The 12th edition of the Big Bash League is on our doorstep. WILL EVANS breaks down the contenders, dark horses and pretenders for the summer ahead – along with the individuals set to make the biggest impact. 

Perth Scorchers powered to a dominant, record-breaking fourth BBL title last season, finishing with an 11-3 record before crushing defending champs Sydney Sixers by 79 runs in the Final. But with significant player movement across the board, the BBL|12 silverware could be headed to any corner of the continent.

Sixers and Hurricanes out to thwart Scorchers’ title defence

The Scorchers have slid to the third line of Big Bash title betting at $5.50 after suffering a couple of personnel blows in the lead-up to their defence of the trophy. Compounding explosive Kiwi opener Colin Munro’s departure, English import Phil Salt and match-winning all-round Mitch Marsh have both been ruled out for the season, and retention draft pick Laurie Evans has had his contract terminated. Experienced South Africa Faf du Plessis’ seven-game stint and the likely addition of Test all-rounder Cameron Green later in the campaign can ease that pain for Perth. But the likes of Ashton Turner, Cameron Bancroft, Ashton Agar, Josh Inglis and classy bowling trio Jhye Rhichardson and Andrew Tye will take on greater responsibility.

The Sixers ($4.50) have assumed narrow favouritism. Back-to-back champs in BBL|09 and BBL|10 before getting trounced in last season’s decider, the Sydneysiders have retained a relatively stable squad built around Josh Philippe, Jordan Silk, Moises Henriques, James Vince, Sean Abbott and Stephen O’Keefe. Kurtis Patterson arrives from Perth and English international Chris Jordan was nabbed in the draft, countering the loss of imports Tom Curran and Carlos Brathwaite. Steve Smith will also be available when Test match commitments wind up.

Hot on the Sixers’ heels, Hobart Hurricanes – in search of a maiden triumph – are on the second line of betting at $4.75. Tom Rogers, Peter Handscomb and Sandeep Lamichhane (along with Test hero Scott Boland) have left the Apple Isle, but the ‘Canes have recruited heavily. Billy Stanlake and Chris Tremain join from rival franchises, while Shadab Kahn, Asif Ali and Faheem Ashraf were the draft pick-ups, and the well-credentialled Jimmy Neesham and Zak Crawley are internatioanl replacement players. The nucleus of BBL|11 Player of the Tournament Ben McDermott, Matthew Wade, D’Arcy Short and Riley Meredith remains.

Thunder, Stars and Strikers the second-tier contenders

Sydney Thunder ($6.50) have had plenty of squad turnover with Sam Billings, Usman Khawaja and Chris Tremain moving on. Draft pick David Willey’s withdrawal is a blow, but Rilee Roussouw joins Alex Hales and Usman Qadir in a strong international contingent. David Warner should arrive later in the campaign to bolster a line-up that features, Ben Cutting, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha and Gurinder Sandhu. The Thunder finished third in the BBL|11 regular season with nine wins. Their sole title came in the Big Bash’s fifth season.

Runners-up in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 summers (and still chasing a maiden triumph), Melbourne Stars ($7.00) have missed the playoffs for the past two seasons. Glenn Maxwell’s long-term injury is a devastating setback, but Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Joe Clarke, Joe Burns and Kiwi draft pick Trent Boult provide more than enough elite-level T20 talent for the Stars to make a splash. They’ll have an extra incentive as they attempt to honour a legend lost.

Adelaide Strikers ($8.50) are striving to add to their sole 2017-18 crown after reaching the playoffs for the past three seasons. They’ve had a huge influx of class courtesy of BBL great Chris Lynn, Cameron Boyce and mercurial Kiwi all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme. Also underpinning the Strikers’ hopes are the likes of retention pick Rashid Khan, Peter Siddle and Jake Weatherald. Test duo Travis Head and Alex Carey will provide a massive boost when Australia’s series against South Africa is over.

Heat and Renegades: also-rans or dark horses? 

The market suggests Brisbane Heat ($11) and Melbourne Renegades ($12) will be making up the numbers in BBL|12.

The Heat missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five season last year. Usman Khawaja (who is on Test duty), Sam Billings, Colin Munro and Matt Renshaw headline the arrivals column, while top order anchor Chris Lynn and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are the key departures. Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser will also return from the Test squad at some point, and Mark Steketee remains to spearhead the bowling attack.

The Renegades have faded to three straight wooden spoons after winning a maiden title in BBL|08. The withdrawal of top draft pick Liam Livingstone was a bitter pill but there’s a lot to like about this squad. High-profile types Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Nic Maddison and Kane Richardson are still with the ‘Gades, who have added Jon Wells, Tom Rogers, Peter Handscomb and Mujeeb Ur Rahman from rival teams, as well as picking up international veterans Martin Guptill and Andre Russell.

McDermott looks to get amongst the runs again

Ben McDermott created havoc like the proverbial Hurricane in BBL|11, smashing a competition-high 577 runs – including two centuries in three days – to take out Player of the Tournament honours. McDermott is the $8 favourite to top the runscoring standings again and $10 to collect back-to-back Player of the Tournament honours.

Sixers gun Josh Philippe ($9 and $13) is on the second line of betting in both categories after notching four half-centuries among 429 total runs last season.

Long-serving stars Aaron Finch, D’Arcy Short and Matthew Wade (all $13) figure highly in top runscorer calculations, while Marcus Stoinis ($15) has to be considered good value despite a modest, injury-interrupted BBL|11 foray.

Aussie seamers favoured in wicket-taking stakes

Peter Siddle led the way in BBL|11 with 30 wickets, followed by Hayden Kerr and Andrew Tye with 25 each.

Tye, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Nathan Ellis and Sean Abbott are in a five-way logjam for the top line of top wicket-taker betting as the campaign approaches at $11.

Spin whiz Adam Zampa and Peter Siddle are on the next tier – and both red-hot chances – at $13.

The Big Bash League season gets underway with Sydney Thunder’s showdown against Melbourne Stars on Tuesday, December 13.