Cricket: Richard Mann's team-by-guide to the T20 Big Bash

Adelaide Strikers with the Big Bash League trophy
Adelaide Strikers with the Big Bash League trophy

Cricket expert Richard Mann takes an in-depth look at the latest edition of the Big Bash and picks out the names who could make the headlines in the coming weeks.

Adelaide Strikers - 4/1 with Sky Bet

Under the tutelage of coach Jason Gillespie and led on the field by the impressive Travis Head, the Strikers continually punched above their weight on the way to lifting the Big Bash for the first time last season. With Afghanistan sensation Rashid Khan the spearhead of a bowling attack that also features paceman Billy Stanlake, the Strikers once again boast a bowling unit as strong as any in the competition. A canny knack of defending small totals, particularly at home, will ensure they remain hard to beat but Head's promotion to the Australian Test team could leave the batting looking a shade light. As such, much will rest on the shoulders of South African Colin Ingram.

One to watch: Rashid Khan

I'm stating the blatantly obvious here in nominating Rashid Khan but he is the king of the domestic T20 circuit and will again be Adelaide's ace in the pack. A quite brilliant leg-spinner with a ripping googly, Khan has already taken the IPL and Vitality Blast by storm and 18 wickets in this competition last year - the joint-highest of any bowler - tells you what a big threat he should prove to be in the coming weeks.

Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan

Brisbane Heat - 5/1

Despite a power-packed batting line-up featuring some of the biggest hitters in T20 cricket, Brisbane endured a disappointing campaign last time and finished season second bottom. A recurrence of a troublesome shoulder injury to star batsman Chris Lynn limited him to only five matches in the competition and that certainly didn't help Brisbane's cause. Still, the likes of Alex Ross and Brendon McCullum will have no doubt been disappointed with their returns and they will be hoping for better this around.

One to watch: James Pattinson

All eyes will be on the fit-again Chris Lynn but the bowling has needed beefing up, too, with far too much responsibility falling on the shoulders of young leg-spinner Mitch Swepson. Step forward James Pattinson. It is over seven years since Pattinson announced himself on the world stage by taking 5-27 on his Test debut against New Zealand at the Gabba. Despite been blighted with injuries since, he still boasts an impressive international record and having switched from the Melbourne Renegades this season, will be desperate to remind everyone just what a huge talent he is.

James Pattinson is struggling for fitness
James Pattinson is fully fit again

Hobart Hurricanes - 7/1

Despite being unfancied and seemingly lacking the ammunition of many of their rivals, the Hurricanes defied the odds to reach the final last year where they lost to the Adelaide Strikers. It was a remarkable conclusion to a campaign that had seen George Bailey's side come out on the right side of a number of close finishes. Bailey's excellent captaincy can claim plenty of credit for that but the Hurricanes were continually in the debt of Sussex all-rounder Jofra Archer who lit up the tournament on and off the field. The quickest bowler on show, Archer picked up 16 wickets at a miserly economy rate of 7.96 and was backed up by excellent batting from exciting youngsters D'Arcy Short and Ben McDermott. With the experienced pairing James Faulkner and Johan Botha added to the roster for the upcoming campaign, the Hurricanes won't be underdogs this time around.

One to watch: Jofra Archer

All eyes will be on Jofra Archer has he bids to make a late charge into England's World Cup plans for next summer. A genuine quick bowler who has the ability to push batsmen back - a rare occurrence in modern-day T20 cricket - Archer will be Bailey's key man at the death while his impressive ball striking makes him a handy option with the bat. The singing version of the X-Factor might be on its knees in the UK but if anyone wants to see some star quality this Christmas, Archer is your man.

Melbourne Renegades - 6/1

Third in the table last year having finished with a wet sail to make the play-offs on the back of an impressive run of form. Went down in heartbreaking fashion to eventual winners Adelaide Strikers when losing their semi-final by one run and could be hard pressed to reach those heights this time around. Aaron Finch's elevation to the Australian Test team will leave them without their best batsman for much of the campaign while the defection of West Indian Dwayne Bravo to local rivals Melbourne Stars is another potential hammer blow.

One to watch: Cameron White

With Finch unlikely to feature too often, much of the responsibility with the bat will fall on the shoulders of veteran Cameron White. The Victorian has been an outstanding performer in all forms of the game for a number of years now and made 304 runs at an average of 76 for the Renegades last season. Expect him to deliver again.

