Get set for gaudy kit colours, city-based franchises, hat-based competitions and those flashing bails – the Big Bash League is back for its fifth year and it seems to just get stronger and stronger.
As with previous seasons, there are a number of county players taking part in the tournament and Deep Extra Cover is here to keep you up-to-date with their progress.
After record numbers of people accessed the turnstiles during BBL04, this year is expected to be bigger than ever. Some are even predicting the tournament will trump the Test series with West Indies in terms of crowd numbers. The assumption that it will be a one-sided series, with the visitors ranked just eighth in the world, might be little more than Aussie bravado but Cricket Australia has responded by agreeing to release its Test players to play Big Bash cricket in the gap between the first and second tests.
More important than the Australian Test players, however, are the fates and fortunes of the players we know from the English summer months. Here is a look at the county cricketers who have made the long journey down under for the tournament, as well as those who live there already but ply their trade at this end of the world during the Aussie winter.
Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid missed out on the tour to South Africa, which roughly coincides with the beginning of the BBL, so he has decided to follow coach Jason Gillespie to Adelaide instead. Rashid was one of a few players who really shone in the recent series in the UAE, and he has had an impressive year all round, but spin is unlikely to be a major factor in South African conditions so he will settle for being the premiere spin option for the Strikers.
Kieron Pollard was signed to play for the Strikers this year but has now been rules out with a knee injury. At time of writing, Adelaide are in talks with Hampshire’s James Vince as a replacement for the short-form specialist Pollard, but nothing is yet confirmed.
Others you might recognise: Former Durham, Leicestershire and Lancashire opener Brad Hodge.
Brendan McCullum will be familiar to Birmingham Bears supporters, having had a very successful visit for the 2015 Natwest Blast. His record 158* against Derbyshire is not something that will forgotten quickly and Brisbane will be hoping they can capitalise on those skills as well. Another top-order power hitter, he has recently faced Joe Burns at the Gabba, for New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee series, and could now open with him on the same ground.
Others you might recognise: Middlesex’s 2015 overseas player, and Australian top order batter, Joe Burns.
Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara might be 38 years old but he is showing no signs of hanging up his bat yet. The Sri Lankan international is widely considered one of the world’s best batsman and he will now add the BBL to his already rather large CV. Having played 56 T20 internationals, Sangakkara brings a lot of experience to the side and is a great signing for the Tasmanians. Another powerful top order man, Sanga is fearless with the bat and he is currently proving that yet again for Dhaka Dynamites in the Bangladesh premier league. He should prove an exciting addition both to Hobart and to the BBL.
Others you might recognise: Former Hampshire man, George Bailey, and Nottinghamshire’s Darren Sammy.
Somerset’s Australian born Dutchman Tom Cooper will appear once again for the Renegades, having moved from Adelaide in 2012. The aggressive middle order batter initially struggled for runs for Somerset in 2015, but showed what he is capable of in T20 with 84* against Glamorgan in June. He sits third in the Renegade’s records for most runs and has a handy knack for off-spin if necessary. Death bowling specialist Nathan Rimmington had a short spell with Derbyshire in 2015 for the T20 blast. Rimmington took ten wickets in eleven matches, as the side struggled through the tournament, but his reputation as a bowler in the shortest format remains intact. He is one of the highest wicket takers in the Big Bash since its inception.
Others you might recognise: Former Yorkshire overseas Aaron Finch, former Northants regular Cameron White and Peter Siddle, who spent some time at Notts.
The Stars’ overseas players for BBL05 need little introduction. Surrey’s Kevin Pietersen might be a bit rough around the edges, unashamedly so, but his skills in this format are not in question. Neither he nor fellow Englishman, Luke Wright, is new to the Stars line up and there’s a reason they keep getting invited back. Both bring with them a wealth of experience, both in domestic and international cricket. Pietersen, always strong in the middle order, has been plying his trade in the Caribbean Premier league and in South Africa’s Ram Slam before heading back to Melbourne. Wright has played both IPL and BPL in the past and his 117 for the Stars against Hobart in 2012 is the still the highest individual score in the competition.
Others you might recognise: Glenn Maxwell, formerly of Yorkshire, and Lancashire’s James Faulkner.
Hampshire’s Michael Carberry goes West for another tournament, having finished last season with 266 runs, and Gloucestershire’s captain Michael Klinger, the highest run scorer in BBL04, is back in Perth for another Summer. The real boon for the BBL’s reigning champions, however, is the signing of former Northants man David Willey. Although he has moved to Yorkshire since the end of the 2015 season, Willey’s record with Northants in T20 has seen him become one of county cricket’s favourite names. Known in the English game for such things as the hat-trick that saw Northants win the 2013 domestic T20 trophy and the 40 ball century that took them to the quarter-finals of the Natwest blast in 2015, he is sure to become a fast favourite with a Perth crowd who have come to expect success.
Others you might recognise: Former Middlesex player, Adam Voges.
The enormous Nottinghamshire opener Michael Lumb missed a fair portion of the 2015 English season due to injury, but he is now fit and ready to return to Sydney for yet another BBL with the Sixers. Having played for the side since 2012, the South African born player has an average of 28.25 in the competition. Lumb has played IPL, Australian domestic T20 for the Queensland Bulls and was part of the Sydney Sixers side that won the CLT20 in 2012, finishing that tournament with the most runs.
Others you might recognise: Ed Cowan of Death of a Gentleman fame. The former Australian opener has played for Notts in the past.
Leicestershire’s head coach, all-rounder Andrew McDonald, remains with the Thunder for a second season. As a player at Leicestershire he was part of the Foxes side that won the domestic T20 tournament in 2011, making the most runs in the competition that year. Macdonald moved from Adelaide to Sydney for BBL04 and, although he had a fairly quiet BBL04, he brings stability to the lower middle order and is capable of taking timely wickets.
Others you might recognise: Usman Khawaja, the Australian international who has played for both Lancashire and Derbyshire.