Sunday, 4 February 2018

BBL07 Best XI

Here is the Rob's Blog official unofficial BBL07 Best XI! (BBL06 Best XI HERE, BBL05 Best XI HERE). As with the franchises, I've limited it to two imports.

This is the third season I've selected a BBL Best XI, and season 07 was the hardest selection yet...

...unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

While BBL remains a very entertaining product, there are some cracks on the surface now.

The expansion from 8 to 10 matches per team meant players being unavailable due to international selection hit even harder, and needs to be addressed before the league goes to a full home-and-away, 14 game season next summer. Cricket Australia eventually tried, releasing players for the final, but it felt too little, too late: Australia had 17 players signed in the IPL auction last week - joining Smith and Warner to make 19 Aussies in cricket's biggest event. But of those 19, only 6 have been available for every game for their franchise this BBL season, while another 6 didn't appear in the competition at all.

This lack of depth is not sustainable. This season, only one new homegrown talent emerged, so in the absence of international players the league continues to rely on veterans for its star power. The imports were very hit-and-miss, and almost entirely missing on the batting side. In fact, there was a worrying lack of strength across the league in batting generally - it was hard to fill the middle-order in this exercise. The bowling was much stronger, yet the fielding often did not meet first-class standards.

Still it's hard to complain about cricket being on the tele every night for six weeks. Plus a Sunday afternoon final due to celebrities in a jungle.

Here is the BBL07 Best XI, in batting order:

D'arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes)
The one Aussie talent to emerge from this tournament, Short broke the BBL records for most runs in a season (572) and highest score (122*). He also had the 5th and 6th highest scores this season (97 and 96), topped the fours (53) and sixes (26) tallies, and motored along at a very healthy 148.6 strike rate (SR). And he can also bowl left-arm wrist-spin, good enough to be a very solid 6th bowling option.

All this has seen Short emerge as a big winner in the recent IPL auction. He was also rightfully picked in the Australian Twenty20 team, which in a classic shoot-yourself-in-the-foot move, meant the BBL's biggest story was unavilable for the tournament semi-finals. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and he was allowed to play in the final, less than 24 hours after his international debut. Short scored 68 off 44 balls.

Alex Carey (Adelaide Strikers)
The South Australian wicketkeeper, and former GWS Giants captain, was second in the runs aggregate (443 at 141.5 SR), made one of the three centuries in this competition, and his 14 dismissals was also the most by a wicketkeeper in BBL07. Carey's form earned Australian OD and T20 callups, and he was also fortunate to only miss the semi-final after receiving these higher honours.

Shane Watson (Sydney Thunder)
Watto did everything for the Thunder - expertly captaining a side 3-4 players short on quality to just miss the finals, leading the batting (331 runs) while showing he's still a very clean hitter (139.1 SR), and bowling more overs than a 36-year-old with his injury history should. His efforts have earned him another healthy IPL payday.

Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars)
The Stars were the worst team in BBL this season, and it's frightening to think how bad they may have been if Smith didn't have a grudge with The Big Show and he played in the national ODI team for the full series against England. Maxwell scored 299 runs, most of them having to shore up a faltering innings rather than utilising his power hitting, although he still managed an excellent 154.1 strike rate. He also took seven catches in just nine matches, which is remarkable given the Stars struggled to create chances.

Ashton Turner (Perth Scorchers)
With Chris Lynn limited by injury, Turner was the best hitter in the competition. His 252 runs were hit at a strike rate of 162.6, the highest scoring rate for anyone scoring at least 150 runs. He also hit more sixes (16) than fours (12). 
Tom Cooper (Melbourne Renegades)
Cooper made the BBL06 Best XI too, and might be the most underrated T20 player in Australia right now. He scored 298 runs with 3 half centuries, at a strike rate of 141.2. Nobody in the BBL played the scoop shot to fast bowlers better, and perhaps only Turner exceeded his ability to accelerate scoring in the death overs. He is also a specialist first over bowler, with his right-arm off-spin getting occasionally getting the oppositions innings off to a slow start.

Dan Christian (Hobart Hurricanes)
I had Christian in this side before the finals, and a big spiel ready about how traditional metrics (150 runs, 6 wickets in the regular season) don't accurately represent his value at the back end of innings with both bat and ball. Then in the semi-final he scored 37 off 22 and took 4/17, showing why he was the only Australian in the Cricinfo Twenty20 team of the year for 2017. Naturally he can't get a game for the Aussies though!

Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes)
A West Indian looking to qualify for England, Archer's fluid jog to the wicket disguised serious pace - consistently 140-145kmph, and hurrying batsmen, particularly with his bouncer. He took 16 wickets and, except for one game where he bowled two costly no balls, was extremely difficult to hit at the death. Archer also took an amazing caught and bowled. His BBL season has led to him becoming the latest IPL milloinaire. And he can apparently bat a bit too.

Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers)
If you described Twenty20 twenty years ago you might've been considered eccentric. If you then added that the best bowler in format in the world would one day be a teenage leg-spinner from Afghanistan, you'd be considered insane. Yet Rashid Khan continued the form that had dominated IPL in the BBL, taking 18 wickets (equal top with Dwayne Bravo) at a ridiculous economy rate of 5.65

Batsmen struggled to pick up which way it would turn, and then found it even more difficult to detect his changes of pace. Bowling just four overs at a time, it might take awhile yet before batsmen figure Rashid out. In a scheduling disaster (that Cricket Australia couldn't avoid, unlike all the others), he missed the final to join the Afghanistan national team. The Strikers won anyway, but the occasion was poorer for his absence.

Andrew Tye (Perth Scorchers)
Tye only played six matches before his Australian OD and T20 callups, but proved himself again as the best Twenty20 bowler in the country. His 16 wickets was just two less than the leading wicket-takers, in five less matches, at a ridiculous strike rate of a wicket every 8.8 deliveries. He also had the best figures in BBL07 of 5/23. His economy rate was higher than usual (8.11) but he bowls a lot of overs late in the innings. Tye also made the BBL05 Best XI, and was very close to making the team last season as well.

Peter Siddle (Adelaide Strikers)
Siddle only took 11 wickets from 11 matches, but he was the only fast bowler to play more than one match and have an economy rate less than 6 per over (5.94). In the BBL07 final, Adelaide scored at 10 runs per over. Hobart scored at the same rate from the 16 overs... but the 4 bowled by Siddle cost just 17 with 3 wickets. 

12th Man: Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers)
Before the finals, I had Weatherald a distant third as an opener, but his 115 from 70 balls in the final meant he deserves a mention. Overall he scored 383 runs at 126.8 strike rate. Weatherald was also the second man in one of the most memorable catches in BBL history, so he should be a good bet for the 12th man substitute fielder duties.

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