Big Bash 2016/17 Preview: Thunder looking to defend title as English stars jet in
Jason Roy will be among the Englishmen on show at the 2016/17 Big Bash (image source: Sydney Sixers)

Big Bash 2016/17 Preview: Thunder looking to defend title as English stars jet in

The sixth running of the Big Bash begins this week with a rash of Englishmen heading down under to take part in the tournament

Tom Hiscott

The Big Bash returns on Tuesday and looks to be bigger and better than ever with the competition continuing to attract a number of stars from around the world of cricket.

Last year saw the Sydney Thunder find form at just the right time to become the fourth different franchise to win the Big Bash in its five year of existence.

This time around, a huge influx of English stars should create more buzz for fans in the UK for a tournament which continues to grow and set the standard for where the English would like to take its Twenty 20 cricket in the not too distant future. 

Sydney duo welcome English stars ahead of tournament opener

The tournament begins with a derby between 2015/16 champions the Sydney Thunder and their rivals the Sydney Sixers.

The Thunder have lost influential captain Michael Hussey to retirement, and with Shane Watson out injured for the early part of the tournament and Usman Khawaja tied up with international commitments their top order will look somewhat different.

Eoin Morgan returns to the franchise to skipper the side with last season’s MVP Andre Russell joining him in their overseas allotment. Pat Cummins is on the comeback trail once more and will be hoping for a clean bill of health to stake his claim for an Australian call-up, while wily veteran Clint McKay was the leading wicket taker in last year’s competition with 18 and will be crucial with the new-ball.

Across town, the Sixers have plumped for a pair of young English batsmen to lead their charge in the form of Jason Roy and Sam Billings. With Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird and Nic Maddinson likely to be unavailable for half of the group stage due to their involvement in the Test team, the form of captain Moises Henriques and fellow all-rounders Sean Abbott, Johan Botha and Stephen O’Keefe will be integral to their progress early on. 

Gillespie’s Strikers hoping for more of the same while Scorchers handed Marsh boost

Having topped the table for the last two seasons yet failed to reach the final on both occasions, the Adelaide Strikers are still looking for the perfect combination under head coach Jason Gillespie.

Travis Head became a superstar following his stellar 2015 season and he will need to be near the top of the run scoring charts for them to continue their excellent regular season form. On the bowling front, Ben Laughlin and Kane Richardson have been joined in the seam department by Chris Jordan who takes over from Adil Rashid as their second overseas player alongside Kieron Pollard.

Two-time winners the Perth Scorchers are another side with two Englishmen among their ranks, with Ian Bell and David Willey taking their two international slots.

The biggest news in Western Australia however  is that of Mitchell Marsh, Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh, who have all been omitted from the Australian Test squad leaving them to be available for the Big Bash. Another boost for the franchise will see Mitchell Johnson finally make his Big Bash debut after five years of international commitments had seen him miss out on Australia’s T20 competition and he will join a duo of Gloucestershire players in the form of Andrew Tye and Michael Klinger

Big-name West Indians ready to thrill Aussie crowds despite Gayle absence

Despite Chris Gayle not returning after his controversial stint last season, there is still a plethora of West Indian talent ready to take the competition by storm.

Sunil Narine has taken Gayle’s spot as the second overseas player alongside Dwayne Bravo at the Melbourne Renegades for a franchise who will once again be reliant on the runs of skipper Aaron Finch.

The other Melbourne outfit, the Stars have made no new additions ahead of the season’s competition with Kevin Pietersen and Luke Wright making up their two overseas spots and Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa expected to lead from the front.

Brendon McCullum joins Samuel Badree in a Brisbane Heat team hoping for more of the same from the ferocious Chris Lynn, while the Hobart Hurricanes will have Kumar Sangakkara once more in a team which will hand Stuart Broad his first crack at the Big Bash.