Australia news July 22, 2013

Hussey joins Thunder, Warne retires as BBL season grows

ESPNcricinfo staff

Cricket Australia has shelved its plan to tighten the BBL schedule this summer, instead expanding the time-frame from the opening match until the final by two weeks. The fixture for the 2013-14 tournament has been released and although the competition will start later in December, in order to allow Sheffield Shield cricket to be played until the end of the third Ashes Test, it has ballooned at the back end and will not finish until February 15.

All the regular season matches will be played during the school holiday period, with the semi-finals and final to be contested across two weekends in early February. The tournament will last 58 days compared to last season's 44 days, with the 32 regular season games played across 38 days.

"The later start to the season means that families will have a greater opportunity to come to the BBL as part of their school holiday summer entertainment," Mike McKenna, Cricket Australia's executive general manager operations, said.

In other BBL news on Monday, two widely-expected announcements were confirmed: the retirement of Melbourne Stars captain Shane Warne, and Michael Hussey's decision to sign with Sydney Thunder. Hussey's defection from Perth Scorchers is an attempt to revive the fortunes of the struggling Thunder outfit, which has won only two matches over the past two seasons.

Hussey will captain the side in the absence of the nominal Thunder leader Michael Clarke, who is likely to miss most of the campaign due to national team commitments.

"I'm extremely excited about joining the Sydney Thunder and having the opportunity to be part of a young, energetic side that will represent the west of Sydney with pride," Hussey said. "The team and the area have enormous potential and I hope that I can bring my experience to help get the best out of the side and develop the talented playing group that we have.

"It was not an easy decision to leave the Scorchers, but the challenge of helping a young team grow was one I couldn't pass on. I look forward to working closely with coach Chandika [Hathurusinghe] and Michael Clarke to make sure that the squad are ready to go once the season starts."

Cameron White will again take up the captaincy of the Stars after Warne confirmed that he would not be back for another summer. Warne, 43, struggled for impact last season with the Stars and collected four wickets at 39.75.

"I think the time is right for me to hang up my Big Bash boots - juggling business, family and commentary commitments across two continents is not easy," Warne said. "I've always loved the game but now it's time to observe. I wish Cameron and rest of the lads all the best for the BBL|03."

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