Melbourne Stars - 13/2

Despite strong investment and a host of marquee signings over the years, Melbourne Stars are still yet to lift the Big Bash trophy and now turn to newly appointed captain Glenn Maxwell to revive their fortunes. Meanwhile, the signing of Dwayne Bravo should certainly help to balance a side that has often looked anything but balanced. Coach Stephen Fleming boasts an impressive CV all around the world and has an excellent reputation to boot, and the fact the outfit he will oversee this time around houses fewer big names might actually prove to be a positive. Fleming can now look to build a strong culture and team ethic, like he has done with the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, and with that should come improved results.

One to watch: Marcus Stoinis

With Kevin Pietersen now retired, the Stars should sense an opportunity to build a strong team unit not overly reliant on one or two big players. Nevertheless, T20 cricket can often be won by one brilliant individual performance and Marcus Stoinis looks to be the man for the job this season. A rare talent who is firmly in the Australia's white-ball plans now, his classy and dynamic top-order batting coupled with those canny medium pacers mean he will be one of the Stars' trump cards in the coming weeks.

Marcus Stoinis
Marcus Stoinis: One to watch

Perth Scorchers - 9/2

The most successful club in the history of the Big Bash having lifted the trophy three times from only seven attempts. Like so many of the best T20 outfits around the world, the Scorchers have built their success on the foundations of a strong team ethic and by affording opportunities to home-grown talent. The most significant factor in their success, however, has been an excellent bowling attack that has continually defied the odds in defending small totals. Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson, Andrew Tye and Joel Paris form a formidable pace battery alongside spinner Ashton Agar while the batting can rely on the likes of Michael Klinger, the Marsh brothers and Ashton Turner. With former captain Adam Voges replacing Justin Langer as head coach, expect little to change and another deep run surely beckons.

One to watch: Ashton Agar

Where to start? Any number of Perth's excellent performers could get the nod here but I'll plump for Ashton Agar. The left-arm spinner had been on Australia's radar long before taking the 2013 Ashes by storm with his swashbuckling 98 from number 11 on his debut at Trent Bridge. He hasn't been able to nail down his place as Australia's first-choice spinner since but the intervening years have seen Agar's game make great strides in all facets. He is now a modern-day multi-functional cricketer and in a team laced with pace bowlers, his high-class spin gives Perth a vital dose of variety.

Sydney Sixers - 8/1

Winners of the inaugural Big Bash back in 2011/2012, the Sixers have enjoyed mixed results since and have finished as runners-up twice. They missed out on the play-offs last season but can be relied upon to punch above their weight again with captain Moises Henriques sure to lead a tight-knit unit that will be bolstered by overseas signings Joe Denly and Tom Curran. Both look excellent additions though how much they see of Australian spinner Nathan Lyon could ultimately decide how far they go in the competition.

One to watch: Moises Henriques

Moises Henriques has yet to crack international cricket despite being afforded plenty of opportunities. Nevertheless, his talents have clearly impressed plenty of onlookers and selectors and his reputation on the domestic circuit is unquestioned. Henriques contributed very little with either bat or ball in this competition last year and the Sixers both need and will expect more from their captain this time around.

Sydney Thunder - 8/1

Inspired by Mike Hussey and Usman Khawaja, the Thunder ran out shock winners of the Big Bash three years ago but have failed to scale those heights since and made little impact last term. Optimism is at fever pitch in Sydney this time around, however, with Joe Root joining fellow Englishman Jos Buttler to help form what looks a frightening top order. Throw veteran Shane Watson into the mix along with Khawaja - when available - and Callum Ferguson and the batting looks extremely strong. The bowling less so and that could be where the Thunder fall short again.

One to watch: Joe Root

No prizes for guessing that I'll plump for a batsman. Jos Buttler is clearly the key man but it will be fascinating to see how Joe Root takes to his first stint of franchise cricket, especially when you consider that he found himself omitted from England's side for the T20 decider against India last summer. Root has spoken of his desire to conquer all three forms of the game, as Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have done, and a big few weeks Down Under would do his confidence and credentials no harm whatsoever.

Joe Root hits a century to help England beat India in their ODI series
Joe Root hits a century to help England beat India in their ODI series

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