Perth Scorchers v Brisbane Heat | Thursday, January 5, 7.10pm (AEDT), WACA, Perth
This top of the table clash should be a beauty with the winner all but guaranteed a spot in the finals.
Though they adopt contrasting styles, both franchises are laden with top-order talent with the timing and placement of the hosts’ engine room of Michael Klinger, Shaun Marsh and Ian Bell (pictured above) in stark contrast to the raw power of the visitors’ Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn.
This pinpoints the fact that there is more than one way to skin a cat in this format.
The Scorchers have gotten terrific value out of their imports thus far. With Jason Behrendorff injured, David Willey has filled that role with aplomb, grabbing vital early wickets and troubling a number of batsman with his swing and control.
Look for him to put in a big performance on his final Scorchers appearance before linking with the England squad and being replaced by a fellow Yorkshireman in Tim Bresnan.
Brisbane would have been disappointed with their inability to defend a healthy score against the Sixers and desperately need some support for Samuel Badree (pictured above), although spinners have had limited impact at The Furnace in recent games.
The Heat have also suffered heavy defeats on their past two trips to Perth.
Unibet Odds: Perth Scorchers 1.54 Brisbane Heat 2.50
Tip: Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Hobart Hurricanes | Friday, January 6, 7.10pm (AEDT), Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
These two teams should be familiar with each other given the short turnaround from their encounter in Hobart on Monday night.
Perceived as their stronger suit entering the tournament, Adelaide’s batting has really let them down so far, the Strikers frequently losing wickets in clumps to leave themselves short on options in the back end of innings.
Lanky Billy Stanlake (pictured above) has been one of the few bright spots for Brad Hodge’s side this campaign and may come under the radar of national selectors if he can continue that level of form.
His action isn’t one for the purists but he can generate real pace and his yorkers are difficult to pick up for batsmen.
The Strikers do have an issue with their wicket-keeping though, with part-timer Ben Dunk all at sea standing up to the spinners and they may consider a change to this strategy.
Hobart have done well to square the ledger and will fancy their chances of picking up a crucial win on the road.
Tim Paine continues to lead from the front and trails only Lynn in the tournament aggregates, while Kumar Sangakkara (pictured above) struggled with his timing early on the other night but will have benefitted from more time in the middle and may be ready to fire.
Unibet Odds: Adelaide Strikers 1.81 Hobart Hurricanes 2.00
Tip: Hobart Hurricanes
Melbourne Renegades v Melbourne Stars | Saturday, January 7, 7.10pm (AEDT), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Has there been a changing of the guard in Melbourne? That’s the question on everybody’s lips with the Renegades.
So long in the shadow of their big brother, they’re finally starting to emerge as a potential powerhouse of this competition after inflicting their first derby defeat on the Stars for four years.
Brad Hogg’s (pictured above) impact has been tangible and his love of the contest has been infectious amongst teammates.
One area of concern however, is the injury sustained by Dwayne Bravo with replacement Trent Lawford leaking 47 runs off his four overs and serving up plenty of pies to be dispatched in the process.
The Stars are likely to target his medium-paced wobblies heavily.
David Hussey’s outfit have a shortish turnaround from their gut-wrenching final ball loss to the previously winless Thunder midweek, a match they seemingly had in their keeping until Eion Morgan’s late heroics.
Kevin Pietersen (pictured above) looked in good nick while posting a classy 60 in Sydney on Wednesday night, although a groin strain prevented him from fielding and his fitness will be monitored ahead of this.
It will be interesting to gauge the reaction of his experienced teammates after he accused them of falling victim to panic and a forceful on-field response is anticipated.
Unibet Odds: Melbourne Renegades 1.96 Melbourne Stars 1.85
Tip: Melbourne Stars
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