Sydney Thunder vs Brisbane Heat: Back Hales and balanced bowling to extinguish the Heat

Alex Hales
Matt Harris is backing Alex Hales to get Sydney Thunder off to a fast start

Brisbane Heat ended Thunder's challenge at BBL10 but Matt Harris is expecting the Sydney franchise to exact their revenge.

"Lynn has a lot of responsibility at the top of the order but the arrival of Ben Duckett can offer much-needed support"

Sydney Thunder vs Brisbane Heat
Monday December 6th, 08:15 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Hales storm lifts the Thunder

Sydney Thunder exited at the knockout stage last year after finishing the regular season in third place. With scheduling taking in neutral grounds for the second year in succession, the team are back at the Manuka Oval in Canberra where they won four and lost four of their games at BBL10.

Driving the Thunder beyond the regular season was Alex Hales who finished as the league's leading scorer with 543 runs from 15 innings. The former England opener top scored for the Sydney franchise for the second time and is clearly pivotal to their chances this time around.

Thunder should go into the playoffs again, based on Hales' power, while the spinners, Chris Green and Tanveer Sangha offer good balance to an experienced seam attack that includes Daniel Sams and Ben Cutting.

Brisbane go one better

These two sides shared the wins during the group stages before Brisbane Heat eliminated the Thunder in that knockout game. Chris Lynn's side progressed to the Challenger but went down to Perth Scorchers in a rain-affected game.

Heat were boosted in the latter stages by the return of Marnus Labuschagne from test duty but they look vulnerable when he's not in the side. Lynn has a lot of responsibility at the top of the order but the arrival of Ben Duckett can offer much-needed support.

The captaincy passes to Jimmy Peirson for BBL11 and Heat fans should also look out for the impressive Somerset batsman Tom Abel who will join up after England Lions duty.

Manuka Oval plays host

The Manuka Oval in Canberra steps into the breach but, after extensive hosting at BBL10, just two games will be played here this season. In 2020/21, the ground hosted 13 matches and produced an average first innings score of 170.

Sydney Thunder passed 200 twice here while recording heavy victories over the two Melbourne franchises. As we've seen in T20 cricket around the world, the wins tended to favour the chasing side but the Thunder like to bat first and bat big.

There could be some interference from the weather with showers expected at some stage.

Sydney Thunder vs Brisbane Heat

The Thunder start as favourites for the win at 1.855/6 with Brisbane Heat trailing at 2.0811/10. The threat of rain could certainly make the toss a vital call but we can only make a judgement based on the relative qualities of the two squads at this stage.

In the batting department, both sides are similar in the sense that they rely heavily on one man. If either Hales or Lynn fall cheaply, the opposition will have a clear advantage.

Where Sydney Thunder edge this for me is in the bowling department: The experience of Sams and Cutting, counterbalanced by one of the best spin attacks in the competition, makes them my tip. Expect another strong tournament from Tanveer Sangha who could come under the international selectors' radar if he can just improve his batting.

Hales to lead Thunder's challenge

It can be dangerous to get behind Alex Hales in any top batsman market. He generally makes more positive headlines when he steps onto the cricket field but high scores can mask inconsistency.

Earlier this year in the English T20 Blast, I watched him make a first ball duck at Derby before following that up with a century against Lancashire the very next day. That sequence rather sums Alex up but I'll take advantage of an OddsBoost on the sportsbook which lifts him to 12/5 to be Sydney's leading run scorer.

Other options in this market include Sam Billings at 3/1, Sam Whiteman at 4/1 and Alex Ross at 6/1.

Consider Duckett to lead Brisbane resistance

If Ben Duckett can carry over his form from England's domestic season, Brisbane should have no issues in terms of making it through to the playoffs. The left hander was productive for Notts in the T20 Blast and he finished in second place in the list of leading run scorers for the newly-formed Hundred tournament.

Duckett tends to stay in form when he finds his touch and, if you're looking for a third selection, he looks generous at 16/5 on the sportsbook to top score for Brisbane. Chris Lynn is the favourite at 21/10 while other options include Max Bryant at 7/2 and Tom Cooper at 13/2.

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