It’s almost here! The 2018-19 Big Bash League season begins on Wednesday and all eight clubs are looking to juggle injuries and international unavailability as they attempt to settle on their best XI.
Each franchise will play at least once in the opening four days of the tournament and with players still coming into camp from various corners of the world, it’s hard to get a clear gauge on who will play in the opening week and who will miss out.
In an attempt to clear up some of the uncertainty, we take a look at who is available (and who isn’t) for the opening week and try to predict what each team’s XI will look like for their tournament opener.
First match: v Brisbane Heat, Gabba, Wed Dec 19
Squad: Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Michael Cormack, David Grant, Travis Head, Colin Ingram (SA), Rashid Khan (AFG), Ben Laughlin, Jake Lehmann, Michael Neser, Liam O'Connor, Peter Siddle, Matt Short, Billy Stanlake, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald, Jon Wells, Nick Winter
The Strikers look set to field most of the same side that won the title last summer, although regular skipper Travis Head will miss their season opener due to Test duty. That leaves room for one or both of their off-season recruits, allrounders Matt Short and Cameron Valente, with that duo set to battle Jake Lehmann and Jono Wells for just three spots in the middle order. Peter Siddle has been released from Test duty for the match, which is welcome news for the Strikers after his strong showing last season.
Predicted XI v Heat: Alex Carey (wk), Jake Weatherald, Colin Ingram, Jono Wells, Jake Lehmann, Matt Short, Michael Neser, Rashid Khan, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Ben Laughlin
First match: v Adelaide Strikers, Gabba, Wed Dec 19
Squad: Max Bryant, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Brendan Doggett, Sam Heazlett, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Lalor, Chris Lynn, Brendon McCullum (NZ), James Pattinson, James Peirson, Jack Prestwidge, Matt Renshaw, Alex Ross, Mujeeb Ur Rahman (AFG), Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson
The Heat are one of the few sides not effected by international duty for the opening rounds so they should field their best XI against the Strikers. The strength of their batting is underlined by the fact Sam Heazlett, Alex Ross, Matthew Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne might find themselves out of the team, while the recruitment of firebrand James Pattinson strengthens a bowling attack that is set to feature two leg-spinners.
Predicted XI v Strikers: Brendon McCullum, Max Bryant, Chris Lynn, Joe Burns, Jimmy Peirson (wk), Ben Cutting, James Pattinson, Mitchell Swepson, Mark Steketee, Brendan Doggett, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
First match: v Brisbane Heat, Gabba, Sat Dec 22
Squad: Jofra Archer (ENG), George Bailey, Johan Botha, Alex Doolan, Jake Doran, James Faulkner, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Simon Milenko, Tymal Mills (ENG), David Moody, Tim Paine, Tom Rogers, Clive Rose, D'Arcy Short, Aaron Summers, Matthew Wade
With Test skipper and regular opener Tim Paine unavailable, it will be interesting to see what the Hurricanes decide to do with their batting order. Do they opt for a steady hand like Alex Doolan at the top of the order, or elevate one of Matthew Wade and Ben McDermott to opener and add someone like Jake Doran in the middle after the left-hander impressed in Premier (club) cricket last weekend? The Canes have plenty of all-round talent to choose from, which could leave strong pace options like David Moody, Tom Rogers and Riley Meredith on the sidelines as well.
Predicted XI v Heat: D’Arcy Short, Alex Doolan, Ben McDermott, George Bailey, Matthew Wade, Simon Milenko, James Faulkner, Johan Botha, Jofra Archer, Clive Rose, Tymal Mills
First match: v Perth Scorchers, Marvel Stadium, Thurs Dec 20
Squad: Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Tom Cooper, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Tim Ludeman, Joe Mennie, Mohammad Nabi (AFG), Kane Richardson, Usman Khan Shinwari (PAK), Will Sutherland, Chris Tremain, Beau Webster, Cameron White, Jack Wildermuth, Harry Gurney (ENG, international replacement)
With regular openers Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris unavailable due to Test duty and young gun Mackenzie Harvey still recovering from injury, veteran Cameron White looks set to open for the Gades while allrounder Will Sutherland, who’s unable to bowl due to a back problem, could come into the middle order as a batsman in the absence of the injured Beau Webster. Another option for the Gades is to bring a batsman into their squad as a replacement for their unavailable players, with the likes of Sam Harper and Kelvin Smith having trialled with them in recent weeks. While their batting depth is being tested, the Gades have plenty of bowling options to choose from. But will they pick two frontline spinners in Cameron Boyce and Jon Holland at the expense of an extra quick, or will they pick just one tweaker and use off-spinning allrounders Mohammad Nabi and Tom Cooper to support their frontline bowlers?
