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Ben Laughlin

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BBL 2020 Team Preview: Brisbane look to Heat up their performance in season 10

Akshay Saraswat ∙ 9 Dec 2020

BBL 2020 Team Preview: Brisbane look to Heat up their performance in season 10

Brisbane Heat is an underachieving team in the short history of Big Bash League. They won the title in the 2012/13 season but since then, have made it to the finals series just once, in 2016/17 season. Last year, they came a cropper once again and ended up at the second-last position. This time, the team would be without some of their most important players from the ninth edition. South African genius AB de Villiers is not in the team, nor is the impressive Matt Renshwaw. On the bowling front, James Pattinson, who bowled well in the latter part of the previous season, is not part of the squad too. To make matters worse, Tom Banton, who enjoyed some success last year, opening the innings, had to withdraw from the league due to mental stress caused by living in bio-bubbles. Another overseas players, rising spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman from Afghanistan has contracted COVID infection. This has thrown the team balance and equation into some flux. Replacing these players isn't easy. Certainly, de Villiers is irreplacable. But there is some compensation for the Queensland-based side. Morne Morkel has been picked up in the squad, though, as a local player. The former South Africa pacer, after retiring from international cricket, has settled down in Australia with his wife and, after gaining rights for permanent residence, now is qualified to be selected as a local player, not overseas. This is a huge gain for the former champions. Morkel has proven himself across the world as a top-class performer. Even in T20 leagues, he has managed to produce impressive results. With his height, he is well endowed to utilise the extra bounce available in Australia. He also knows the best length to deliver on such pitches. Batting Strength Brisbane's batting capabilities are severely compromised due to the presence of their players in the Australian Test squad for the series against India. Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne are going to be away. In their absence, Chris Lynn becomes the leading batsman in the side. Lynn has become a leading T20 batsman around the world. Unfortunately, his form isn't looking all that good either. In Caribbean Premier League (CPL), he didn't produce enough runs and spent most of his time in Indian Premier League on the benches for the eventual champions Mumbai Indians. With Banton having withdrawan from the league, focus shifts to his replacement. Luckily for Heat, they have signed on a highly talented youngster in England's Dan Lawrence. He has been getting runs across formats in English domestic cricket, including in the T20 Blast. To add to his credentials, he has knowledge of Australian conditions thanks to a tour with England Lions where he plundered nearly 500 runs. Coach of Heat, Darren Lehmann expressed his happiness with the signing of Lawrence. "Dan is a really exciting pick-up for us and has a good reputation as a young player who can influence results with his skills and experience. He caught the eye during the Lions tour with the way he adapted so successfully to local conditions and that is something we think will help at the start of the tournament when we are playing in Canberra and at the Gabba and Metricon Stadium," Lehmann said. Lawrence himself is thrilled with his opportunity. "The BBL is a bit of a staple diet for us at home during our winter and it will be enormous to be a part of the League out there this summer. The Lions tour was a rewarding one for a lot of the squad and we certainly enjoyed the competitive cricket we got. We were able to play in some excellent venues during the tour. We didn’t get to play at the Gabba but we had a match at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast which was great." Two other talented batsmen in the team are Sam Heazlett and Max Bryant. Heazlett got one fifty in the last season but has been, otherwise, without any success in T20 cricket. This season, with vacancies opening up in the batting line-up, the 25-year old should get ample opportunity to show his talent. He has already made his international debut, in an ODI against New Zealand earlier this year. A good return in BBL would bring him back in contention for a spot in Australian national team. Bryant opened the innings on several occassions last season. But he turned out to be a big disappointment, averaging just 14.50 in 10 matches. Eventually, he lost his opening spot to Chris Lynn who moved up the order. But that isn't the whole story as far as this young batsman is concerned. When one looks at his overall BBL record, it is a little more convincing. In 24 matches, he has scored 480 runs, including two half-centuries, at an average of 21.82. His strike rate of 148.15 is eye catching. In fact, in the eighth season of BBL, he and Ben Cutting combined to score 94 in the six overs of Power Play, in a match against Melbourne Renegades. Tom Cooper has been a veteran in BBL and has played every season since the inception of the league. After spending the past nine editions with Melbourne Renegades, he has now come over to Heat. A former Netherlands international, Cooper has 75 BBL matches under his belt. Experience is also an asset with the wicketkeeper batsman Jimmy Peirson. He has been in a BBL match 60 times and has managed an average of 19. This may look ordinary but unlike wicketkeepers who prefer batting in the top order, Peirson is in the old mould, providing boost lower in the order, thanks to a strike rate of 123.12. In conclusion, it can be said that the batting stocks of Brisbane Heat have diminished considerably since last season. The mammoth hole in their line-up left by AB de Villiers cannot be fully filled up. It will require a big return to form from Lynn to provide weight of runs to his side. Heat would also be hoping that players such as Lawrence, Heazlett, and Bryant step up to score more runs they have so far. Bowling Prowess The Test series between Australia and India hasn't just affected the batting department of Heat. Among the players that would be on Australia duty is Mitchell Swepson. A highly useful leg-spinner, Swepson has been a long-time servant of Heat and has more wickets than any other tweaker for the Brisbane-based team. With him away with the Australian Test side, the player to take the load of spin bowling for the team would have been Afghan unorthodox off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rehman. Unfortunately, as stated above, Rehman's testing positive for COVID has ruled him out of the early part of the season. As a result, Heat would only have part time spinners to rely on in the begining of their season. Unless they opt for the relatively unheralded Matt Kuhnemann. A slow left-arm spinner, Kuhnemann is a largely unknown commodity in this league. When he does get ready to play, though, Mujeeb can be a very tricky bowler for Australian batsmen. A man with many variations in his bowling armoury, Mujeeb has managed to clamber up the T20I bowler rankings thanks to impressive performances last year. The success of his compatriot Rashid Khan in BBL would also motivate him to go further. The pace bowling department of Heat looks more assured. Morne Morkel's addition to the squad cannot be overstated. With his tonnes of experience, he could be the difference maker this season. He would also provide much needed guidance to other bowlers in the group. Among them is young Xavier Bartlett. Yet to play a BBL match, he has been with the team for some years. Now 21, with experience of 13 List A matches under his belt, he may finally be ready to get going on the big stage. At the other end of the age spectrum is 37-year old Ben Laughlin. With over 100 wickets in the league, he would have spearheaded his team's attack if it wasn't for the entry of Morkel. Still, his experience would be very useful. Last season did not go as well for him as expected. An economy rate of 8.77 and a strike rate just under 18 isn't very impressive. But that was the case with other bowlers in the team also. Another useful seamer in the squad is Mark Steketee. His stocks have risen in the last few days thanks to a brilliant performance against the Indian team in a practice match. He picked up a five-for in the second innings, which, though not necessarily a harbinger of success in an entirely different format, is a proof of his ability. Conclusion A depleted batting line-up and a temporarily deganged spin attack are not an auspicious sign for Heat at the begining of the season. But the experience in their pace attack and young talent in the batting department are things which captain Lynn and coach Lehmann would be hoping sees them through. One big positive for the side is the fact that they would play seven of their matches, that is half, at home. This enlarged home advantage has to be used by the former champions to buttress their chances of getting to the title a second time.