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BBL previews: Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers

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Melbourne Stars

Captain: Glenn Maxwell

Coach: David Hussey

Overseas players: Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal), Dale Steyn (South Africa – first six matches), Pat Brown (England – expected from January 8)

Full squad: Pat Brown (overseas replacement), Hilton Cartwright, Jackson Coleman, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Peter Handscomb, Clint Hinchliffe, Sandeep Lamichhane, Nick Larkin, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jonathan Merlo, Lance Morris, Tom O’Connell, Dale Steyn, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa

Last season: 2nd

They suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the final, collapsing from an unlosable position against the Renegades. But they rode the wave of momentum to make the final after finishing fourth. There were a lot of positives to take out of their best season to date despite the bitter disappointment at the end.

What’s changed for the season?

They have a new coach after Stephen Fleming stepped down. Former captain David Hussey takes the reigns of a squad that has shaped nicely. They have added Dale Steyn and Pat Brown as their overseas fast bowlers who will play roughly half the tournament each as well as Nathan Coulter-Nile, who is primed to play a big part in what could be his first full BBL for many years. Hilton Cartwright also comes into the squad as an all-round option. He has a modest T20 record with the bat, but he and Coulter-Nile add exceptional athleticism in the field which the Stars view as vital on the wide expanses of the MCG.

Australia impact

Maxwell’s availability will be a big question. He has been away from cricket since October to manage his mental health, but is back playing club cricket in Melbourne and looks set for the BBL. Normally, he would be an automatic pick for the India ODI tour but the Stars will benefit if he doesn’t go. Marcus Stoinis, Peter Handscomb, and Coulter-Nile could be in the national frame but seem more unlikely than likely, which again helps the Stars. The only man they may miss is Adam Zampa, who will almost certainly travel to India.

Player to watch

Nic Maddinson had also taken a mental health break this season but he is in the form of his life with the bat and seems most comfortable in the Melbourne environment. He could be primed for a big tournament with a settled role.

Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

Among 32 bowlers who have bowled over 200 deliveries in the last four overs of a T20 match, Pat Brown has the best average – 12.42 – for any pace bowler. His death bowling and variations in the T20 Blast is the reason why the Stars have punted on Brown. It will be interesting to see how he bowls at the bigger grounds in Australia.

Perth Scorchers

Captain: Mitchell Marsh

Coach: Adam Voges

Overseas players: Liam Livingstone (England), Chris Jordan (England)

Full squad: Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmed, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Nick Hobson, Josh Inglis, Chris Jordan, Matthew Kelly, Liam Livingstone, Mitchell Marsh, Joel Paris, Kurtis Patterson, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman

Last season: 8th

The Scorchers had been – and still are – the most successful team in BBL history, having not missed the finals in seven seasons, which included three titles. But after finishing top of the table in BBL07 and losing the semi-final, they finished last in BBL08 winning just four games.

What’s changed for the season?

They have completely overhauled their list. Simon Katich has been working as a consultant with new high-performance manager Kade Harvey. Shaun Marsh (Renegades), Michael Klinger (retired), Nathan Coulter-Nile (Stars), Hilton Cartwright (Stars), Clint Hinchcliffe (Stars), Usman Qadir (not contracted) and David Willey (not contracted) have all departed. They have signed Liam Livingstone and Chris Jordan as new overseas players. Fawad Ahmed comes in from the Sydney Thunder to change the dynamic of the attack with AJ Tye and Jason Behrendorff out injured. Kurtis Patterson has been signed as part of a new-look top order alongside Livingstone.

Australia impact

They won’t be as affected as other teams. Australia’s one-day tour of India could see Ashton Turner and Jhye Richardson leave for five games if selected, but it is highly unlikely they will lose any others. Injuries are a bigger issue.

Player to watch

Matthew Kelly only played seven games last season but he made an impression with his death bowling, taking 11 wickets at a strike rate of 14.7. Given the injuries to key bowling personnel, he will be a pivotal player this season.

Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

In this day and age, where spin plays a big role in T20s, the Scorchers have predominantly been dependent on their pace bowling to win titles. It has worked for them until last season. In the last edition, the Scorchers took only 13 wickets with spin at an average of 33. No team took fewer wickets with spin. This edition they are looking to better that record with more variety in the attack.



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Cricket

Angelo Mathews and Sean Williams in focus as Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka resume a strange rivalry | Cricket

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Angelo Mathews lays into a pull © Getty Images


Big Picture

The last time these two teams met, Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka an almighty scare. Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza struck hundreds, captain Graeme Cremer took nine wickets, and Sri Lanka were made to chase 388 for victory at Khettarama. Had a very tight stumping decision gone Zimbabwe’s way in the back end of that chase, the visitors would have been headed towards an upset. Earlier on that tour, Zimbabwe had won the ODI series.

