Blizzard seeks success with former foes
It would be no surprise if South Australia have lost the key to their trophy cabinet, so long has it been since it was last opened. The state hasn't won any silverware in 15 years, but success is a familiar feeling for one of their newest players, Aiden Blizzard, who wants to help the Redbacks end their drought on Saturday with what would be his fourth Big Bash title.
Blizzard will line up in his fifth Twenty20 final - an individual record in the competition's short history - when South Australia take on New South Wales at the Adelaide Oval, and his new team-mates know how destructive he can be. Last summer, Blizzard won his second Man of the Match award in a Big Bash decider when, as a Victorian, he smashed 42 off 19 balls against the Redbacks.
"If I knew the recipe I'd try to do it every game," Blizzard told ESPNcricinfo of his success in finals, having also been the best player in the 2007-08 decider. "I've been pretty fortunate to play in a Victorian team where they allowed me to express myself and go out there and back my abilities. It's no different in the South Australian team, although I struggled to get in to the line-up in the early games with Kieron Pollard in the side."
Victoria have been the dominant state since the inception of the Big Bash, having won four of a possible five titles, but the power balance has shifted this year. The Redbacks have been riding on the success of a triple-pronged spin attack of Nathan Lyon, Adil Rashid and Aaron O'Brien, and have earned a home final having lost only one match in the tournament.
Things have changed so much that the Bushrangers finished last this year, making Blizzard's decision to switch states seem like a prescient move. He had played only two first-class games with Victoria, where he was viewed as a Twenty20 specialist, but the Redbacks have thrust him in to six Sheffield Shield matches this summer, and he has rewarded them with two centuries.
"It was a crucial time for me," Blizzard said of the 2010 off-season, when Cricket Victoria did not offer him a new contract. "It was either stay in Victoria and probably carry the drinks, and that might have been the end of my career, or make the move over to South Australia. It's been a great move for me personally.
"I like to let my natural flair play its course. I've worked pretty closely with [batting coach] Jeff Vaughan here to work out what the best formula is for me. I was lucky to get a couple of [Shield] hundreds early in the year. There's four Shield games left and I really want to make another one before the end of the season. I think you've just got to play your natural game in whatever format you play."
For the time being, that's Twenty20. And it will be in a few months as well, after Blizzard earned an IPL contract with the Mumbai Indians, where his team-mates will include Sachin Tendulkar.
"Just to be around such a great player as Sachin Tendulkar will be a great eye opener, especially in his conditions," he said. "He's proven that he's the best batsman in the world at the moment. It will be great to see how he goes about it and just to get in and amongst those champion players will be a great opportunity."
But Blizzard's immediate goal is to help the Redbacks to a drought-breaking win. To do that, they'll need to shut down David Warner and find a way to throw the 17-year-old fast bowler Patrick Cummins off his game after he burst on to the scene with 11 wickets in his first five matches.
"I haven't played against him but he looks quite impressive," Blizzard said of Cummins. "He looks like he's got a lot of raw pace and as a 17-year-old he'll be absolutely fearless out there in the middle. He's got big wraps from Stuart Clark and Shaun Tait. It's going to be a good challenge. Hopefully we get a big crowd here and we can put some pressure on him."
And if South Australia can do that, they'll be one step closer to blowing the dust off that trophy shelf.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo