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Sydney Sixers BBL preview: Defending champions have depth on their side

A number of key names will be on international duty, but Dan Christian's signing adds to all-round options

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Moises Henriques receives the BBL trophy  •  Getty Images

Moises Henriques receives the BBL trophy  •  Getty Images

Coach Greg Shipperd
Squad Sean Abbott, Justin Avendano, Jackson Bird, Nick Bertus, Carlos Brathwaite (WI), Dan Christian, Ben Dwarshuis, Jack Edwards, Moises Henriques, Jason Holder (WI), Daniel Hughes, Hayden Kerr, Nathan Lyon, Ben Manenti, Steve O'Keefe, Josh Philippe, Lloyd Pope, Gurinder Sandhu, Jordan Silk, Mitchell Starc, James Vince (Eng)
In Nick Bertus, Carlos Brathwaite, Dan Christian (Renegades), Jason Holder, Gurinder Sandhu, Mitchell Starc
Out Mickey Edwards, Josh Hazlewood, Steven Smith
Overseas player availability Jason Holder (until December 29), James Vince (whole tournament), Carlos Brathwaite (whole tournament)
Last season: Champions
They timed it perfectly. After a strong start with six wins in the first eight matches there was a bit of a wobble with two defeats either side of a washout, but they completed the group stage with three victories to secure a place in the Qualifier. There they beat the Stars, rolling them for 99, to move straight into a home final. After watching a lot of rain fall they outgunned the Stars again in the 12-over decider.
Bubble impact
Steven Smith has already said there is "no chance" of him appearing this season as he moves from bubble to bubble. However, in a slightly unexpected move, Mitchell Starc has signed and could appear towards the late stages of the tournament having not played BBL since 2014. Sean Abbott and Nathan Lyon are part of the Test squad so are unlikely to be available until the back-end (although Abbott may be released earlier depending on selection and protocols) while captain Moises Henriques will miss the first couple of games with the Australia A squad. Tom Curran, the England allrounder, has pulled out due to the demands of going from bubble to bubble, but James Vince will be there from the start along with West Indies allrounder Carlos Brathwaite.
Player to watch
It is perhaps easy to forget that Ben Dwarshuis was part of the Australia T20I squad back in 2018 for the tri-series involving New Zealand and England. He did not get a debut and has not featured since, but remains an integral part of the Sixers' attack. He was the only ever-present quick last year where he claimed 16 wickets and when noting an economy rate of 8.03 it needs to be remembered he bowls the tough overs. He had one really tough outing - taken for 61 by the Melbourne Stars when Marcus Stoinis hit 147 - but in his next three games against them, including the final, finished with 8-1-51-3. He could be even more important this season given the likely absence of Sean Abbott for an extend period, perhaps no Josh Hazlewood at all and with the withdrawal of Tom Curran.
Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)
Last season's champions were the best in the middle overs across all teams with the ball. They conceded just 6.75 runs per over through overs 6 to 16.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo