It’s back! Like an annoying fungal infection that you just can’t seem to shift, the KFC Big Bash has returned. And this year it’s BIGGER! BETTER! and MORE EXCITING! Or at least, that’s what Fox Sports have been telling us. As far as we can tell it’s pretty similar, albeit with stumps that flash when the bails fall off, which is actually a genuinely good idea.
During last year’s giant chicken oddyssy, we decided that the best thing about the Big Bash was actually its structure. With only eight sides to accommodate, it has an obvious advantage over its English equivalent. Plus each side only plays the others once, as opposed to 200 times in the IPL, meaning that the whole thing is over and done with in no time and every game actually matters. Other things it has in its favour include the chance to see Shane Warne get carted all over the place, the chance to to see Brad Hogg get carted all over the place and the chance to see a man dancing to Right Said Fred while wearing six (six!) KFC buckets on his head. At least we assume it was a man. The aforementioned buckets made it hard to tell.
The first set of fixtures saw a series of local derbies: the two Melbourne sides met, the two Sydney sides clashed and, er, Brisbane and Hobart (approximately 1,789 km apart) and Perth and Adelaide (2,134 km) also met. We’ll start, strangely enough, with the first game of the round:
We love Shane Warne. Especially now that he’s no longer part of the Australian team, reduced to hovering over the side like the ghost of decent spinners past. Two years ago there was a fair bit of talk about Warney coming out of retirement, talk that was largely silenced by him getting taken apart in the nets by Hugh Jackman on Channel Nine. This year there was again talk of a comeback which has also quickly stopped, after Warne received an absolute pasting in the season opener, taking 0/41 from his two overs and dropping a comically simple catch. Mind you, if you’d had your hands all over Liz Hurley’s assets you’d probably struggle to readjust to cricket balls too.
Despite the presence of such cricketing luminaries as Rob Quiney, Luke Wright, Brad Hodge, Cameron White and Matt Wade – we’re only being ironic about four of those – this was something of a thrashing for the Stars, whose 167/5 always looked a little light. In reply Aaron Finch went apeshit, blasting 111* from 65 balls to see the Renegades home with ten balls to spare.
No alarms and no surprises in the Sydney derby with the ultra-professional Sixers completing a routine victory. The highlights? A superb 41* from Steve Smith to see his side home plus a wonderful all-round performance from David Warner, who made a two-ball duck, dropped a simple catch and looked a lot like the kid from the Jetsons in his fantastic hat.
Top performer for the Thunder was probably Don Khawaja, who made one of the great 19s before being done by a combination of Mitchell Starc and some dodgy umpiring. From that point onwards the Sixers were always on top, restricting their opponents to 143/5, well short of a score to challenge our Steve.
Last year’s enormous poultry slamdown was a rather successful one for Owais Shah and Travis Birt, with more than 600 runs between the pair. They picked up where they left off at the Gabba, regularly slamming the ball into the rows of people dressed as empty seats. Chasing 173 to win, they added an unbeaten 95 in less than ten overs to see the away side to victory. This was after a solid foundation from Jonathan Wells (39) and Tim Paine, who managed a rapid 29 before having to leave the field to have the sellotape holding his body together reapplied.
The highlights of the Heat innings were 49 from Dan Christian – we know someone who once hit him for six, a fact that gets mentioned on a daily basis – and the sight of Doug Bollinger (0/47) huffing and puffing his way to the crease. Four overs seems plenty for apple-headed Doug these days, although the gaps between each delivery as they fetched the ball from the top tier certainly helped. Thisara Perera (22* from eight balls) also played an entertaining little cameo to get the score up to 172/6, a total that actually looked fairly decent at the time.
Last season’s surprise package, the Scorchers, opened their campaign with a distinctly underwhelming defeat at the distinctly warm WACA. It’s not been a happy buildup for the Scorchers, with star signing Pat Cummins perma-crippled and last season’s top performer Mitchell Marsh perma-drunk. Simon Katich has taken over as captain, not exactly an inspiring move as he appears to be the worst T20 player in history. Indeed it was Katich’s scratchy 8* from 10 balls in the final three overs that sucked the life out of the Scorchers’ batting effort, leaving them on 162/6, despite the best efforts of Adam Voges (58) and former cricketer Shaun Marsh (57).
In reply, a combination of a somewhat fortuitous effort from Phil Hughes (74, made almost entirely from the edge of his bat) and a downright shoddy spell from Brad Hogg (1/33, bowled almost entirely into the middle of the pitch) meant that the Strikers were always in control, eventually reaching their target with four balls to spare.
Adelaide chose to field a three strong spin attack, with captain Johan Botha (1/23) flanked by Saeed Ajmal (1/22) and Nathan Lyon (1/33) in an attacking triumvirate the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Australia since the glory days of Caddick, Harmison and Dawson bowling England to victory in 2003. It proved more than enough to dampen the Scorchers’ fire (although not literally – the WACA has a sort of Olympic flame that probably stays lit for the duration of the competition, although it might just have been a ute set on fire by Mitch Marsh in the car park).