn and Brendon McCullum, and if they stay healthy the Heat can make a big splash this season.
The Sixers also look great value at $7.00 as they have quick and aggressive bowlers and some big hitters in the batting department. Sean Abbott was BBL’s leading wicket-taker last season and youngster Ben Dwawshuis is also dangerous. Powerful blasters like Jason Roy, Nic Maddinson and Daniel Hughes are worth their weight in gold, and their sensational semi-final victory over Brisbane last season can give them plenty of confidence ahead of the new campaign.
The Adelaide Strikers ($9.00) suffered a tumultuous off-season and ended up replacing experience with youth. After losing Hodge, Dunk and Tim Ludeman, they brought in Afghan spinner Rashid Khan and big-hitting Colin Ingram to fill the void. They may surprise a few, but Adelaide are unlikely to trouble the finals due to their inexperience.
The Sydney Thunder ($13) boast the talents of Shaun Marsh and Jos Buttler, so that gives them a chance in any match, but they have lost a lot of key players and are likely to be near the bottom of the ladder. Ditto the Hurricanes ($15), who have failed to reach the finals since BBL03 and are unlikely to get out of the group this time around.
Martin Green is an experienced T20 correspondent and has been covering the Big Bash for several years.