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Big Bash squads: how the teams stack up and who to watch out for

The Strikers celebrate with the BBL trophy CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Adelaide Strikers

Last season Champions

Squad
Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Michael Cormack, David Grant, Travis Head, Colin Ingram (South Africa), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Ben Laughlin, Jake Lehmann, Michael Neser, Liam O'Connor, Peter Siddle, Matt Short, Billy Stanlake, Jake Weatherald, Jonathan Wells, Cameron Valente, Nick Winter

Strength
The balance and miserly nature of the Strikers bowling attack was the key to their title last season. While Rashid Khan won plaudits for his phenomenal spells in the middle overs the Strikers did a lot of damage in the Powerplay on the back of the raw pace of Billy Stanlake combined with the craft, smarts and experience of Peter Siddle and Michael Neser. Ben Laughlin's death bowling has been a potent weapon as well, particularly when defending scores.

Weakness
There is a heavy reliance on the opening pair of Alex Carey and Jake Weatherald. Both men struck important centuries last season, including Weatherald's spectacular effort in the final. But the rest of the order will be tested given Travis Head is likely to be absent for large portions of the tournament, while Carey will miss games mid-tournament due to ODI duty. Colin Ingram filled the breach with a couple of magnificent cameos last summer but Jake Lehmann will need to take a more senior role.

Player to watch
You don't have to be a Strikers fan to enjoy watching Rashid Khan bowl. He has bamboozled batting line-ups all over the world over the last 12 months. He began last year's tournament as a relative unknown in Australia and now returns as a global phenomenon. Opponents will be setting themselves to minimise the legspinner's impact.

Brisbane Heat

Last season 7th

Squad
Max Bryant, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Brendan Doggett, Sam Heazlett, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Lalor, Chris Lynn, Brendon McCullum (New Zealand), James Pattinson, James Peirson, Jack Prestwidge, Matt Renshaw, Alex Ross, Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan), Mark Steketee, Mitch Swepson

Strength
The Bash brothers will hold the key again for the Heat. Brendon McCullum and Chris Lynn have provided some extraordinary highlights while working in tandem in Brisbane. They have the ability to take the game away from opponents both individually and as a pair. How they might be deployed is an interesting question? They have opened together but some thought may be given to Lynn batting at No.3. Max Bryant is one to watch. The teenager was explosive in bursts opening in the JLT Cup for Queensland. The other option is a left-hander like Sam Heazlett to slot in between the two power-hitters. Lynn could also be unavailable for a couple of matches mid-tournament with international duty.

Weakness
Bowling wins titles in the BBL as has been proven by the Perth Scorchers consistent success and the Strikers performance last year. The Heat have never been able to get their bowling combination right and have played Russian roulette in some high scoring shoot outs on the fast-scoring Gabba ground. They have signed the express pace of James Pattinson but he hasn't played a lot of T20 in recent years. Shadab Khan is also unavailable so the Heat have gambled on 17-year-old Afghan mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman as a spin option alongside Mitch Swepson.

Player to watch
Chris Lynn's international form for Australia has not matched his enormous reputation as a franchise superstar. He will be eager make a statement in the BBL to build some confidence ahead a potential World Cup berth in 2019. Teams will look to bowl a lot of spin at him, even in the Powerplay, to try and nullify his influence. If he can navigate that, the Heat will have a big season.

Hobart Hurricanes

Last season Runners-up

Squad
Jofra Archer (England), George Bailey, Johan Botha, Alex Doolan, Jake Doran, James Faulkner, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Simon Milenko, Tymal Mills (England), David Moody, Tim Paine, Tom Rogers, Clive Rose, D'Arcy Short, Aaron Summers, Matthew Wade

Strength
There is no "i" in team but there are five in individual brilliance and the Hurricanes have five match-winners in D'Arcy Short, Jofra Archer, Matthew Wade, Ben McDermott and James Faulkner. Short was Player of the Tournament last year scoring 572 runs. McDermott has scored a BBL hundred in a chase of 223 and dominated last year's semi-final alongside Wade. Faulkner's superpowers have waned somewhat since the 2015 World Cup but he did make some good bowling contributions for Lancashire in the 2018 T20 Blast. Archer was the find of the tournament last year but his recent eligibility for England has will leave the Hurricanes wary of his full availability.

Weakness
The loss of Dan Christian significantly affects the balance of the Hurricanes line-up. Although he has been replaced by Faulkner, Christian is a far superior batsman, with a strike-rate of 135 in BBL cricket compared to Faulkner's 111. Christian has also passed fifty 14 times in all T20 and has two centuries, compared to Faulkner's one half-century. Faulkner is a better bowler by the numbers but the Hurricanes probably need a true allrounder to balance out their side. Christian made vital contributions with bat and ball last season, particularly bowling at the death after Tymal Mills suffered a form slump mid-tournament.

Player to watch
D'Arcy Short will be interesting case study this season. He has taken the last two BBL's by storm but his transition into international cricket has not been as smooth. Teams now have a good grasp on how and where to bowl to the powerful left-hander. Going from a surprise packet to a bankable star also carries with it a different mindset and mental burden that he will need to handle this season.

Melbourne Renegades

Last season Semi-finalist

Squad
Cameron Boyce, Dan Christian, Tom Cooper, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Tim Ludeman, Joe Mennie, Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan), Kane Richardson, Usman Khan Shinwari (Pakistan), Will Sutherland, Chris Tremain, Beau Webster, Cameron White, Jack Wildermuth, Harry Gurney (England, international replacement)

Strength
The Powerplay bowling of Mohammad Nabi could arguably be the Renegades biggest strength this season. Given they play their home games on slower drop-in wickets, spin in the Powerplay will be a critical element to their success. Nabi's bowling in last year's tournament was simply outstanding. Of all players who bowled 20 overs or more in the tournament, his economy rate of 5.76 was only bettered by his Afghanistan team-mate Rashid Khan (5.65) and Ashton Agar (5.74). He will be a fulcrum of the bowling unit allowing the likes of Kane Richardson, Usman Shinwari and possibly Chris Tremain to attack at the other end early on.

Weakness
The reliance on Aaron Finch has always been the Renegades' Achilles heel and this season it is exacerbated with Finch promoted to the Test team. Previously Finch has been a dominant force in the early part of the tournament only to depart the team for ODI duty. This year he is likely to be unavailable throughout most of the tournament. Adding to the top order woes, Marcus Harris will also be away on Test duties for the early part of the BBL.

Player to watch
Dan Christian is a very underrated addition to the Renegades. He has been pivotal player for a number of T20 franchises over a number of years and he was vital to the Hurricanes run to the final last season. Christian's death bowling, skilled fielding and late-over batting more than makes up for the loss of Dwayne Bravo.

Melbourne Stars

Last season Eighth

Squad
Michael Beer, Jackson Bird, Scott Boland, Liam Bowe, Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Jackson Coleman, Travis Dean, Ben Dunk, Seb Gotch, Evan Gulbis, Peter Handscomb, Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal), Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jonathan Merlo, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa, Liam Plunkett (England international replacement)

Strength
The Stars have star power, particularly in the allrounders department. Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Dwayne Bravo give them incredible flexibility as all three can be depended upon to bowl four overs if needed and all will fill valuable spots in the middle order. Bravo's lower-order hitting could give Maxwell the opportunity to bat in the first three, as the Stars have wrestled in the past with how best to deploy his unique talent in the batting line-up.

Weakness
Top order batting. Ben Dunk was a prized recruit last season on a long-term deal and failed to have an impact. Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen have retired leaving enormous holes. Nic Maddinson looked set to fill one of those holes but an untimely broken arm only adds to their woe. Travis Dean's T20 skills are unknown, but they will be put to the test at the top of the order given the lack of options available. Maxwell could be forced to open at different stages in the tournament.

Player to watch
It has to be Glenn Maxwell. He is the biggest show in the Stars line-up and is now the captain. The responsibility of captain should sit well with him as he has an excellent cricket brain and it could well help his batting. The key for Maxwell giving himself a chance. If he can find a way to face 20 balls, his strike-rate and average increase dramatically and he can single-handedly take control of games. When he scores 20 runs or more in an innings in T20 cricket his average more than doubles from 25 to 54 and his strike-rate climbs from 155 to a ridiculous 173.

Perth Scorchers

Last season Semi-finalists

Squad
Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kelly, Michael Klinger, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Joel Paris, Usman Qadir (Pakistan), Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Sam Whiteman, David Willey (England)

Strength
Their bowling attack is incredible. It is conceivable that Jhye Richardson may not play the first game of the tournament as the attack could be, Jason Behrendorff, David Willey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Andrew Tye and Ashton Agar. The batting skills of Agar, Willey and Coulter-Nile to possibly occupy numbers six, seven and eight in the batting order respectively means they could play the second spinner in Usman Qadir, particularly on some of the slower Melbourne and Sydney wickets.

Weakness
The Scorchers don't really have any power-hitting in the top order. They have a classy top three when Shaun Marsh and Cameron Bancroft become available to join Michael Klinger. But they are similar accumulators and a power player in the Powerplay would compliment them very well. They have tried Willey and Agar at times but neither have the technical skills to handle the extra pace and bounce of the brand-new ball which is a necessity at Perth Stadium. Sam Whiteman and Josh Inglis aren't natural power hitters but if given specific instruction, both are capable of flicking the switch with only two men out, but sustaining it beyond the Powerplay is a challenge.

Player to watch
Despite so many great bowlers to choose from Ashton Turner might be one of the most important men in the Scorchers line-up. Very few players in Australia have been able to master the art of being a specialist middle-order batsman in T20 cricket, with the ability to rebuild collapses, power-hit with limited balls remaining and time chases to perfection both small and large. Turner is as good as there is in the BBL. He's had a strange summer so far for WA but found some touch in the last Shield game. If he has a big tournament the Scorchers will be well placed.

Sydney Sixers

Last season Fifth

Squad
Sean Abbott, Joe Denly (England), Mickey Edwards, Ben Dwarshuis, Moises Henriques, Daniel Hughes, Nathan Lyon, Peter Nevill, Stephen O'Keefe, Josh Philippe, Lloyd Pope, Jordan Silk, Henry Thornton, Tom Curran (England), Justin Avendano, Dan Fallins, Greg West

Strength
The Sixers' spinners are very reliable. They probably don't get the plaudits that the wrist spinners get, but Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon are very skilled operators in this format. Both are capable of bowling in the Powerplay and out, as well as working in tandem. They have added Lloyd Pope who has shown that the shorter the format the more dangerous he can be at under-age level. Bowling to the pros is a different proposition as he's found out at times in Shield cricket despite one amazing haul. But he will get his chance.

Weakness
Great openers set up BBL teams. Bowling generally wins titles but two good openers can take games away from opponents and the Sixers haven't found the right combination in the last couple of years. Daniel Hughes has been a solid performer but Jason Roy didn't really fire last year. Josh Philippe has shown in the JLT Cup and tour matches what he's capable of and looks set to play. Joe Denly was effective in the four games he played last year at the top and is an experienced opener in the format. Whether they set up with a right-hand left-hand combination or try Philippe and Denly remains to be seen.

Player to watch
Josh Philippe has the skills to set the tournament alight. Whether he has the experience to tailor his batting to certain situations will be his biggest challenge but it will be exciting to watch. He does have some pressure on his shoulders too. The Scorchers will certainly make life uncomfortable for him when the two sides meet after he made a very late decision to switch camps prior to the tournament starting.

Sydney Thunder

Last season Sixth

Squad
Fawad Ahmed, Jos Buttler (England), Pat Cummins, Callum Ferguson, Ryan Gibson, Chris Green, Liam Hatcher, Usman Khawaja, Jay Lenton, Nathan McAndrew, Arjun Nair, Kurtis Patterson, Sam Rainbird, Joe Root (England), Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha, Shane Watson, Anton Devcich (New, Zealand international replacement), Chris Jordan (England, international replacement)

Strength
The overseas signings of Jos Buttler and Joe Root are as good as any in the tournament. Two world-class names who will complement each other perfectly in the Thunder's batting line-up, that has always been reliant on Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja when he's available. But the pair only have limited availability of seven games before heading to West Indies. The Thunder will need to make the most of their presence. But they bring some real gravitas to the BBL this year. Chris Jordan and Anton Devcich are seriously good T20 players to fill the breach when both leave.

Weakness
They have excellent spin stocks with Chris Green, Fawad Ahmed and Arjun Nair all playing together regularly but they haven't been able to complement that with good fast bowling options. Daniel Sams is a good signing as he can swing the ball upfront in the Powerplay, but they need a good death bowler. Watson has been forced to do it at times and so too Green. But that can only work on certain surfaces.

Player to watch
Jos Buttler is worth the price of admission anywhere anytime. Seven games are more than enough to have a huge impact on the tournament and he can put the Thunder in a position for a run at the finals. The only challenge for Buttler will be the quality of the Spotless Stadium drop-in wicket, which is one of the hardest to bat on in the BBL. But he is a master at finding a way.