Big Bash League 2017/18: Brisbane Heat Preview

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25: Brendon McCullum of the Heat plays a shot during the Big Bash League semi final match between the Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Sixers at the The Gabba on January 25, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Brisbane Heat are one of the firm favourites to win the Big Bash League this year, boasting a formidable batting line-up. Captained by New Zealand legend Brendon McCullum, everything about this Brisbane Heat side points to an aggressive mindset. Their openers, McCullum and Chris Lynn, both had strike rates of over 170 last year. The signing of Yasir Shah as cover for Shadab Khan shows the immense depth in their spin department, but the same cannot be said for their quicks. This side should not feel content with anything but winning the title.

Batting

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It is hard to think of a more explosive opening pair than Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn. Both batsmen are now T20 specialists and have play in most domestic franchise tournaments. Respective career strike rates of 139 and 148 pay testament to their aggressive nature and they both average over 30. Chris Lynn was the player of the tournament last year, despite only playing five matches due to an unfortunate injury. Lynn hit a remarkable 309 runs in those games, averaging above 150. Even more impressive was his strike rate of close to 180, which has become a feature of his batting in recent years. He carried this form into the IPL, where he smashed an unbeaten 93 in his first game to earn the man of the match award against the Gujarat Lions. The Australian followed that with scores of 32, 50 and 84 before his form dropped off slightly. If Lynn and McCullum are at their best throughout the tournament, it is easy to imagine the Brisbane Heat batting teams out of the game.

Their middle order also consists of very talented batsmen. Former Australian opener Matt Renshaw is in their squad, alongside other international batsman Joe Burns. While Renshaw is predominantly a Test player, Burns excelled in last year’s edition. Averaging just under 50 at a strike rate of 135 proved that he is a handy addition to their middle order. We can expect him to adopt the number five position, like he did last year. Alex Ross will be batting just above him. After a relatively disappointing season last year, the Brisbane Heat will be expecting big things from him, although his recent domestic form has been inconsistent.

Bowling

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While the Adelaide Strikers signed wrist spinner Rashid Khan, the Brisbane Heat turned to Pakistan spinner Yasir Shah to provide cover for Shadab Khan. Shadab, just 19 years of age, has turned heads with a string of incredible international performances. The leggie has picked up 14 wickets in the 10 international T20s he has played in, but his economy of 6.50 is his main attraction. When he toured the West Indies earlier this year, Khan picked up his career best figures of 4-14 in the second T20, after bowling 4-0-7-3 on debut. He is one of the most exciting prospects in international cricket at the moment. However, due to Pakistan’s international schedule, his availability for the tournament remains a mystery. If he can’t play, then Yasir Shah will take his place: a like for like replacement. Mitchell Swepson is another quality spin option.

The Brisbane Heat fast bowling unit is the only concern for this side. It consists of an entirely home-grown attack, likely to be led by Mark Steketee and Ben Cutting. Steketee was the Heat’s best bowler last time round, picking up 15 wickets in nine matches. This haul of wickets was only second to Sean Abbott’s. They will be ruing not having Tymal Mills at their disposal again for this season and Cutting will have to take on more responsibility with the ball.

How will they do?

There is no doubt that the Brisbane Heat are serious title contenders for the upcoming season. McCullum and Lynn top a star-studded batting line-up, while their spin department has immense depth. The only aspect of this side which could hinder their title chances is their lack of quality fast bowlers and there will be lots of pressure on Steketee to repeat his heroics from last year. Nevertheless, the Brisbane Heat should easily qualify to the knockout rounds and push for the title.

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