• England stars on the up in BBL

    England stars continue to impress in the ongoing 2020-21 edition of the Big Bash League in Australia, where the cricket has been entirely entertaining.

    While this year’s instalment of the Pakistan Super League hasn’t yet got underway and the start date of the latest Indian Premier League is still to be announced, plenty of England stars are busying themselves with various teams in the BBL.

    Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy are a formidable combination at the top of the batting order for the Perth Scorchers. They complement each other well and have been key to the Scorchers’ successful opening throes during the mandatory six-over powerplay. The Scorchers are the most successful team in the history of the BBL and chasing another title. They among the favourites on sites like betting.co.uk. The form of Livingstone and Roy will be key to this pursuit. Roy has played a lot more cricket for England than Livingstone. But the latter has the added resource of bowling within his armour. If Livingstone continues to weigh in well with the ball now and then for the Perth side, the national selectors could take note and give him more time on the international stage in the future.

    Over at the Sydney Thunder, Alex Hales continues to be the mainstay of the top order in terms of international talent. He has been opening the batting alongside Usman Khawaja, with captain Callum Ferguson then arriving at the crease at three. Hales has been in the bad books of national captain Eoin Morgan and the England and Wales Cricket Board previously, but could force his way back into ODI and T20I contention with a few more big performances at the BBL. He is swashbuckling at the best of times and England could really do with his firepower at the top of the order against some very challenging opposition bowling attacks.

    The Thunder also have Sam Billings this BBL season. He is a vital cog in the middle order for almost any domestic or international batting order. Billings has been known for turning down IPL contracts in order to continue impressing at county level in England. But at this time of year, when the United Kingdom is in the middle of winter, he couldn’t really turn down the chance to play topflight cricket in the summery climes of Australia. The Thunder are enjoying having him around and he is almost certainly teaching the local batting talent a thing or two about what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

    Having romped to the top of the International Cricket Council’s rankings for T20I batsmen recently, Dawid Malan is currently with the Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL. He has been the picture of consistency since joining them. His first five innings for the Hurricanes were all of high value, particularly the 75 he hit against the Melbourne Stars.

    Jonny Bairstow was on the brink of playing for the Stars in the Big Bash this year, but then a relatively surprise recall to the England Test squad for their tour of Sri Lanka shot to the top of his priorities. Bairstow was solid at the start of the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s belated 2020 IPL campaign, but gradually slipped down the pecking order. For now, his limited-overs ambitions are on hold as he tries to establish a relatively permanent berth in the England Test XI again. It’ll be interesting to see if he takes on the wicketkeeping duties again, which of late have been with Jos Buttler in the Test XI. Perhaps England can afford to play Bairstow as a specialist batsman and retain Buttler behind the stumps. Time will tell if that happens.

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    Khalid Mohidin