Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Thunder
Monday 25 January, 08:15
TV: live on Sky Sports
Strikers sitting pretty
Strikers are nothing if not competitive. Shorn of their best player, Rashid Khan, they produced one of the most impressive performances in this year's tournament by beating Thunder on Sunday.
Batting first they managed a below-par 159, a score at the break few gave them much hope of defending against a Thunder batting line-up including the destructive Alex Hales. But Strikers are canny and they have good plans in the field. They squeezed expertly.
Peter Siddle took two for 22 and the man of the match award while Michael Neser, back from Australia drinks duty, took two for 17. Alongside Wes Agar this is now as potent a pace attack as Perth.
Possible XI Carey, Weatherald, Salt, Head, Gibson, Renshaw, Neser, Briggs, Siddle, W Agar, O'Connor
Thunder in danger
Thunder would have reckoned they had the job done against Strikers after stellar work in the field. Perhaps that complacency contributed to their downfall. After looking solid for the play-offs for much of the campaign, they now find themselves in a battle with Hobart, Heat and Stars for fifth spot with a game to go.
They should be home and hosed with a win, though. And it's generally a wise thing not to get too down about a poor batting display. It's a poor bowling display which give us the willies and the one at the Adelaide Oval was almost perfect. Kiwi pacer Adam Milne produced extraordinary figures of one for six.
It was particularly impressive that they were so strong considering the loss of talisman Daniel Sams for the rest of the tournament. Sams has a hand injury. One suspects that if they do hold on to qualify, that injury could prove fatal.
Possible XI Khawaja, Hales, Ferguson, Billings, Davies, Ross, Green, Cutting, McAndrew, Milne, Sangha
Adelaide has been a bat first wicket for some time. But it has also been pretty flat and 160 should be a minimum. Previous to that game on Sunday, 17 of the 28 sides who made 170 or more went on to win. If Thunder were to bat first this time, they would be confident that their hell-for-leather style would put them in a strong position at the break.
Strikers are 2.1211/10 with Thunder 1.834/5. Those prices are almost identical to pre-game odds before Sunday's match. It is hard not to reckon that is unfair on Strikers.
From a personnel point of view, Strikers have had Neser and Travis Head returned to their line-up and exactly the right time. Thunder have lost Sams. And with the toss bias in play, Strikers would represent a straightforward trade batting first. But likewise Thunder. As we said, that 170 mark is the magic number.
It is probably more palatable, however, given the team news and recent head-to-head that we plump for Strikers batting first and look to make a position with them around 1.705/7 jollies at half-time.
What could ruin best-laid plans is the weather forecast. There is a more than 80% chance of showers throughout the match so we could see overs reduced.
If the rain does come and overs get lopped off, then opening batsmen are hard to ignore in the top-bat market. Hales, after a blank, will be well supported at Sportsbook are expected to go off at around the 5/2 mark. Likewise Alex Carey for Strikers.
The man to follow could be Jake Weatherald, though, who has been reliable when opening the batting. After a spell in the middle order he is back in the top slot. We might get 10/3 or better from Sportsbook.
Also keep a look out for prices on Agar for top Strikers bowler. With Neser returning, Sportsbook could again push out one of the best in the business to around 4/1.