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New-look Strikers aim for hot BBL start

Cricket

The Adelaide Strikers begin their BBL campaign tonight with a new coach, new captain and a new international marquee player, but their preparation hasn’t gone totally to plan.

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It will be a hot start to the season, not just because of the stifling temperatures in Adelaide, but because there is pressure on new coach – returning local favourite Jason Gillespie – to bring South Australia success in the shortest form of the game.

The internal trial game Tuesday was on a green top and, besides veteran captain Brad Hodge, ball certainly dominated the willow.

Players looked lethargic in the conditions and uninterested in batting on the surface, with a number dismissed after making poor shot choices.

Losing the strike power of Kieron Pollard is a major blow. Interestingly he was replaced by aging former Sri Lankan star Mahela Jayawardena.

“I have been playing cricket virtually non-stop since I retired from the Sri Lankan team,” Jayawardena explained to InDaily.

“I’ve just spent three weeks in the New Zealand and (previous to that) the Caribbean Premier League and at Sussex.”

He admitted he had big shoes to fill – literally – but was confident his consistency would be a bonus for the team.

“Adelaide is one of my favourite venues and it is a place I made my first international hundred,” he said.

“There is a big Sri Lankan fan base in Adelaide and I am looking forward their support.”

The Strikers squad has changed markedly since the team first turned out in blue five years ago.

Only bowler Kane Richardson remains from that squad.

After missing last summer’s tournament Queenslander Michael Neser, who was the BBL03 Strikers player of the championship, returns.

Other key players include left-handed smasher Craig Simmons, who looks like a bloke you’d like you’d enjoy a beer with in the front bar of the Cathedral Hotel, and 40-year-old newly appointed skipper Brad Hodge.

Like the South African born Neser, Hodge also had very little game time in the BBL last year, playing just three matches including the semi-final.

Ben Laughlin, Redbacks captain Travis Head, Alex Ross, late call up Gary West, Tim Ludeman, Jake Lehmann, Hamish Kingston, Kelvin Smith, Jono Dean, Jon Holland and Billy Stanlake make up the body of the squad.

Some people may have forgotten that returning leg-spinning all-rounder from Yorkshire Adil Rashed played in the 2010-2011 T20 victory by South Australia against NSW at Adelaide Oval on a February 5.

AFL Crows rookie Alex Keath, despite injuring a shoulder while fielding in the trial game, will add hitting power to the squad.

“Our opener against the (Melbourne) Stars should be a great match as they are a good team,” Jayewardena said.

“They have some high profile player including ‘KP’ (Kevin Pietersen), ‘Maxy’ (Glenn Maxwell) and ‘Wrighty’ (Luke Wright).

“Our quick stocks a decent enough, despite the injury and we have quality spinners.

“Momentum is a key in T20 cricket, getting off to a good start and keeping wickets in hand.

“Being flexible and assessing the situations as they arrive are important.”

The Strikers commence with tonight’s big test in Adelaide against the Melbourne Stars, before flying across to the Perth for a date with the Scorchers on Monday.

After Christmas there is a trip to Sydney on the 28th for a clash with the Thunder, before the blockbuster New Year’s Eve clash against the Sixers.

Impetus is the key, and grabbing it early in the short eight-game tournament is critical.

 

 

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