It’s been only a little over two years since those series, but how much has changed. The optimism that Zimbabwe ended that tour with has not just dissipated in the time since, it has been replaced by gloom. Having been suspended from full-member rights for a large chunk of 2019, Zimbabwe Cricket has had to put a domestic tournament on hold, pending further funding from the ICC.

On the player front, Cremer is not even in the team, having put his career on hold to move to Dubai with his family, while Hamilton Masakadza has retired and swiftly become Zimbabwe’s director of cricket. PJ Moor – one of the best players from that Khettarama game – has been overlooked for the squad as well. In fact, where that old Zimbabwe squad had a little experience about it, the one that has been named for this series features five players who are uncapped in Tests.

It’s a strange series in which Sri Lanka actually appear to have the more stable outfit. Yes, it is Dimuth Karunaratne leading the Test team now, when it had been Dinesh Chandimal at these teams’ last meeting. But at least Chandimal still finds a place in the XI. Having named their strongest squad, Sri Lanka have serious experience on their side, particularly in Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal, who returns after having missed the entire Pakistan series.

The visitors go in as favourites, but they are far from unbeatable. There are huge questions over Dilruwan Perera‘s ability to lead the spin attack after he went wicketless in Pakistan. The top order has shown flashes of brilliance, but is in no way a consistent or cohesive unit. There are plenty of cricketers playing for their spot, which of course opens up opportunities for Zimbabwe.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LWLDL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDLWW

In the spotlight

The last time Zimbabwe won a Test, in late 2018, Sean Williams first-innings 88 had led them to 282 in Sylhet – a total that proved decisive on that surface, where each of the three other innings fell short of 200. His left-arm spin has also been helpful, such as against West Indies in Bulawayo, the previous year. Now, as he prepares to captain his first Test, he has the likes of Brendan Taylor, Raza and Ervine to call upon for support, but if he can make his own individual mark on the series, it may help a side playing their first Test in over a year rally behind him, and spark a little of that hope they found in their last encounters with Sri Lanka.




Sean Williams crunches one through the off side © AFP


In September 2015, Angelo Mathews batting average was a touch above 52, and he was easily one of the best players in the world. At the start of 2020, his average is 43.87, the lowest it’s been in at least six years. Injuries have plagued him, yes, but even those can’t quite account for how he is now merely a good player, when once he was headed toward “great” status. Although it seems as if he’s been around forever, Mathews is only 32 – the kind of age at which many batsmen come into their most prolific years. In the last few months, he has also dropped a lot of the weight he carried through the last few years and suddenly seems as fit as he’s ever been. Can Mathews recapture the form of old? With a challenging year ahead, Sri Lanka are desperate for someone to lead the middle order as he once did.

Team news

Opener Kevin Kasuza, who has been in decent domestic form for Mountaineers, could be in line for a Test debut. He could be partnered by Rhinos opener Prince Masvaure. Seam bowler Victor Nyauchi is one of several bowlers who could debut, with Tendai Chatara out of the series with a bicep injury. Left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu is uncapped in Tests as well, and could get a run, if Zimbabwe feel they need a specialist spinner in addition to Raza and Williams.

Zimbabwe(possible): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams (capt.), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Regis Chakabva (wk), 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Victor Nyauchi, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Ainsley Ndlovu

Sri Lanka’s top order should be fairly settled – Lahiru Thirimanne the likeliest to sit out. Lahiru Kumara and Lakmal will most likely share the new ball, while Dilruwan and Lasith Embuldeniya will probably be the frontline spin options.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Oshada Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

There’s rain scheduled for the first half of Saturday, with showers predicted for Monday and Tuesday as well. The Harare Sports Club surface is generally good for batting in the first innings.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe have lost five matches and drawn five at home against Sri Lanka. The most recent of those draws, though, was all the way back in 1999. Their last two matches at the Harare Sports Club against Sri Lanka have ended in 225-run and 257-run defeats.
  • Ervine needs 59 more runs to complete 1000 in Tests. His highest score was the 160 at Khettarama in 2017.
  • Mathews has averaged less than 30 with the bat in three of the last four calendar years.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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Nic Maddinson the unlikely bowling star as Perth Scorchers fold

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Hilton Cartwright held the Stars together before Glenn Maxwell marshalled his team brilliantly



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