The wait is finally over with the Big Bash back on our screens tonight as the Sydney Thunder take on the Melbourne Stars live from Manuka Oval.
While the Big Bash has seen plenty of criticism over the last couple of years there is no doubt that people love the Big Bash with more than a million people tuning in most nights for Australia's premier T20 competition.
With some massive international players and some of Australia's best white ball cricketers, it is the best entertainment you can get during the long, hot upcoming summer.
Cricket craves context and there is nothing more contextual than a competition being on every night. A narrative will build as will our knowledge of all the young guns coming through as well as some of the older heads trying to prove they still have it.
Unfortunately, the BBL's biggest drawcard in Glenn Maxwell is set to miss the entire tournament after breaking his leg in a tennis court incident a few weeks ago. But with Aaron Finch, Adam Zampa and plenty of other Australian representation including the big-hitting Tim David there is still plenty to look forward to.
Contrary to what some believe the BBL is made up of rounds even if they don't too much sense. This first round will see five matches with the Melbourne Stars, Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers all playing twice.
Match #1 Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars
It will be the battle of two new captains when the Jason Sangha led Sydney Thunder come up against the Adam Zampa Melbourne Stars.
The Stars come into this match with a 10-7 overall record but will be in a tough spot without Glenn Maxwell in their lineup. Marcus Stoinis will need to stand up with the bat and probably the ball as well. He has performed in the past against the Thunder averaging 36 and striking at 136 against the Thunder. At just over $80,000 Stoinis is a must pick in your supercoach sides this summer.
The Thunder come into this side with what looks like a stronger team but that could be a concern for them with the Thunder winning 58% of matches when outsiders compared to just 50% when coming in as favourites since BBL|09.
The key for a Thunder victory will be the top order of Alex Hales and Rilee Rossouw getting the team off to a good start. Hales has just one half-century against the Stars from seven starts while Rossouw is coming off great form hitting two centuries in his last five T20 innings.
The Sydney Thunder should get the win in this game with them having a great record at Canberra. With Maxwell out, it's hard to see the Stars winning many games this year.
Match #2 Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Sixers
The Sydney Sixers are one of the luckiest sides in that only Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon are currently on international duty while the Strikers are missing two of their main men in Alex Carey and Travis Head.
The Sixers have the advantage in the head-to-head stakes winning 11 matches compared to the Strikers' six. Making the Sixers bat first might be the key for the Strikers with the Sixers having won eight of those 11 matches when batting second.
With Travis Head and Alex Carey both out there will be a few Strikers batters who need to stand up. One of those will be Colin de Grandhomme who may average just 15 in T20I cricket but on the domestic circuit, those numbers rise to averaging 23.56 and striking at 158. Along with some handy overs, he will be a big part of any Strikers' success this summer.
The Sixers have a much more rounded side with all-rounders all the way down whether it be Dan Christian, Sean Abbott or Hayden Kerr. Plenty of bowling options will be key for them as well as batting down to 9 or 10.
The Sixers should win this game away from home setting them up for a massive season ahead of Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon joining the squad.
Match #3 Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Renegades
The Renegades may have been one of the most unsuccessful BBL teams overall but they have loved playing against the Heat winning 11 of the 17 matches between these sides. However, the Heat have been strong lately winning three of the last four.
The Heat are missing some of their key players with Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschange and Michael Neser all on international duty. It's important to remember that Matthew Renshaw, Mitch Swepson and Mark Steketee are all also possibilities for international selection later in the summer.
The Renegades, on the other hand, have all their big guns available with a top order including Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Nic Maddinson and of course who could forget the big-hitting Andre Russell. Kane Richardson may be their most important player though after having been their top bowler on four occasions last season.
With this match being played in Cairns, dew should play a big part later in the evening in particular which will mean batting second will be a major advantage.
The Renegades need to use their experience to score after with the bat after averaging just 125.71 runs per innings last season. They will be hoping that Russell can boost their run rate as well as Martin Guptill hitting hard early in the innings.
This is going to be a tight match but with the Brisbane Heat having so many bowling all-rounders as well as a home-field advantage they should get their season off to a winning start.
Match #4 Melbourne Stars v Hobart Hurricanes
This is perhaps the most important match of the round with a tribute to the legendary Shane Warne set to occur before, during and after the match.
The Hurricanes will certainly be the hipster's choice for the cup this year with them having one of the strongest batting lineups not just in the Big Bash but in all T20 cricket all over the World. They should line up with Wade, McDermott, Short, David as well as Shadab Khan coming in later in the order.
As mentioned above though the Stars are going to struggle without Stoinis. The good news for the Stars is that they will already have one game of experience and now with the home-ground advantage they may be able to take advantage of the Hurricanes.
In the past, the Stars have won seven of their matches against the Hurricanes when batting first including having won five of the last seven matches. Adam Zampa was the Stars' best bowler on only one occasion last season so he will want to improve those numbers, especially with him as captain.
With such a strong batting and bowling line up it's hard to see the Hurricanes losing many games this season. The Sixers may be the competition favourites but the Hurricanes could easily sneak into the top spot.
Match #5 Sydney Thunder v Adelaide Strikers
The final match of round one sees the Thunder come up against the Strikers in the second match on Friday night. With both teams having both already played once in this round they would have had plenty of time to learn and adapt to their opposition.
This has been a pretty even battle in the past with the Thunder having won nine head-to-head matches compared to the Strikers 8. However, the Strikers have never won when batting second so perhaps that is the key for the Thunder.
The powerplay will once again be the strength for the Thunder with them having averaged 37.40 in the four-over powerplay last season. They come up against the second quicker scoring side though with the Strikers averaging 35.41 runs in that period.
The Strikers though have an incredibly strong bowling lineup with Peter Siddle and Rashid Khan as the headline acts in that side. However, with four overs having to be made up between Matt Short and Colin de Grandhoome there will be opportunities for the Thunder to score.
This will be a tight match but with the Strikers missing a couple of key batters and their international batter Adam Hose relatively unknown it's hard to go past the Thunder here.
Supercoach must picks
When it comes to the Big Bash you can't look too far without Supercoach coming up. And that's because it's a great way to follow the completion while hopefully beating your mates. There are some players you can't afford to miss out on though.
Colin de Grandhomme: With a double round for the Strikers, the big all-rounder can't be missed. He's likely to bat in the top four as well as bowl at least two if not four overs. With his strong strike rate and ability to hit the stumps, he's a must-pick.
Daniel Sams: If you've played supercoach before you'll know that you can't afford to not have Daniel Sams. He bats, he bowls and while he's expensive he's worth every cent with the Thunder having a double to start. Of course who can forget his Manuka Oval heroics of the past.
Marcus Stoinis: He seems extremely undervalued at $83,400 and with Maxwell out he will have an even bigger role with the Stars. We may even see him bowl some overs this year as well as probably take Maxwell's position at number four.
Rashid Khan: He's a Big Bash legend already and more importantly a legend of a human being. His leg spin is almost impossible to play for most and with the Strikers having a double to start he must start on your side. Wickets will come easily for him and last year led the Adelaide bowling stats on four occasions.
The first match of BBL|12 will see the Sydney Thunder come up against the Melbourne Stars in Canberra on Tuesday evening. The first ball will be bowled at 7:15 pm local time.
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