The Ashes was a real shame, and it wasn’t just the result that rankled. The games were a tad dull and the lifeless pitches produced attritional cricket that generally failed to sparkle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best advertisement for test cricket.
The Big Bash 2017, on the other hand, has been full of the usual glitz and drama. Traditionalists won’t want to hear it, but T20 doesn’t always need favourable conditions to prosper. Good pitches help, of course, but the bright lights, music, cheerleaders, often fill any entertainment vacuum – even if the standard of actual cricket isn’t always first class.
The Big Bash is often interesting for England fans because of the number of Poms playing in the competition. There’s no Adil Rashid this year – there should be a reward for anyone who can trace Rashid’s recent whereabouts – but there’s still a healthy English contingent remaining: Jos Buttler, Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright, Tymal Mills, David Willey, Sam Billings, Jason Roy, and (although he hasn’t been capped for England yet) Sussex’s Jofra Archer.
Thus, far most of England’s Big Bash brigade have performed pretty well. They haven’t always been outstanding, but they’ve made important contributions for their respective teams – with the possible exception of Roy and Wright, who are having a bit of a mare.
I’m surprised that Wright is struggling because he usually does ok in the Big Bash. This is, after all, his seventh season in the competition. He must have done something right to keep getting invited back. Roy, on the other hand, has been having a rough trot for a while now. The last time I saw him, his technique was all at sea.
The player most likely to win silverware this year is David Willey, who made the smart decision to sign for the defending champions Perth Scorchers. The Scorchers have won the Big Bash three times and finished runners up twice. They’re big favourites to win the competition again this year according to T20 betting odds from CrownBet, the leading local betting company down under. You might be interested to know that they make Australia 1.44 favourites to beat England in the upcoming ODI series. We’ll see fellas. We’ll see.
Although Willey isn’t a shoo-in to make England’s final XI, he has taken some useful wickets and scored 55 against the Melbourne Renegades the other night when opening the batting. It’s good to see Willey getting a chance at the top of the order. He often comes in as late as nine or ten for England’s ODI side despite his impressive ability to bludgeon the ball out of the park. Willey is definitely a weapon.
The other man who has impressed Australian audiences is Jos Buttler. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to England fans because Buttler is one of the most talented and experienced white ball players in the world. At the time of writing, Jos is amongst the Big Bash’s leading run scorers, although his involvement with England means he’ll fall down the ladder now.
Two other players I’ve been watching with fascination are Mills and Billings. The latter has an enormous amount of talent but hasn’t always put it all together for England. He’s got a tough job playing for the Sydney Sixers though. They’re yet to win a game!
Having said that, Billings almost got them over the line the other day. He had to hit 18 off the last three deliveries bowled by … Tymal Mills! He hit the first two for six but missed the third ball completely. This let Mills, who has been quite expensive in the tournament thus far, off the hook.
The final two ‘Poms’ (if one can actually call them that) are Pietersen and Archer. The former has become a Melbourne Stars stalwart in recent years. However, KP seems to be slowing down these days. He’s had a few decent innings, including 40 off 30 balls in the Melbourne derby recently, but the match winning innings have yet to materialise – which is one reason why the Stars are struggling this year. KP has just announced that this will be his final season in the competition. Retirement can’t be far away.
Just as Pietersen’s star is beginning to fade, the stock of Jofra Archer, who could be the next great English import, is rising rapidly. I saw a bit of Archer at Sussex last year and must admit that I was initially underwhelmed. The raw talent was there for sure, but his bowling wasn’t nearly as fast as billed. He also failed to trouble the scorers with the bat.
One thing that cannot be denied, however, is Archer’s athleticism and pure natural talent. In fact, Archer is becoming something of a cult figure down under. He has generally bowled very economically, impressed everyone with his effervescence and temperament, and his fielding has been absolutely sensational. What a shame he won’t qualify for England until 2022.
Written in collaboration with CrownBet