Big Bash kicks off with an English influence

The start of Big Bash League 03 is only days away. It kicks off with the Melbourne derby, the Stars v the Renegades at the MCG on Friday. Will the Heat, under the guidance of new coach Stuart Law, retain their title? Will the Scorchers finally get over the line? Will the Thunder recover from last season’s horror show to feature at the right end of the competition? Will Mike Hussey be their missing link?

Here we take a look at who the teams have recruited from overseas. With what is going on in the Ashes at present, it is ironic that TEN Englishmen are likely to feature in the competition between now and February 7.

BRISBANE HEAT, Reigning KFC Big Bash champions.

Craig Kieswetter, England.

England vs Australia ODI - Oval 2010

Craig Kieswetter in action during his England days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An explosive wicketkeeper-batsman who could form a powder keg of an opening partnership with Luke Pomersbach. Kieswetter has fallen out of favour with England’s limited overs selectors, but the Somerset man is not a million miles away from earning a recall. This maybe putting two and two together to make five, but when you look at England’s one-day and Twenty20 squads for the New Year tour of Australia, there is no back-up keeper to Jos Buttler. If Kieswetter can find form with the Heat, he is the man on the ground and maybe in pole position to take over should injury strike.

Daniel Vettori, New Zealand.

A left-arm spinner with all the experience in the world. He has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury which has ruled him out of international cricket since June, and has demonstrated encouraging form for Northern Districts in first-class and Twenty20 cricket during the last seven weeks. The 34-year-old has been with the Heat since BBL01, but he missed last season’s competition. He is signed up for another two campaigns, including the forthcoming one.


Johan Botha, South Africa.

Well established in South Australian cricket, the off-spinning all-rounder will lead the Strikers for a second campaign. He is also the captain of the SA Redbacks having not played for the Proteas since last October. In 144 matches in Twenty20 cricket so far, he has taken 125 wickets and scored 1,422 runs. As well as being a frontline bowler, he has batted as high as three in this form of the game.

Alex Hales, England.

Currently ranked as the number one T20 batsman in the world. A tall, clean hitting right-hander from Nottinghamshire, he gave a brief glimpse of his talents to Australian onlookers last year during a short-term stay with Melbourne Renegades. Just 12 hours after landing in Australia in January, the 24-year-old hammered 89 off 52 balls against Sydney Sixers at the SCG. In an England shirt, he has scores of 62*, 99, 68, 56, 80* and 94 in 21 Twenty20 innings.


Shoaib Malik, Pakistan.

Shoaib Malik (Credit CPLT20 Ltd 2013)

New Hurricane Shoaib Malik. Photo credit: CPLt20 Ltd

A batting all-rounder from Sialkot, 31-year-old Malik has vast experience all around the world, although this will be his first stint in Australian domestic cricket. In fact, you might say that Malik has had more clubs than Tiger Woods! In his 142 matches to date, including 55 T20 internationals, the right-hander has scored 3,607 runs and taken 75 wickets with his off-spin. Currently out of favour with Pakistan’s limited overs teams, he has something to prove. He will hope to be as popular as compatriot Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was in Hobart during recent times.

Owais Shah, England.

Another player with immense know-how when it comes to Twenty20 cricket, A player who has arguably not made enough of his abilities, certainly in the international arena, but he is as explosive as they come when it comes to batting in this form. An IPL regular, Shah will spend his third season at the Blundstone Arena. In BBL01, he was the fourth highest run-scorer in the competition with 282 runs. He retired from first-class in England in September after finishing the county season with Essex, meaning he is virtually a worldwide freelance limited overs cricketer.


Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka.

One of the world’s most iconic fast bowlers due to his action, his hairstyle and the impact he has on matches. ‘Malinga the Slinger’ claimed 13 wickets from seven games at an economy rate of 4.75 and finished with an amazing average of 10 runs for every scalp in BBL02. He also returned an Australian domestic record haul of 6-7 in a match against Perth at the WACA. He is unlikely to be available for Stars duty until December 29 at the earliest due to international commitments. He will play in Sri Lanka’s five-match one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE.

Luke Wright, England.

This high-octane all-rounder draws comparisons with other overseas recruits, Shoaib Malik, Owais Shah and Alfonso Thomas in terms of playing Twenty20 cricket all around the world. He has played in New Zealand, South Africa and India as well as playing the first two seasons of the BBL at the MCG. A hard-hitting top order batsman and a brisk seamer, Wright is ensconced in England’s Twenty20 plans, but he is still trying to force his way back into their one-day thinking. His 117 off 60 balls against Hobart in January, 2012 was the highest score in Australian domestic T20.


Jos Buttler, England.

An explosive wicketkeeper batsman, whose game was moulded by Somerset, he is England’s number one limited overs wicketkeeper. He was, however, unable to win the battle to be Somerset’s first choice wicketkeeper, and has therefore left Taunton to join Lancashire ahead of the 2014 county campaign as he aims to build experience with the gloves in first-class cricket. His ultimate aim is to keep in Test matches. A middle order batsman, the young right-hander can mix power with finesse. His signature shot is the scoop over the wicketkeeper’s head or to fine-leg, but he is equally strong down the ground. He will only play the first two matches on December 20 and 26 before linking up with his country.

Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan.

English: Mohammad Hafeez bowling during a 50-o...

Can Mohammad Hafeez light up the red side of Melbourne? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A batting all-rounder who is his country’s Twenty20 captain, Hafeez will replace Buttler ahead of the Renegades first home game on December 30. Coach Simon Helmot has identified Hafeez, who bowls canny off-spin, to fill the role Marlon Samuels did during BBL02. He is the world’s highest ranked all-rounder in one-day internationals and number two ranked in Twenty20s. He has previously played in overseas domestic Twenty20 leagues in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean.

Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka.

Murali is still the most decorated Test match bowler in history with 800 wickets. The legendary off-spinner retired from that format in 2010. He has not always had the best of times in Australia, having been no balled for a suspect action during internationals matches Down Under in the past. It was, therefore, a brave move to sign for the Renegades ahead of last season because the Australian public have never really taken to him for that reason. But he showed his class with 11 wickets in BBL02, conceding less than a run-a-ball. He was the most successful spinner in the competition as the Docklands based side reached the semi-finals. Unlike his two overseas colleagues, he is available for the entire competition.


Dwayne Smith, West Indies.

This is a major coup for the Scorchers, who are aiming to go one better after back-to-back final appearances in BBL01 and BBL02. Explosive Smith arrives at the WACA on the back of a player-of-the-series award in the recent Champions League T20 event with the Mumbai Indians. From the top of the order, he scored 223 runs at an average of 55.75 with a stunning strike-rate of 142.94. He is also an athletic fielder and a useful medium paced bowler, and has previously played Australian domestic T20 cricket with New South Wales Blues when the Big Bash was played amongst the states in 2009/10.

Alfonso Thomas, South Africa.

Another one in the mould of ‘have kit, will travel’. At 36-years-old, Thomas will reach 200 career Twenty20 matches if he is a regular starter in BBL03. He is one of the canniest seam bowlers in the world, someone who mixes his pace and bowls yorkers to order at both ends of the innings. This will be Thomas’s second season with the Scorchers. Contracted to Somerset in England, he is a one-time Twenty20 international for his country, although he plays as a domestic player in county cricket. He has also played domestic T20 cricket for the Titans, Dolphins, Warwickshire, Pune Warriors, Dhaka Gladiators and Adelaide Strikers.


Ravi Bopara, England.

All-rounder Bopara is one of three Englishman who will share the overseas duties for the Sixers during BBL03. He has played the Hokey cokey with his international career, but seems to have established himself as a fixture within their one-day and Twenty20 plans of late. An elegant middle order batsman, he also bowls useful medium pace seamers. The 28-year-old from Essex scored three hundreds in 13 Tests between 2007 and 2012, and his only one-day century came against Ireland in September. He has played 94 ODIs and 26 T20 internationals to date. He will play the first half of the Big Bash before linking up with his country’s squad for the New Year series with the Aussies.

Michael Lumb, England.

A Sixers veteran, the left-handed opener who was born in South Africa has been at the SCG since the start of BBL01. A clean striker of the ball, he has been a consistent performer for them throughout. But his standout spell came during the 2012 Champions League campaign in South Africa when he clinched the Golden Bat award as the tournament’s leading run-scorer. He scored 226 runs from six matches, including an unbeaten 82 off 42 balls in the final against the Lions. He is contracted to Nottinghamshire in England. He is available for the whole competition.

Chris Tremlett, England.

A tall fast bowler whose career has been dogged by injury, he terrorised the Aussies during the 2010/11 Ashes series Down Under, although he has lost a lot of his zip since then. He played in the first Test of the ongoing series at Brisbane, but was quickly discarded ahead of Adelaide. He should link up with the Sixers in early January and replace Bopara. He is not renowned as a Twenty20 bowler, and was therefore somewhat of a surprise signing. Still, he has 73 wickets from 56 matches to date and will be a handful if he clicks into gear.


Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka.

The flashing bails were a highlight of BBL02.

Dilshan is a top order batsman full of power and innovation, someone who also bowls useful part-time off-spin. It was something of a surprise to see Chris Gayle struggle in a Thunder shirt last term. It would be a major surprise if a world star struggled at Homebush for a second year running! Dilshan will miss the Thunder’s first two matches due to international commitments in the UAE. He has a strong working relationship with Thunder coach and former SL batsman Chandika Hathurusinge. A batsman who invented the scoop over the wicketkeeper’s head, now known as the Dilscoop, he retired from Test cricket in October. He has one hundred and 23 fifties to his name from 149 T20 matches.

Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka.

Like Dilshan, his stay with the Thunder will be interrupted by international commitments. And like Dilshan, he is looking forward to working with Hathurusinge. Mystery spinner Mendis, 28, has an impressive record in this format of the game with 118 wickets from 86 matches, including a staggering best haul of 6-8 in one of his 34 internationals. That came at the World Twenty20 on home soil against Zimbabwe in September of last year. Listed primarily as an off-break bowler, Mendis spins the ball both ways. If he can bamboozle in the Big Bash, the Thunder should improve on last season’s nightmare campaign.

Eoin Morgan, England.

A limited overs specialist, Irish-born Morgan struggled to make a telling impact on Test cricket during his 16 matches between 2010 and 2010, although he did score three hundreds. The left-handed finisher is another who mixes innovation and power. A background in Hurling growing up in Ireland means he is perfectly suited to playing the reverse sweep with great success. He will only be available until linking up with England’s limited overs squads in early January. Morgan is a regular performer in the Indian Premier League.

Chris Woakes, England.

The Warwickshire all-rounder, 24, will only play the first two matches for the Thunder alongside his compatriot Morgan. A seamer who bowls a heavy ball and is a hard-hitting lower order batsman. Having made his Test debut in the final Test of the summer Ashes series at the Oval, he was left out of the winter tour squads in all three formats of the game. He is still seen as someone who will have a big say in the international arena. He played domestic cricket in New Zealand during the last English winter.


James Buttler

James has been working as a journalist and broadcaster in cricket since 2006 and was an avid fan for many years before that.
As the editor of World Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
He is also the presenter of the Cricket Badger Radio Show on Radio Yorkshire every Tuesday evening between 7-9pm UK time.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author, a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications and a complete cricket badger!

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