Recently crowned KFC Big Bash League champions Adelaide Strikers have scored a significant early coup in their title defence by announcing their attack will be led by star strike pair Rashid Khan and Billy Stanlake in coming years.
Afghanistan's Rashid, who with South African Colin Ingram fill the available roles for international players on the Strikers' roster, has extended his existing contract for a further season until BBL|09 in 2019-20 while Stanlake agreed to a further two years to extend his tenure through to BBL|10.
T20 specialist seamers Michael Neser and Ben Laughlin, who were originally contracted until the end of next season, have also agreed to new terms for an additional two years and one year respectively.
And the uncontracted trio of batter Jake Lehmann, young quick Wes Agar and emerging leg spinner Liam O'Connor – who deputised for Rashid in this month's final – have all signed two-year deals that will keep them at the Strikers until at least the completion of BBL|09.
Ingram, who led the Strikers when regular skipper Travis Head was absent for national duties, will also return next summer along with recently capped Australia limited-overs keeper Alex Carey and opener Jake Weatherald who was named player of the match in the final for his blazing century.
The series of signings ensures that the Strikers will retain a bulk of the squad that won this summer's BBL trophy and drew the competition's biggest average crowds to Adelaide Oval, with only Head among the first-choice squad members yet to ink a new deal.
However, Strikers officials are confident the 24-year-old will once again take the reins for the team where he began his T20 career as a teenager in 2013.
Rashid, the 19-year-old leg spinner who last week became the youngest player installed as the world's top-ranked bowler in any form of cricket when he headed the ICC's list of ODI players, was equal-leading wicket-taker in BBL|07 (alongside Dwayne Bravo) with 18 from his 11 matches with the Strikers.
But he was a notable absentee from the Adelaide franchise's 25-run win in this month's final against Hobart Hurricanes because he was required to represent Afghanistan in an ODI series against Zimbabwe played in the UAE.
Not only did Rashid play an integral part in the Strikers reaching and hosting their first final, he became something of a cult hero with fans in Adelaide as well as being a hugely popular figure with his teammates.
Similarly, Stanlake was a key player in Adelaide's campaign with 11 wickets in 10 matches at a strike rate of a breakthrough every 20.7 deliveries while conceding just over a run per ball (107.89 per 100 deliveries bowled).
However, it was also his raw pace of around 145kph as well as the added advantage of his 204cm frame that led to the 23-year-old Queenslander being included in Australia's team that swept undefeated through the recent Gillette T20 International tri-series against England and New Zealand.
Stanlake's performances for the Strikers and then the national team – which meant he was also absent from the BBL final win and its subsequent celebrations – caught the eye of former Test and ODI captain Ricky Ponting who served as an assistant coach with Australia's T20 outfit.
As part of his wrap-up of the international summer for cricket.com.au, Ponting nominated Stanlake – who has played just two first-class games for Queensland, both in 2015 – as the rising star of BBL|07 with the potential to become "one of the all-time great fast bowlers".
The Strikers' retention of their star strike duo means they will enter BBL|08 with virtually the same attack that took them to this year's title and was the envy of many other franchises for its combination of effectiveness and experience.
With T20 specialists Laughlin and Neser both agreeing to extended deals with Adelaide, and reborn former Test bowler Peter Siddle signed on for next summer the Strikers boast five of the 12 top wicket-takers from BBL|07.
And in Carey, Weatherald and Head they ended they ended BBL|07 with three of the four top runs scorers, behind Hurricanes' opener and player of the tournament, D'Arcy Short.