Australia’s high-octane Big Bash League explodes into life for its 11th season on Sunday, looking to bounce back from a pandemic-hit tournament last year. The Sydney Sixers are defending their T20 title after England’s James Vince blasted 95 to help them down the Perth Scorchers in the finale 11 months ago.
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Both teams are three-time champions — the only clubs in the eight-franchise event to claim multiple crowns.
The Sixers pulled off a coup last week by signing England quick Chris Jordan — a standout at the recent Twenty20 World Cup — as a replacement for injured West Indian Carlos Brathwaite.
He will link up with fellow England internationals Vince and Tom Curran in a team skippered by Australian Moises Henriques.
“His death bowling and change-ups, as well as being one of the world’s best fielders, will be a huge asset for the Sixers early in the BBL," Michael Klinger, head of male cricket at Cricket NSW, said about Jordan.
They open the season against the Glenn Maxwell-led Melbourne Stars, who are still searching for a maiden title. Matthew Wade’s Hobart Hurricanes are the only other team not to have tasted success.
But the Stars are being tipped to break the drought this year with Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa also on the team, fresh from helping Australia win the T20 World Cup last month.
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“We are trying to replicate the culture from the T20 World Cup. Everyone had good vibes and that’s what we are trying to bring here," said Maxwell.
The clash will be the first of 56 games over 46 days taking in 14 venues, culminating with a finals series from January 21 ahead of the decider seven days later.
Organisers are aiming for a mostly full home and away schedule after coronavirus played havoc last season, but flexibility will again be the name of the game.
The Scorchers — whose women’s team won the WBBL title last weekend — begin their campaign against Brisbane Heat in Perth on December 8, with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh their dangerman.
But how many games they play at home is clouded by Western Australia’s hardline quarantine stance, which has cast doubt on whether January’s fifth Ashes Test in Perth will go ahead.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty around our fixtures, the schedule and everything that comes with the world that we currently live in," admitted captain Ashton Turner, whose team suffered a blow with Durham seamer Brydon Carse ruled out with a knee injury.
England quick Tymal Mills will take his place.
It shapes as another fast-paced and glitzy tournament with the BBL leading the way with LED stumps, bails flashing on impact and players wearing microphones.
There will be a new take on the timed-out rule this season with the incoming batsman needing to be ready to face the next ball within 75 seconds after a wicket falls.
If they are not, they have to stand aside for their first delivery and if the ball hits the stumps, they’re out.