After eight rounds of breathtaking cricket we have finally reached the penultimate stage of the competition: the BBL|06 semi-finals. And we were kept guessing until the very last match which saw the Sixers pulled off a remarkable comeback to book a place in the semi finals at the expense of the ever unlucky Melbourne Renegades.
The Strikers began the round by eliminating all hope of the Thunder defending their maiden title thanks to New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi who bamboozled the Thunder batsmen on their home deck taking 6-11 off 3.3 overs – the second best bowling figures in BBL history. But one has to wonder, would the result have been different had Carlos Brathwaite taken a regulation catch at mid-on to dismiss Ben Dunk on just 8…in hindsight, that may have cost the reigning champions their season.
On Friday night the Renegades clinched a rather frantic last ball victory over the Brisbane Heat while Aaron Finch continued his merry ways belting 71 off just 35 balls at a strike rate of 202!
The Hobart Hurricanes were still in with a chance of snatching a finals spot but that vanished in the first match of Saturday’s double header as the Scorchers came away with a comfortable victory on the road which saw a certain BBL bully return to form for the men from the west.
Then it was down to the last game of the regular season as nervous Renagdes fans like myself prayed for the crosstown rivals to defeat the Sydney Sixers. At 6-97 in the 15th over the Sixers chase looked done and dusted and long suffering Renegades supporters began to look ahead to seeing their side in the semi finals…but of course the Stars choked. Let’s stop there – the details are too painful to explain.
If you’ve made it into the league finals – congratulations. But be warned, the hard work starts here as the reduced number of teams makes it very difficult to stand out and diversify your side.
Semi Finals Preview
Onto the semi finals and the draw has been announced by Cricket Australia:
Semi Final #1, Tuesday 24 January
Perth Scorchers vs Melbourne Stars @ The Furnace
Semi Final #2, Wednesday 25 January
Brisbane Heat vs Sydney Sixers @ GABBA
In fantasy terms: generally, the Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars each have a significant number of fantasy relevant players while it’s fair to assume that the Heat and Sixers haven’t been as popular.
With Chris Lynn no longer available for the Heat (and the Australian ODI team for that matter), Brendon McCullum becomes the elite premium and will no doubt be close to, if not the most popular player across all teams this round.
The Sixers are a different kettle of fish with several changes in personnel across the season. Since the departure of English duo Jason Roy and Sam Billings their batting order has been severely out of form, while Johan Botha is another to have lost his early season form. On the positive side the Sixers regained test players Nic Maddinson, Nathan Lyon and Jackson Bird while Sean Abbott continues to be one of the players of the tournament.
The Perth Scorchers/Melbourne Stars have more fantasy relevant options in both batting and bowling but the trick this week will be to pick the “diamond in the rough” who has a breakout game and propels your team up the rankings and into your league finals.
The top 3 batsmen from both sides, namely Shaun Marsh, Michael Klinger, Ian Bell, Rob Quincy, Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen are all fantasy relevant but not all of them will score runs this week. It is a tricky balancing act. Same with the bowlers: Ben Hilfenhaus, Scott Boland, Tim Bresnan and Andrew Tye are all excellent options, but only one or two will score big in the semi finals.
My advice is to diversify your team with unique options, because after all – you have nothing to lose. A sneaky selection of Joe Burns or Alex Ross, maybe even giving a chance to an out of form Nic Maddinson or Ian Bell could prove to be a masterstroke. Also, news out of the Australian camp is that Marcus Stoinis has been made available for the Stars while Chris Lynn remains hopeful of making an appearance in the BBL final – should the Heat get there.
And finally, I saw a rather peculiar statistical trend in BBL|06 (courtesy of cricket.com.au) which may hold true for the semi finals. Teams seem to be better off on the road as opposed to playing at home and no team has more wins than losses on their home deck. Even the Perth Scorchers who play #TheFurnace like a fortress could only muster an even record at home. Something to keep in mind.
How teams fared at home this summer:
Melbourne Renegades: 1-3
Melbourne Stars: 1-3
Sydney Sixers: 2-2
Sydney Thunder: 1-3
As always, feel free to leave any questions below and I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.