Can Glenn Maxwell lead Melbourne Stars to a first Big Bash title?
Can Glenn Maxwell lead Melbourne Stars to a first Big Bash title?

Cricket betting tips and preview: Melbourne Stars backed for Big Bash glory

Richard Mann tipped last season's top Big Bash runscorer, and he's back with five bets in his preview of this year's renewal which starts on Sunday.

Cricket tips: Big Bash League

2pts Melbourne Stars to win the Big Bash at 11/2 (General)

2pts Joe Clarke top Melbourne Stars batsman at 9/2 (General)

1pt Joe Clarke top tournament runscorer at 25/1 (General)

4pts Alex Hales top Sydney Thunder batsman at 11/8 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

1pt Matt Renshaw top Adelaide Strikers batsman at 17/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Marnus Labuschagne in action for Australia
CLICK HERE to read Richard Mann's Ashes specials preview

MELBOURNE STARS have been close to Big Bash glory on a number of occasions already, and the Glenn Maxwell-led outfit can finally break their trophy duck at the 11th time of asking.

The Stars have rarely entered a Big Bash season without a host of star names in their squad – the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne in the early years and even Dale Steyn more recently.

That didn’t always breed the best team, though, and when the Stars made back-to-back finals in the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 editions, they were carried by a stronger all-round line-up that wasn’t devoid of internationals but relied on more than a single big name to win a match.

Of course, they do have star performers, Maxwell himself among them along with Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa. But these are reliable and dependable performers who are part of the Stars furniture now, players who know and understand their roles just like everyone else in the squad.

While three consecutive losses at the death saw the Stars miss out on the play-offs last season, I thought there were plenty of positives to take from that campaign and, crucially, they’ve recruited really well ahead of this year. On paper at least, they look a significantly stronger side.

Adam Zampa took 13 wickets at the T20 World Cup
Adam Zampa took 13 wickets at the T20 World Cup

In comes Englishman Joe Clarke who struck at 180.55 when making 408 runs in last summer’s Vitality Blast. His opening partnership with the equally destructive Stoinis certainly whets the appetite, while wrist spinner Qais Ahmad was a revelation for Kent in the same competition and has previous experience of this tournament from his time with Hobart Hurricanes. Like the Clarke/Stoinis partnership with the bat, the prospect of Ahmad and Zampa bowling together will surely excite Stars fans.

Zampa was one of the key performers in Australia’s recent T20 World Cup success and his stock hasn't been any higher than it is right now, a comment which also applies to Maxwell, who enjoyed a brilliant time of it in the Indian Premier League when afforded the same continuity that has served him so well in this team. Forget the chopping and changing that had dogged his Australian career; Maxwell bats at four for the Stars and invariably produces.

Former Australia Test opener Joe Burns is another shrewd signing and his performances for Brisbane Heat in recent years suggest he could slot in anywhere from one to five in the batting order and contribute. Hilton Cartwright’s power is always an asset at the death, too.

The seam bowling also ticks plenty of boxes. Nathan Coulter-Nile’s fitness is never a given, but he remains a class act when on the park, while Billy Stanlake offers genuine pace and Liam Hatcher's death bowling was generally reliable last term.

I’m struggling to find too many weaknesses and though those two aforementioned final losses came when failing to chase down relatively modest scores, I don't think this side is as soft as it once was. Coulter-Nile has IPL-winning experience while Maxwell, Stoinis and Zampa come into this season having just won the T20 World Cup, and Clarke has won Blast titles with Nottinghamshire.

Marcus Stoinis
Marcus Stoinis

A tough opening match against Sydney Sixers on Sunday will provide a good indication of where this current Stars outfit are at, but they appear to have plenty going for them with a strong, balanced squad and enough world-class match-winners to provide that bit of magic when needed.

They rate the best bet in the outright market with the 11/2 generally on offer perfectly fair.

Sixers strong again as they chase hat-trick

Having already mentioned defending champions Sydney Sixers, I’ll pass my verdict on them now.

The Sixers are a fantastic outfit, though not always full of big-name stars, and boast a strong, balanced squad. Every man knows his role and can generally be depended on to get the job done under pressure. Time and time again the Sixers have come out on top at the end of close matches, and it is little wonder they have won the last two editions of this competition, and three in total.

With James Vince and Josh Philippe so productive at the top of the order, and the likes of Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes and Dan Christian calm and brutal in equal measure further down, the batting is a fearsome force, particularly when chasing.

The bowling is more workmanlike, but veteran spinner Steve O'Keefe committing to another season is a big boost, and as with the batting, this attack is one that is generally reliable and dependable. If being hyper-critical, the bowling can sometimes lack the brawn to meet fire with fire and Hales took the Sixers to the cleaners when Sydney Thunder posted 232-5 against them in Adelaide last year.

I must also point out that while it's hard to find too many negatives about this fine side whose experience of winning big matches and knack of finding a way to succeed should not be underestimated, winning T20 tournaments regularly is not easy.

Sydney Sixers are reigning Big Bash chamions
CLICK HERE to listen Cricket...Only Bettor Big Bash preview

That the Sixers have won the last two runnings of the Big Bash is to their great credit, but I do think this year’s renewal might be that bit stronger than the last one and as Mumbai Indians proved at the recent IPL, backing up title win after title win is hard to do.

