Sunday 5 December, 8.35am
Ed Hawkins finds the winner from the competitive T20 tournament which starts on Sunday...
"What will be key for Stars is spin. They have the potential to bowl 12 overs of it with the brilliant Adam Zampa leading the way"
The Big Bash may well one day change its name to the Big Bosh given its penchant for trying to remain relevant. The Power Surge, X-Factor and Bash Boost have all been unnecessary gimmicks in a bid to keep pace with the IPL. One day they may realise that all they need is quality cricket.
All the tweaks and tinkering have made little difference to the outstanding team. The Sydney Sixers are aiming for an unprecedented hat-trick of wins.
Good enough to bust the trend for league leaders flopping in the knockouts, one should be absolutely clear that man for man, and balance, they are once again the best team. They will take all the beating.
And they're not a bad bet. The crazy shift that has seen Perth Scorchers pinch favourite status (5.104/1 plays 5.509/2 Sixers) makes no sense to us even if Tymal Mills is a good pick-up for last season's runners-up.
How Sixers won last year also gives a clue as to what counts in the Bash. Sixers were seventh out of eighth for bowling economy. In what is a tight bowling economy ranking 'league' one should be careful not to reckon they're profligate. However, it suggests that batting power is key.
Indeed, that may well be down to those rule changes. With bonus points available if the chasing teams gets ahead by the tenth over, there is a onus on ball-striking. Or it could be that the Bash is just following the trend worldwide for boundary percentage to be absolutely crucial, a metric which has produced winners in the T20 World Cup and IPL.
That's where we start to try to make sense of the outright. We want to be on a team which can hit. The batting power ranking (below) is a decent guide, based on two-year Bash boundary percentage for probable XIs (or a player's domestic form if not played previously) from our team-by-team guide.
Batting power ranking
1 Sydney Thunder
2 Melbourne Stars
3 Brisbane Heat
4 Sydney Sixers
5 Hobart Hurricanes
6 Melbourne Renegades
7 Perth Scorchers
8 Adelaide Strikers
Let's start, then, by putting a line through the bottom three. Strikers have been badly weakened by Ashes call-ups to Travis Head and Alex Carey, the Scorchers have lost Jason Roy, Colin Ingram and Liam Livingstone while the Renegades have injuries to Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh.
The Hurricanes are a slightly disappointing fifth and that means that the 6.205/1 feels about right. That's a great shame because there is an awful lot to like about a batting unit comprising Matthew Wade, Harry Brook and Tim David.
Perhaps the big takeway, though, is that Sixers batting power is more than matched. Brisbane Heat, Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder should all qualify with ease so long as they continue to show the correct value for their wickets.
Heat are the biggest price of the three at 8.6015/2. Do bear in mind, however, that Mitch Swepson is a big player for them and they would dearly love for him to be released from Ashes duty.
The Thunder are 8.07/1. The negative here is the loss of Usman Khawaja (Australia) and Callum Ferguson. Given their power ranking is based on almost 900 runs from the pair last season we need to be careful.
As for the Stars, they are blessed with a settled, confident squad. Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Clarke, possibly the signing of the tournament, give tremendous potential to consistently go big.
Combined bowling economy/boundary% ranking
2 Hurricanes, Scorchers
It has to be said that, Scorchers, Renegades and Strikers aside, there are few bad bets to be had. And it would be hard to admonish any punter who took a chance on the remaining five. That's not the advice you come for, though. How best to split the three?
Well, bowling skills should still have a significant say. Using the bowling rankings above (complied on average positions for economy and boundaries conceded) we can see that the team which has a strong chance of performing well in both batting and bowling disciplines is Stars.
What will be key for Stars is spin. They have the potential to bowl 12 overs of it with the brilliant Adam Zampa leading the way, joined by Qais Ahmed as soon as the Abdu Dhabi T10 is finished. Maxwell's spin is hugely underrated.
Such combinations mean the 6.4011/2 available on the exchange has a toppy feel about it as a result. Likewise the 3.4012/5 that they can make the final.
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Sunday 5 December, 8.35am