While Christmas Day itself doesn't see any major cricket matches take place across the world, the rest of the festive season is renowned for being a cricket lovers dream. 3 Test Matches started yesterday (Boxing Day) and to complement them there has been at least 1 and very often 2 BBL games to follow. I estimate that for much of the holiday period you could sit and watch 15-16 hours of high-quality cricket a day. Sadly my wife doesn't necessarily believe that this is the best way for me to spend my time so I've not managed quite such a marathon of viewing, however, with BBL matches starting at 8:15 UK time they offer the perfect opportunity to start a relaxing day with an all-action T20 cricket match.
What have we seen in Round 2 Matches?
The best game of the tournament thus far.......
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades was a real rollercoaster ride of a T20 match with some high-quality cricket from both sides. The Renegades bowling in the 1st 10 overs was immaculate and you felt that they would restrict the Strikers to the kind of score that their weaker batting line-up could chase. However, a fantastic 104 run partnership between Matt Short and Jono Wells bumped the Strikers total up to 174. I've not seen much of Matt Short in previous years (he actually used to play for the Renegades) but his exhibition of stroke play and hitting was top drawer as he cleared the boundary 5 times in his 56 ball innings. Add to that the fact that he bowls handy off-spin and the Strikers have clearly found themselves a good addition to their already strong squad.
I personally felt that 175 against Rashid Khan and co. would be too much for the Renegades to chase. However, they had set themselves up well by reaching 71-1 after 8 overs until within the space of 6 balls the diminutive Afghan-international dismissed both set batsmen. Rashid has now bowled 12 overs in this competition and conceded just 40 runs! He is undoubtedly a wonderful talent but batsmen across the tournament do need to look at ways to score off him at a rate of at least a run a ball. With 2 further wickets falling in quick succession including that of Renegades captain Tom Cooper for a 1st ball duck, it seemed as if the away side's run chase was about to unravel.
Enter old man Dan Christian and Mohammed Nabi who needed to score at around 12 an over. With very little to come after them, the pair plundered 94 runs from 48 balls to lead the Renegades to a brilliant victory against last year's reigning champs. The Renegades have now played 2, won 2 and while it is still early days they seem intent on proving me wrong on my prediction that they wouldn't come close to making the final 4.
Tom Curran puts in Man of the Match performance in a losing cause
I'd commented in my preview of the tournament that Sydney threatened to be over-run by English cricketers this year with both the Thunder and the Sixers having 2 Poms in their side. As it was this was a game dominated by Jos Buttler and Tom Curran. Buttler got his team off to a flier 63 from 37 balls but thereafter some wily bowling from the experienced O'Keefe was backed up by some excellent death bowling from Curran who finished with 3-24 from his allotted overs. There has been much hype and fanfare around the performances of Tom's younger brother Sam in the Test side and it seems strange that he earned a million dollar IPL contract ahead of his brother who for me is the better white ball cricketer.
Chasing 170 to win, The Sixers slumped to 56-6 after 9 overs and this match looked likely to fade away to a comfortable win for the Thunder. However, Curran underlined his all-around abilities by hitting a career-best 62 from 42 balls which alongside Sean Abbott's 35 at least kept the crowd interested and the Sixers in with a sniff of pulling off an unlikely victory. It wasn't to be as the impressive Daniel Sams returned to wrap up the innings but the Sixers will take heart from the fight shown by their lower order.
The Hobart Hurricanes maintained their 100% record against The Melbourne Stars who are now 0-2 themselves. There is no denying the talent within the Stars team but a few of those big names are going to need to fire soon or they will find themselves having to play catch up for the remainder of the competition. Jofra Archer and D'arcy Short once again showed their class for the Hurricanes while young Nepalese spinner Lamichhane's 3 wickets were in vain for the Stars.
Yesterday's match then saw the Adelaide Strikers skittled for their lowest ever total in the competition (88) on a WACA pitch that much like the recent Test between Australia and India, offered a lot to the fast bowlers. With the likes of Behrendorff, Richardson, Coulter-Nile, Willey and Tye in their team, it is understandable that the Scorchers will want to produce pitches that assist the quicks, however, crowds generally go to T20 matches to see run scoring and hitting, interspersed with wickets - this pitch was over-balanced in favour of the bowlers and ultimately lead to an easy, if not slow victory for the Scorchers.
It was a pretty good week for my team as I totalled 963 points to put myself in the top 5% of the global leaderboard and I was also able to win my 1st head to head encounter.
Having Rashid Khan as captain was clearly the right choice as he delivered 182 points which doubled up to a whopping 364 for the round. Elsewhere, Daniel Sams continued his fine form with both bat and ball and I'd imagine he'll be in many people's fantasy line-up for the remainder of the tournament, especially given his price compared to a lot the bigger name all-rounders. Jonno Wells was a nice bargain buy and he did well to deliver me 70 very useful points. Ultimately I was quite fortunate that while the Perth Scorchers destroyed the Strikers, the 2 players that my opponent (Crawford's 11) had chosen (Coulter-Nile and Willey) only took a wicket apiece and as such I was able to hang onto the strong position I had established earlier in the round.
This week I am up against @fraste in the head to head. His side has a lot of those Melbourne Stars players who are yet to really fire on all cylinders, if they do, I could be in for a tough time of it.
For my part, I have brought in Simon Milenko and Moise Henriques to replace Colin Ingram and Michael Klinger. The Hurricanes and The Sixers both play twice in this round so it made sense to load up on players from those 2 clubs. Equally, The Strikers and Heat don't play at all so I have big-name players Rashid Khan and Chris Lynn on the bench for this one.