BBL 09 Preview - Adelaide Strikers
Last year was definitely one to forget for the Strikers who entered the tournament as quite a few people's favourites to defend their title but ended up slumped in 7th place.
The margins in T20 cricket are incredibly fine and it's difficult to really put a finger on why the Strikers had such a poor season. Individually a few of their batsmen did well but they struggled to fire at the right time and put consistently big or competitive totals on the board. However, perhaps the most damaging stat that I could find was the fact that the Strikers had the second-worst run rate against of any team in last year's competition. For a side that boasts the world's No.1 ranked T20 bowler in Rashid Khan as well as talents such as Billy Stanlake, Peter Siddle, Michael Nesser and Ben Laughlin that must have come as something of a surprise.
The other surprise then is that Adelaide haven't really added to their bowling stocks for this season's tournament. Ben Laughlin, the all-time leading wicket-taker in BBL history has left for Brisbane Heat and in his place comes 27-year-old Harry Conway who has enjoyed a stellar year in the Sheffield Shield. Conway is a big burly fast bowler who looks like he enjoys bowling what is regularly called "a Test Match length" i.e. a good length or just short of a good length before firing the odd full ball in at the batsmen who are always going to struggle to get forward to a man who stands the best part of 2metres tall! While Conway has had a spell with his native Sydney Sixers in years gone by he made just a solitary appearance for the men in pink and so exchanging a player of Laughlin's experience for a man who has bowled 3 overs in his T20 career and got creamed for 39 runs represents something of a gamble.
Watch the last 40 seconds of this video as Conway rips through the Queensland lower order. If nothing else it's clear that the big man enjoys giving the batsmen a bit of a send off when he claims their wicket!
The other major factor that contributed to Adelaides unsteady season in 2018/19 was the absence of key players due to international call-ups and that is something that the Strikers will have to deal with again. Travis Head's place in the Test team is far from secure but you would have thought he will be involved in the New Zealand series making him unavailable for the start of the BBL. Alex Carey is then left scrapping for a place in the white ball team against the likes of Matthew Wade and Josh Phillipe. The hope must be that that competition will spur Carey on to making a few really big scores from the top of the order. Last year he got a lot of starts and hit 3 x 50s without really imposing himself on the tournament.
To compensate for the loss of those 2 men, The Strikers have recruited England's Phil Salt who is an emerging white ball talent on the county circuit and has already found himself involved with the national side. He is likely to open the batting and will perhaps add a little more raw power to the top of the order in comparison to previous years where the Strikers have relied on the stroke play of Jake Weatherald and trickery of Alex Carey. The Strikers have also secured the services of veteran Cameron White who has played over 250 T20 matches in a career spanning the best part of 2 decades. However, the fact that White hasn't played first-class or List A cricket this season probably tells it's own story about the trajectory of his career, is there to be on final swan song for the 36-year-old?
Again, The Strikers weren't helped last year by Rashid Khan having to leave the squad for a short period of time following the death of his father mid-tournament. The young man valiantly played on despite being clearly and quite understandably devastated and he did finish as the Strikers leading wicket-taker. However, the usual spring in his step that makes him the talisman of the team had gone and Adelaide will undoubtedly be hoping it has returned in time for this year's tournament.
It became fairly apparent to opposition sides last year that if they could see off Rashid Khan for about a run a ball then there was little penetration at the other end as well as plenty of scoring opportunities
The final player to watch out for and a man whose contributions in this form of the game are often underestimated is the old warhorse, Peter Siddle. A man who in the early stages of his career was labelled as a red ball specialist has developed into a canny operator in the shortest version of the game. He missed most of last season with international commitments but he didn't play in either of the Tests against Pakistan this month as Australia went with 3 genuine pace men instead. If he can play more than 10 games for the Strikers this year then that will be a real bonus for the men from South Australia and will go some way to arresting their leaky bowling that I mentioned above.
On a personal level, as a former resident of Adelaide, this is the team I will be hoping to win BBL 09. I'd love to be sat at the Adelaide Oval enjoying a cold beer or 2 but instead, I'll be huddled up in my dressing gown drinking a very strong cup of coffee at 8am just hoping to survive another long English winter.