The Slip Catcher

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The Big Bash has reached the semi final stages, but not before almost getting me barred out of my local gym. On Saturday morning I had an unfeasibly large wedge on Sydney Sixers in-play at 4/7 to beat Melbourne Stars, and then recoiled in horror on the cross trainer as they began shambling around while trying to chase down a pretty modest total of 157. Shouting stuff like “F**k off Hilfenhaus” at a TV screen in a packed gym is not big or clever, but I was a sweating, desperate mess hemorrhaging calories and cash, literally, by the second. That was until Sean Abbott entered the fray. It looked a lost cause with the Sixers wobbling on 97-6 and needing 60 off 35 for victory. However the allrounder then creamed 33 off 17 balls and combined with Johan Botha to get them over the line. To the man who looked a bit like David Dickinson who I soaked with water by the rowing machine while celebrating an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat, I can only apologise.

So who wins it from here then? I wouldn’t touch the Stars – my pick before the tournament started – with stolen money at present. They put in a shocking shift with the bat against Brisbane Heat recently and didn’t get enough runs on Saturday, but still managed to sneak into the last four. They are also missing a trio of big names in Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner and Adam Zampa (all called up on international ODI duty).  In recent matches they’ve particularly missed the guild and discipline of Zampa with the ball and I make Perth Scorchers worthy 8/11 favourites to win Tuesday’s first semi-final.

The BBL’s most successful club have hit form just at the right time and looked magnificent in hammering Hobart Hurricanes on Saturday. Shaun Marsh was the hero in that one and the classy left-hander has the game and the cojones to fire them to victory against the Stars. He’s not enjoyed the most prolific spell of his career in recent months in terms of runs but the 33-year-old remains a real danger when in the mood and he looks a decent price at 3/1 to be top bat for the Scorchers.

In the other semi I fancy the Sixers to stun Brisbane Heat. The Sixers are a strange side. They have not splashed the cash and look short of a star name or two but despite this look a very balanced, settled side. Abbott has been exquisite with the ball while South African spinner Botha has also been economical. Skipper Moisés Henriques hits a big ball and is a man who can be relied upon to find the rope when the pressure is on. The Heat have been impressive so far but this really looks like a coin flip so 11/10 about a Sixers side who will be buzzing following that jaw-dropping triumph on Saturday is sat up and begging to be backed.

Bilko’s Banker: Sydney Sixers to beat Brisbane Heat at 11/10 (bet365)

Next best: Marsh to be top bat for the  Perth Scorchers v Melbourne Stars at 3/1 (bet365)

Outside edge: Sydney Sixers to win Big Bash League at 7/2 (Paddy Power)

By Derek Bilton