Predicted XI v Scorchers: Tim Ludeman (wk), Cameron White, Tom Cooper, Dan Christian, Mohammad Nabi, Will Sutherland, Jack Wildermuth, Cameron Boyce, Chris Tremain, Kane Richardson, Usman Shinwari
First match: v Sydney Thunder, Manuka Oval, Fri Dec 21
Squad: Michael Beer, Jackson Bird, Scott Boland, Liam Bowe, Dwayne Bravo (WI), Jackson Coleman, Travis Dean, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Sandeep Lamichhane (NEP), Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jonathan Merlo, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa, Liam Plunkett (ENG, international replacement)
Devastated by injuries to Nic Maddinson, Seb Gotch and Dan Worrall and with Peter Handscomb on Test duty, the Stars are scrambling to find their best XI to take on the Thunder in Canberra. NSW batsman Nick Larkin is tipped to be named as a replacement player this week and could come straight into the side, with new boy Travis Dean in line to open. While the batting depth has been tested, the Stars have plenty of spin options with veteran Michael Beer and fan favourite Liam Bowe likely to be edged out by leg-spin pair Adam Zampa and Sandeep Lamichhane, the BBL’s first-ever Nepalese player.
Predicted XI v Thunder: Ben Dunk (wk), Travis Dean, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Nick Larkin*, Evan Gulbis, Dwayne Bravo, Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Sandeep Lamichhane, Jackson Bird.
*Larkin is expected to be confirmed as a replacement player for the Stars
First match: v Melbourne Renegades, Marvel Stadium, Thurs Dec 20
Squad: Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kelly, Michael Klinger, Mitchell Marsh (c), Shaun Marsh, Joel Paris, Usman Qadir (PAK), Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman, David Willey (ENG)
The Scorchers have left everyone guessing as to the make-up of their side, with coach Adam Voges left with the tough task of trimming arguably the strongest squad in the tournament down to just 11 players. Shaun Marsh (Test duty), Joel Paris (injured) and Cameron Bancroft (suspended) are unavailable for their tournament opener, with Josh Inglis expected to just edge out Sam Whiteman to take the gloves and open the batting. Promoting allrounder David Willey up the order would allow room for an extra bowler, which could end up being Pakistani leg-spinner Usman Qadir on Thursday given Marvel Stadium’s history as a spinning pitch.
Predicted XI v Renegades: Josh Inglis (wk), Michael Klinger, David Willey, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye, Usman Qadir, Jason Behrendorff
First match: v Perth Scorchers, SCG, Sat Dec 22
Squad: Sean Abbott, Justin Avendano, Tom Curran (ENG), Ben Dwarshuis, Joe Denly (England), Jack Edwards, Mickey Edwards, Daniel Fallins, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Peter Nevill, Stephen O'Keefe, Josh Philippe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, Henry Thornton, Greg West
Test spinner Nathan Lyon will be unavailable early in the tournament, but the Sixers should have a full squad to choose from for the majority of the campaign. Englishman Joe Denly, WA import Josh Philippe and left-hander Daniel Hughes offer some strong options at the top of the order, while young allrounder Jack Edwards could also be used as an opener having impressed for NSW in the JLT One-Day Cup. English import Tom Curran and former Test spinner Steve O’Keefe lead a solid bowling line-up, while cult hero Lloyd Pope could be a factor later in the tournament.
Predicted XI v Scorchers: Daniel Hughes, Jack Edwards, Joe Denly, Moises Henriques, Jordan Silk, Josh Philippe (wk), Justin Avedano, Sean Abbott, Tom Curran, Ben Dwarshuis, Steve O’Keefe
First match: v Melbourne Stars, Manuka Oval, Fri Dec 21
Squad: Fawad Ahmed, Jos Buttler (ENG), Jono Cook, Pat Cummins, Callum Ferguson, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Liam Hatcher, Jay Lenton, Nathan McAndrew, Arjun Nair, Kurtis Patterson, Sam Rainbird, Joe Root (ENG), Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha, Shane Watson, Anton Devcich (NZ, international replacement), Chris Jordan (ENG, international replacement)
Global superstars Jos Buttler, Joe Root and Shane Watson give the Thunder’s top order a powerful look, but there’s plenty of intrigue about the make-up of their bowling line-up in the absence of Test quick Pat Cummins. The XI for the match against the Stars in Canberra will likely come down to conditions; will the pitch require a spin-heavy attack led by Fawad Ahmed, Chris Green and Arjun Nair, or will a pace-friendly surface bring Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu and Sam Rainbird into calculations? Or, given Sams and Nair have also impressed with the bat in recent seasons, can they fit all six in the side and leave out an extra batsman?
Predicted XI v Stars: Jos Buttler (wk), Shane Watson, Callum Ferguson, Joe Root, Jason Sangha, Daniel Sams, Arjun Nair, Chris Green, Gurinder Sandhu, Sam Rainbird, Fawad Ahmed