Who is pushing their Australia case in the BBL?

Who is pushing their Australia case in the BBL?

This BBL has faced criticism for its supposed lack of international drawcards and the usual absences of Australia’s Test stars. But a few months from the T20 World Cup triumph, those on the fringes of national selection are starring in the first half of the BBL season. With Australia’s title defence on home soil just nine months away, here are six players making an early case to be considered.

Ben McDermott (Hobart Hurricanes)
353 runs ay 70.60, strike-rate 168.09

The 27-year-old missed Hurricanes’ first two games of the season due to a groin injury and then had moderate success in a pair of losses against Perth Scorchers on return. In a bid to turn around their slow start, Hurricanes decided to move No. 4 McDermott to the top of the order alongside skipper Matthew Wade and it did the trick in emphatic style.

He smashed an unbeaten 110 off 60 balls against Adelaide Strikers highlighted by a targeted assault on legspinner Fawad Ahmed down the ground. He then outdid himself by becoming the first player in BBL history to score consecutive tons with a belligerent 127 off 65 balls in a brutal knock described by Andrew Symonds as the “best” BBL hundred he’s seen.

McDermott, who is the only player to have hit three BBL tons, has unmatched firepower but also displays sweet touch and smartly allows himself to get in before really teeing off. He played five of his 17 T20Is last year but has never cemented his spot in Australia’s team.

While he’s pragmatic about the difficulty of squeezing into Australia’s formidable top-order, McDermott has openly allowed himself to dare to dream. He well knows it’s an ageing line-up and opportunities could arise. On his most recent form, it would be surprising if this T20 dynamo doesn’t fully grasp it.

Sean Abbott (Sydney Sixers)
12 wickets at 11.66, economy 7.70

As seen in the Ashes, Australia are blessed with a rotation line of talented quicks. So it’s easy to forget about Sean Abbott who is not far behind in the queue even though he hasn’t played international cricket since late 2020.

Abbott had the best all-round game of the BBL season when his heroics powered Sydney Sixers to a remarkable victory over Brisbane Heat in a low-scoring nerve-jangler. He claimed four wickets and took arguably the catch of the tournament when he took a one-handed blinder at extra cover to dismiss Chris Lynn. He saved the best for last after rescuing Sixers from a disastrous 7 for 35 with an unbeaten 37, including calmly hitting the winning runs off the last ball.

It was his composure under pressure that really stood out and is a hallmark that should bode well if he’s thrust in the cauldron of the T20 World Cup. Abbott is such a clever bowler with his canny variations marked by an ability to dupe batters with slower deliveries. With Sixers likely to have another deep run in the BBL, Abbott’s standing should continue to rise.

Josh Philippe (Sydney Sixers)
295 runs at 49.16, strike-rate 149.74

The Sixers opener has been one of the BBL’s best batters over the last few years and nothing has changed this season with Philippe currently the third highest run scorer with 295 runs from seven innings.

Having made his ODI and T20I debuts for Australia last year, Philippe had seemingly taken his game to another level and his confidence was on display when he struck three half-centuries early this BBL season. The best of them was an unbeaten 99 against Melbourne Stars at the MCG to chase down a daunting total of 178. It was a match-winning knock where Philippe was in total command as he timed the chase to perfection. He was inventive when he needed to be and confirmed his status as the most reliable batter in the BBL.

Philippe has gone cold and scored just 36 runs in his last three innings and his momentum was further stymied due to Sixers’ washout against Renegades on January 1. But you would back him to regain his form at the business end of the tournament.

Even though they’ve been injury hit and lacked continuity all season, Sixers continue to make a strong push for a hat-trick of BBL titles. A lot of their sustained success can be attributed to the leadership duo of Greg Shipperd and Moises Henriques, who might just be the most respected captain in the BBL.

Henriques leads from the front and continues to be a major presence at No. 3 or 4 highlighted by scoring a pair of 70s to start the season. He’s cooled off since then although he was the only top-order batter to show composure amid Sixers’ horror meltdown against Heat.

Henriques toured the Caribbean and Bangladesh last year and played in all 10 T20I matches shuffling around No. 4, 5 and 6. But he couldn’t find consistency and was overshadowed by Mitchell Marsh, who was backed in at No.3 and made the position his own.

At 34, Henriques might be discounted because of his advancing age but Australia’s selectors have shown a liking for experience on the big stage. He should again be in the selection frame for the T20 World Cup – especially if he leads Sixers to a historic third straight title.

Apart from a shellacking against McDermott – where probably no bowler alive could have halted him – Richardson has spearheaded struggling Melbourne Renegades with aplomb. He bowls canny variations making him particularly difficult to combat at the death as he showed against Stars on Monday night with a remarkable wicket-maiden in the 17th over – the first maiden in the power surge this season.

It’s been difficult for him to secure a spot in Australia’s line-up and he hasn’t played international cricket since the tour of New Zealand early last year. But he was part of Australia’s T20 World Cup squad and has every chance to hold onto that spot for the next edition.

Andrew Tye (Perth Scorchers)
13 wickets at 15.23, economy 7.76

When Andrew Tye missed selection for Australia’s T20 World Cup squad, there was some belief that his international career – where he rose from obscurity to play 32 T20Is and seven ODIs – might have been over.

Having been written off before, the 35-year-old is once again making a case for an international comeback after a strong BBL season so far, where he is the league’s second highest wicket-taker and a key cog in top-of-the-table Scorchers’ star-studded bowling attack. Tye’s trickery and mastery of the slower ball continues to baffle batters and this season he became the first Scorcher – and fourth bowler overall – to reach 100 career BBL wickets. His season has also included a career high score of 44

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth