The Big Bash League is back.
While the run-up to Christmas means warming up as temperatures drop here in the UK, it’s shorts, t-shirts and beach barbecues as Australia’s premier Twenty20 tournament returns for the 12th year of male competition.
It all starts in Canberra on Tuesday as Sydney Thunder take on the Melbourne Stars from 08:15 GMT. Meanwhile, defending champions Perth Scorchers begin their campaign on Saturday with a home game against Sydney Sixers – a repeat of January’s final.
The eight teams play each other twice in a group stage that runs until January 25, with the final set to take place on February 4.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s BBL.
What’s new for 2022-23?
The big pre-season change was the introduction of an overseas draft in which New Zealand left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult was snapped up by the Melbourne Stars, while the Adelaide Strikers retained Rashid Khan.
The Melbourne Renegades had the first choice and opted for England big hitter Liam Livingstone.
However, the 29-year-old pulled out of the tournament after being called up for the England squad and subsequently suffered a knee injury which ruled him out of the rest of the Pakistan tour.
A significant difference and – following a few high-profile officiating errors in 2021-22 – much in demand this year is the introduction of the Decision Review System (DRS).
The DRS will be operational for each match, with each team entitled to one unsuccessful review per round.
A heat clock will also be used. The fielding team will have 79 minutes to throw their 20 overs or face only being allowed four outfielders outside the 30-yard circle for the remainder of the innings.
The Bash Boost point and X-Factor substitute have been dropped, but the Power Surge, which sees the traditional six-man power play at the start of innings reduced to four and the batting team able to call a two-man surge anytime in the last 10 overs, rest.
An involvement of England?
There is a strong English contingent, as always, for the Big Bash – although not as large as initially expected.
In addition to Livingstone’s withdrawal, David Willey has given up on his contract with Sydney Thunder, Phil Salt is unable to join Perth Scorchers due to injury and Laurie Evans has had his contract with the Australia side terminated. -Western terminated after positive test for a banned substance.
T20 World Cup winner Alex Hales headlines the England cohort who are involved, as he returns to the Thunder.
Another member of that triumphant England side, Chris Jordan, will bring his death bowling expertise to the other side of town and the Sydney Sixers, where he will be joined by James Vince.
Adam Hose’s performances for Warwickshire and Birmingham Phoenix saw him drafted by Adelaide Strikers, hitters Sam Billings, Sam Hain and Ross Whiteley will team up at Brisbane Heat, and hard-hitting fly-half Joe Clarke and left-arm fast Luke Wood link up with Melbourne Stars.
Tymal Mills will be hoping to put his injury troubles behind him at Perth Scorchers, while Zak Crawley’s boundary-laden hundred in England’s opening win against Pakistan was good preparation for his spell with Hobart Hurricanes, as a replacement player abroad in January.
What else should I know?
There’s also the usual mix of Australian and overseas stars on show.
The Renegades brought in West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell to replace Livingstone for the first four games of the group stage, with New Zealand fly-half Martin Guptill then coming in for the last 10.
Hobart looks to be Pakistan’s BBL team this year with Ricky Ponting bringing in Shadab Khan, power hitter Asif Ali and setter Faheem Ashraf.
Adam Zampa was named captain of the Melbourne Stars after Glenn Maxwell broke his leg and Jason Sangha replaced Usman Khawaja as Thunder skipper following the latter’s move to Brisbane Heat.
The Big Bash is always looking to deliver quality and entertainment and that’s more important than ever this year as they take on the lucrative SA20, South Africa’s new T20 franchise competition and the UAE’s T20 International League, which both begin in January.
A number of star names will be heading to these tournaments and the Big Bash will have to go all out to try and match them on the court, this year and beyond.
Who could win?
Losing Evans and Salt is a blow for the Scorchers as they go in search of their fifth Big Bash crown. However, former South African star Faf du Plessis will strengthen his batting for the first half of the group stage.
An experienced and well-rounded bowling offense featuring Jason Behrendorff, Ashton Agar and Jhye Richardson means they should be in contention again.
The Sixers also have a terrific bowling unit, with BBL record wicket taker Sean Abbott leading the way. Add Vince and Josh Philippe to the top of the order and a fourth BBL title, and third in four years, seems a realistic goal.
The Hurricanes and Stars are the only teams yet to win the title, but both have made smart additions and could be in the game.
In Shadab, Asif, Tim David and Nathan Ellis, the Hurricanes not only have game winners, but also players who have excelled in the commercial realm of tournaments around the world.
Of course, the same could be said of Boult, Zampa and Marcus Stoinis at the Stars. But will it be enough to bring the trophy back to Victoria for only the second time in the competition’s history?
Hales and the Thunder seem to be on the other side in a position to challenge. South African southpaw Rilee Rossouw adds extra batting destruction and, in Daniel Sams, Usman Qadir and Chris Green, bowling has a nice combination of mystery and reliability.
Heat, Renegades and Strikers look like underdogs at this point but in T20 anything is possible.