The Hobart Hurricanes must put it all out there against Sydney Thunder and James Gray reckons they have a returning hero who will help them do just that...
"If D'Arcy Short has a weakness, it is spin. If the Thunder have a weakness, it is their lack of a quality spinner."
Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Thunder
Friday 24 January, 07:10 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1
Thunder need Sams to fire
In the revamped Big Bash playoff system, which is a little complicated to say the least, you either want to be in the top two or failing that, the top five places. The advantage of being in the top pair is that losing the first playoff match is not an automatic end-of-tournament, with the defeated side offered a second chance to qualify for the final.
The Sydney Thunder in theory could still finish second in the table, although it would require a hefty win against the Hurricanes and a series of other results going their way. More realistically, they are battling the Heat, the Scorchers and the Hobart outfit for the bottom two places. Whether they finish fourth or fifth, they would still have to win another four games to win the title, which explains their 20/1 price to do so.
While the Heat have a game in hand, the Thunder are in possession of the final playoff spot and will feel that winning their last two games should be enough, especially since a home clash with the Scorchers on Sunday will likely keep their fate in their own hands.
However, they are the slight 21/20 underdog against Hurricanes, whom they beat when these two sides met two weeks ago. On that occasion, their opening pair of Alex Hales and Usman Khawaja put on 96 in the first 10 overs to make chasing 163 look easy, despite a wobble as the finishing line approached.
If the Thunder end up batting first this time around, their challenge will be containing D'Arcy Short. Their main problem will be Short's preference for pace on the ball and their lack of anything but. Bolt from the blue Liam Bowe has proved a handy addition and a wicketless day in Perth is no shame for a spinner - but in all likelihood they are going to need the tournament's top wicket-taker Daniel Sams (20) to lead their attack again. He is 9/4 to be their most successful bowler on the night.
Hurricanes' tournament on the line
Short will be, technically, coming dry having not added to his four ODI caps while away in India, but someone of his talents doesn't seem to need match practice. Instead, it will be a question of whether his Hurricanes teammates are able to piece a performance around him. They have won just one game since he left for India.
Mac Wright, 21, was the star who made an unbeaten 70 in that solitary victory over the dismal Melbourne Renegades but Matthew Wade's 66 was also crucial in allow Wright to bed in while he blitzed the early overs. Wright is an outside shout as top Hurricanes run-scorer at 11/2 but his steady approach could be a sound one.
The Hurricanes are not out of the race for the playoffs either, but this is a must-win game and even then they will need other results to go their way. With that much on the line and Short back in the team, I'm happy to back the 4/5 favourites to pick a crucial victory.
While the Thunder have been undisrupted by Australia's jaunt to India and have not even seen Chris Morris called up to South Africa's ODI squad, the Hurricanes have seen their top and frankly only reliable run-scorer in Short absent since that brilliant hundred on January.
He remains their top scorer despite only having played six games, and given the lack of slow bowling in the attack on the other side, I'm going to be backing him to be the Hurricanes' top run-scorer on the night at 23/10 and the more ambitious punter might even take him to win Man of the Match at 11/2.