Alex Hales may need to carry the load for Sydney Thunder


Usman Khawaja may be absent for most of the season if needed in the Ashes

Sam Billings (England), Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales (England), Baxter Holt, Usman Khawaja, Saqib Mahmood (England), Nathan McAndrew, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain, Sam Whiteman

In Saqib Mahmood, Sam Whiteman
Out Callum Ferguson, Adam Milne, Arjun Nair

Last season Fourth
Led by a red-hot Alex Hales, the big-hitting Thunder appeared the team to beat after winning four of their first matches. But their balance suffered when allrounder Daniel Sams missed a few matches due to a concussion and the Thunder’s form nosedived. They were able to steady the ship, largely due to Hales’ virtuoso batting, to finish third on the ladder. It proved a false dawn with the Thunder falling to Brisbane Heat in the knockout to end an unfulfilled season.

International impact
It’s a fairly settled line-up although new skipper Khawaja may be Ashes bound as he battles Travis Head for Australia’s No. 5 spot. Saqib Mahmood will be absent in the early stages after being named in the England Lions squad and the rising quick along with Sam Billings may be part of England’s tour of the Caribbean, which starts during the latter stages of the BBL.

Player to watch
Alex Hales lit up BBL10 with a tournament best 543 runs at 38.78 and a strike rate of 161.60 – replicating similar dizzying stats from the season prior. There isn’t much bowlers can do when Hales is on song as champions Sydney Sixers can attest to after being on the receiving end of the Englishman’s remarkable 55-ball 110 in the Thunder’s record total of 5 for 232. But his participation in the upcoming tournament was under threat after photos of Hales in blackface emerged and he was also implicated in the racism scandal engulfing English cricket. He has, however, kept his BBL contract and will hope to make headlines on-field rather than off it.

Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)
Thunder were the best batting unit in the last edition. They went at a run rate of 8.98 in the competition that was made possible due to a strong performance in the powerplays. They had a run rate of 10.16 in the powerplay overs, which was the tournament’s best.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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