The new season of the Australian Big Bash League is almost upon us. With bio-secure bubbles, new innovations, crazy rule changes and more overseas signings, the 2020/21 BBL promises to feature some of the summer’s most entertaining and thrilling cricket games. Ahead of the start of world cricket’s most innovative tournament, we preview how the Sydney Thunder could fare this season.
The Sydney Thunder defied all expectations to finish third with a youthful team last season. But after adding some serious firepower to their arsenal, the Callum Ferguson-led team will have their sights set on making the final this time around.
The Sydney Thunder have enjoyed a fairly strong offseason, bringing in a number of big name T20 specialists to plug the holes in their squad. England star Sam Billings will arrive after Boxing Day to bolster an already strong batting order, which is led by fellow England hard-hitting batsman Alex Hales and the experienced Usman Khawaja. Billings will come into the tournament on the back of some impressive performances for England against Australia in September, and he will no doubt be one of the Thunder’s most important players.
The Thunder have also snapped up Ben Cutting from the Brisbane Heat. The all-rounder is one of the biggest hitters in the competition, and will bring with him his ability to take key wickets and his ability to play the finisher’s role with the bat.
Last season’s star performer Daniel Sams will once again be key to the Thunder’s hopes. The left-arm pacer took an incredible 30 wickets last season (a league high). And after earning a call-up to the Australia team, he will be more determined than ever to make an impact this season. The Thunder have lost South African quick Chris Morris, who was the second highest wicket taker in the BBL last season. But they have replaced him with Adam Milne, the lightning quick New Zealand bowler who is especially renowned for his ability in the death overs. With New Zealand pace legend Shane Bond coaching them, Sams and Milne can form one of the most formidable pace-bowling duos in the league. Bowling all-rounder Chris Green will also be key, and he will be on a high after an impressive stint in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this season. Jonathan Cook will share the spin-bowling duties with him after taking 13 wickets last season.
The availability of star players. Almost every other team will lose key players to international call-ups at some stage of the tournament. But the Sydney Thunder will be be able to count on almost every player for the entirety of the tournament (with the exception of Sam Billings, who will arrive after Boxing Day). The Thunder may not have the star quality some of the other teams possess, but they have a balanced squad and some excellent T20 players who could take them all the way to the final.
Looking at the Sydney Thunder squad, there aren’t too many glaring weaknesses. Their batting does lack a little depth especially at the top of the order. And that could cost them in some games if even one of Usman Khawaja and Alex Hales fails to perform.
Usman Khawaja’s chances of playing again for Australia appear to be very slim, unless he absolutely knocks it out of the park in this edition of the BBL. The left-hand batsman is the Thunder’s all-time leading run scorer, but wasn’t at his best last season. His performances will no doubt be key to their hopes of making the play-offs this time around. And if he manages to prove his quality, Australia may well come knocking once again.
Oliver Davies is considered to be one of the brightest young prospects in New South Wales, and he could be set to make his BBL debut this season. The 20 year old is a dynamic batsman who is capable of hitting the big shots. He was signed by the Thunder last season on the back of his double century at the Under 19 National Championships, which came at a strike-rate of 200 and included a whopping 17 sixes and 14 fours. And don’t be surprised if he makes a similar impact at the BBL.
Callum Ferguson (c), Sam Billings (England), Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Oliver Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales (England), Baxter Holt, Usman Khawaja, Nathan McAndrew, Adam Milne (New Zealand), Arjun Nair, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain
Ideal Lineup for the Season
December 12: Stars vs Thunder
December 14: Thunder vs Heat
December 22: Thunder vs Scorchers
December 26: Thunder vs Renegades
December 29: Thunder vs Stars
January 01: Renegades vs Thunder
January 04: Heat vs Thunder
January 07: Hurricanes vs Thunder
January 09: Scorchers vs Thunder
January 13: Thunder vs Sixers
January 18: Thunder vs Hurricanes
January 22: Sixers vs Thunder
January 24: Thunder vs Strikers
January 25: Strikers vs Thunder