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BBL|13 preview: Scorchers eye three-peat as hot favourites

With a stable squad boasting even more international experience, Perth Scorchers are eying the BBL's first ever three-peat

With more than half their list having played international cricket, and with the belief they can win from anywhere, it's going to take something special to stop Perth Scorchers claiming the KFC BBL's first ever three-peat.

Since taking out the club's fifth Big Bash title last February, Aaron Hardie – the tournament's leading run-scorer – has made his debut for Australia, Mitch Marsh made a stunning Ashes hundred on return to the Test side and won a 50-over World Cup alongside Josh Inglis.

Jason Behrendorff and Ashton Turner have both earned recalls to the national side on the back of another scintillating BBL campaign for the Scorchers, and Lance Morris remains in the frame for an Australia debut after being named in the squad for the first Test against Pakistan in Perth.

It means he and Marsh won't be available for the foreseeable future as the Test summer runs until after the BBL|13 season, while their top draft pick Zak Crawley will miss the first two matches against the Renegades and Stars owing to England's ODI tour of the Caribbean.

The dual reigning champions have kept a stable squad together barring the departures of in-form opener Cameron Bancroft to the Thunder and leg-spinner Peter Hatzoglou to the Hurricanes, and with star allrounder Cameron Green opting against a BBL|13 contract to rediscover his best red-ball form, it's allowed the Scorchers to give opportunities to a couple of local rising stars.

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Giant 200cm, 22-year-old quick Liam Haskett and 24-year-old left-arm wrist-spinner Hamish McKenzie have earned their first BBL deals after both making their WA debuts earlier in the domestic season, and if the form of fellow rookies Cooper Connolly and Nick Hobson is any example, they shouldn't be taken lightly in their first season.

BBL|12 result: Champions

 

BBL|13 Draft picks: Zak Crawley (16th – Gold), Laurie Evans (17th – Sliver)

 

Squad: Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Cooper Connolly, Aaron Hardie, Liam Haskett, Nick Hobson, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kelly, Mitch Marsh, Hamish McKenzie, Lance Morris, Jhye Richardson, Sam Whiteman, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye. Overseas players: Zak Crawley (England), Laurie Evans (England), Stephen Eskinazi (England)

 

Ins: Liam Haskett, Hamish McKenzie, Sam Whiteman

 

Outs: Cameron Green, Cameron Bancroft (Thunder), Peter Hatzoglou (Hurricanes)

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Possible best XI: Zak Crawley, Cooper Connolly, Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis (wk), Laurie Evans, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye, Matthew Kelly

Possible best XI for first game: Stephen Eskinazi, Sam Whiteman, Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis (wk), Laurie Evans, Ashton Turner, Cooper Connolly, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye, Matthew Kelly

Inside word with Scorchers coach Adam Voges

The three-peat

"I don't think the mentality changes at all – we start again, it's a clean slate for everyone and we need to attack this campaign like we have done the previous couple.

"Trying to keep our core group together as best we possibly can has been the focus. We've lost a couple of guys to other teams but that's given us the opportunity to bring a couple of young WA players into the line-up as well."

Where to bat Josh Inglis?

"Josh has shown not only in the Big Bash but now in international cricket that he can actually play multiple roles and bat anywhere really in your top six or seven and we've got a number of players in our team that can fit that bill.

"I thought alongside Aaron Hardie in that three and four position last year, both Josh and Aaron were really integral to our success. I think for us to go well, those guys are going to need to be prominent again this year (and) having had the taste of international cricket for both of them, but particularly for Josh, hopefully will hold them in good stead."

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Jhye Richardson

"I think we were all really pleased to see Jhye back on the park and playing cricket and I think he's physically in great shape and hopefully that means that we'll consistently see him out on the park. We saw the impact that he had at the start of the BBL last season and we're hopeful to see more of that and hopefully for longer.

"We all just want to see Jhye consistently play some cricket and if he's able to do that, then we know that from a skill perspective, that's never really been an issue. So if he can string together consistent games and performances then I think he'll always be on the (Australian) selectors' minds."

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The imports

"We're always pleased to get guys back who have been with us previously and helped us achieve success so really pleased to welcome both Laurie (Evans) and 'Eski' (Stephen Eskinazi) back.

"Laurie hit the ground running, he got 44 off 18 balls in a practice match and again, I think he's one of those guys who can bat anywhere in our top six and we may need some flexibility in terms of different roles for him.

"With Eski we saw the impact that he was able to have at the top of the order, I think he'll be better for it in terms of playing at Optus Stadium and understanding the conditions a bit better. Looking forward to him starting in the side and then welcoming Zak Crawley, who we know is a class performer and we think will suit our conditions really well. So we're really pleased with our international contingent, I'm sure they're going to have an impact for us."

Availability & injuries

"Ashton Agar, he'll (travel) to Melbourne with us, but we'll be continuing to talk with CA medical staff around his availability for the first couple of games. He played in a practice game (on Tuesday), albeit slightly modified. So he's making progress and he won't be far away, so if it's not for the first couple of games, it certainly won't be long after that.

"I hope they (Lance Morris and Mitch Marsh) are both playing the whole Test summer so that's clearly Plan A. Should that not be the case we'll gladly welcome them back but at this stage we're certainly not planning to have Mitch and we're hopeful that Lance can make his Test debut in Perth later this month."

Player to watch

"Aaron Hardie is going from strength to strength. He's had a bit more of a taste of international cricket in the recent T20 series in India and was the leading run-scorer last year.

"He had that breakout season and he's going to be a really important part of our setup. Hopefully we'll see a bit more of him with the ball in hand as well this season, which we didn't see a lot of last year."

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Team to beat

"The Brisbane Heat came home with a wet sail last year and were probably in front of the game for most of the final last year and certainly with four overs to go were well and truly in front. They look a strong team but like I say every year, there's no bad teams in this competition and in a 10-game season now, starting well is going to be important. Every game is certainly going to be really important in the context of the season so we're looking forward to getting started."

BBL|13 team previews: Strikers | Heat | Hurricanes | Scorchers| Renegades | Stars | Sixers | Thunder

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