December 19: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder in Geelong
Our XI: Sam Harper, Aaron Finch, Tom Cooper, Callum Ferguson, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Dan Christian, Daniel Sams, Arjun Nair, Kane Richardson, Harry Gurney
Captain: Callum Ferguson
A match-winning 73* in the Thunder’s first game gives Ferguson the nod over everyone else. From the 70 in the trial game to the two hundreds in his last three List A games, in white-ball cricket Ferguson could be the most in-form batsmen in Australia right now.
Vice-captain: : Aaron Finch
A hundred in his last innings for Victoria with scores of 52* and 37* in the recently finished T20I series against Pakistan make him a solid candidate for deputy. Finch would enjoy building his innings on this 170-180 track, looking to let loose once set.
In the absence of Cameron White, Marsh is the most experienced middle-order batsman for the defending champions, Renegades. With a hundred in his last white-ball game – and another in the red-ball game that followed – for Western Australia, he’s coming into the game in good touch.
He hit five excellent boundaries to get the Thunder off to a flying start in their opener but gave his wicket away cheaply. He looks in great touch and, if you want to take a gamble, we would say Khawaja is a good shout for captain as well.
The main strike bowler for the Renegades and the leading wicket-taker of the BBL last season has to be one of your first picks. With six wickets in the three T20Is against Pakistan in November, he’s in form too.
Dan Christian had only one name he was thinking about, it seemed, when asked who could be Renegades’ breakout star this season: Sam Harper. Harper isn’t in great touch at the moment, but he was Renegades’ leading run-scorer last season and Finch will know to back his young top-order bat. He is the best wicketkeeping pick anyways.
Despite going for runs in the first game, we are backing left-arm pacer Sams for this one because of the kind of not-too-batting-friendly track we are expecting. His batting – he has a strike rate of 134.35 in T20s – is an added bonus.
Point to note
Nuwan Kulasekara took four wickets and Andrew Tye took three in the only T20I played at this ground. So, strike bowlers could be flavour of the day.
For batsmen, it may be best to choose those from the “get set, then explode” school of thought.