Given the Sixers are clear favourites and that 7/2 is as big as you’ll get about them this time around, I’m inclined to look elsewhere.

Last season’s runners-up Perth Scorchers don’t excite me that much, though they didn’t last year, and they made the final with some performances that were a throwback to their former glory days.

I’m not sure they’ll see too much of pace spearhead Jhye Richardson this season, and given he was the leading tournament wicket-taker last term with 29 scalps, he’ll leave a huge void.

Don’t rule out Mitchell Marsh playing some part in the Ashes, too, and 4/1 about the Scorchers makes no appeal. They might struggle, as should Sydney Thunder who made the early running last year but fell away just as they needed to hold their nerve.

Hales and Sam Billings ought to provide plenty of runs again, but with head coach Shane Bond no longer in the set-up, nor former skipper Ferguson and Adam Milne, I do wonder if last season was their chance.

Alex Hales has been in sparkling form this summer
Alex Hales enjoyed a strong summer in England

Hurricanes solid but don’t discount Renegades

On paper, Hobart Hurricanes boast a strong best XI with D’Arcy Short leading a powerful batting line-up that features Matthew Wade and the excellent Ben McDermott.

The bowling packs a punch too, so 15/2 might be a touch on the big side, for all I worry how a team with so many openers can find the right balance and get the best out of those players, particularly the ones who will be forced to bat out of position.

In fairness, Australia managed to overcome such issues in the recent T20 World Cup and, clearly, it can be done, but it’s enough to put me off when comparing them to a Stars side that looks much better balanced.

Brisbane Heat finished strongly last term, and having so often flattered to deceive in the past, finally began to find some consistency and a little bit of mettle. Had Chris Lynn not missed a chunk of the season through injury, who knows how far they might have gone.

Tom Abell is an excellent signing and Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s return a big plus. If Australia decide they don’t need leg spinner Mitch Swepson this summer, that attack suddenly looks very strong.

Afghanistan's Mujeeb Ur Rahman is backed for Man of the Match honours
Afghanistan's Mujeeb Ur Rahman enjoyed a fine T20 World Cup campaign

That said, if I were to add a saver to my outright staking plan, Melbourne Renegades – the outsider of the field at 12/1 – might just be the team I’d plump for.

That might seem like a ludicrous suggestion given the Renegades finished bottom of the league in each of the last two seasons, but they won the Big Bash as recently as 2018/2019 and the likes of Aaron Finch, Kane Richardson and Sam Harper remain.

James Pattinson should be available throughout to give the bowling some extra firepower, and young batsmen like Mackenzie Harvey and Jake Fraser-McGurk have the talent to ensure this team comes again.

This year might prove to be a year too soon, especially with Finch and Shaun Marsh set to miss the start of the campaign through injury, but that will afford opportunities for those promising younger players.

Clarke to ride on Stars success

In the belief that Melbourne Stars will at least enjoy a deep run in the tournament, I’m going to fly solo with the aforementioned JOE CLARKE to be top tournament runscorer at 25/1.

Regular readers of these pages will know that I’ve been a big fan of Clarke right from his Worcestershire days and I firmly believe that it has been non-cricketing reasons that have until now kept him out of the England picture.

Joe Clarke goes on the attack in The Hundred
Joe Clarke goes on the attack in The Hundred

A fine technician who boasts surprising power, Clarke had a taste of the Big Bash when playing a few games before Jason Roy joined up with Perth Scorchers last season and following another strong domestic season in England, the Stars were quick to make their move.

The nature of the pitches in Australia will really suit Clarke in much the same way Trent Bridge has in England, and having seen a growing maturity in the 25-year-old of late, I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t enjoy a strong campaign.

Despite having Stoinis and Maxwell to beat, I’m also keen to take him at 9/2 to finish the season as Stars’ leading runscorer.

In the same market for Sydney Thunder, the case for ALEX HALES – last season’s leading tournament runscorer – is hard to ignore and while 11/8 (Paddy Power, Betfair) in such a market might not seem like a gift, it looks a very good price to me.

Like Clarke, Hales is at home on true, quick Australian pitches and in topping the Thunder run charts last season, the powerful right-hander was following up having also done so a year earlier when enjoying another strong competition.

With Callum Ferguson now gone and Usman Khawaja likely to miss a chunk of the tournament due to international commitments, Hales should be incredibly hard to beat.

Renshaw primed for big season

On first inspection, the claims of MATT RENSHAW to be Adelaide Strikers’ leading runscorer are less obvious, but with Alex Carey and Travis Head highly likely to miss a large period of the competition for the Ashes, this market suddenly becomes very appealing.

Matthew Renshaw
Matt Renshaw goes on the attack in the Big Bash

Jake Weatherald is the obvious one having enjoyed another fruitful time of it a year ago, but Renshaw had his moments when I don't think he performed anywhere near his best, and certainly not as well as we've seen him bat for Brisbane Heat previously.

That was Renshaw’s first year in Strikers colours having made the move across from Brisbane and he’ll begin this Big Bash season on the back of a blistering, unbeaten 156 for Queensland in The Marsh Cup.

This is a really good player who was opening the batting for Australia in Test cricket not so long ago, and considering he is still only 25 years of age, I think he can come again. A strong showing in the Big Bash would do his cause no harm and quotes of 17/2 look plain wrong to me, given the head-start he will enjoy over Carey and Head.

Published at 1040 GMT on 30/11/21

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