Big Bash League 2018/19: The Unsung Heroes' XI

Jake Breheny

Bailey has been in fine form this season

So far, BBL 2018-19 has been an interesting spectacle. We have seen a number of uneven matches where sides have been knocked-over for a paltry total.

Amidst the glitz and the glamour, the usual faces have attracted our attention.

D'Arcy Short has destroyed all comers. Matty Wade has blitzed the competition alongside him. Shane Watson has clubbed a ton, while the ever-entertaining Rashid Khan has bedazzled spectators.

Callum Ferguson has reminded us why he was such a promising prospect in his younger years. Jos Buttler has continued to destroy bowling attacks, at least until national team duties took him from the competition.

But for each team, we have observed a number of players who have played vital supporting acts. Without their generally unnoticed contributions, their sides would be in a much worse position than they are currently.

But who are these unsung heroes that have kept their teams in the fight?

In this slideshow, I will choose what I call the 'Unsung Heroes' XI.

These are the players whose performance this season has exceeded expectations.

They may be players who always perform in their given role. They may be players who have had standout seasons in teams where they have been outshone. They could be young players who have previously struggled and are suffering from this reputation.

The Big Bash League is packed with superstars, but who are the consistent performers who slip under the radar?

Every effort has been made to balance the strike rates and run-scoring ability to create a side that can consolidate when it needs to or accelerate when the platform has been built. The aim is to have five front-line batsmen, three all-rounders, and six bowling options. This provides the team with a degree of flexibility with both batting and bowling structures.

Further, there may be players who do not qualify as the next best batsman, bowler, or all-rounder, but who is a good fit for the team itself.

This could because they have a history of performing the tasks set for them in situations that matter. It could also be because they complement the existing batting or bowling lineup, or provide an element of playing diversity that wouldn't otherwise exist.

The criteria are as follows:

  1. There must be one player from each team.
  2. Three teams will have 2 players each in this selection.
  3. This is a playing XI. While there may be a better under-appreciated batsman, bowler, or all-rounder, I have done my best to make this a well-balanced team.

So let's begin.

Openers

Ben Dunk (WK) (Melbourne Stars)

Ben Dunk's mid-season return to form has benefited the Stars immensely.

Ben Dunk has revitalised his form in the latter half of this season.

Outshone by the Stars' superstars, the wicket-keeper batsman struggled for form during the early part of the season but has since returned to help guide his side to a mid-year resurgence.

He escapes the limelight standing next to the big names such as Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb, but he has been a vital contributor to the Stars' recent run of form.

Dunk has scored 259 runs in 11 matches. He possesses an average of 25.90 and a strike rate of 116.

His standout moments so far this season have been a 62 off 47 balls in the Stars' win over the Scorchers, and his 72* off 53 balls against the Strikers, smashing nine boundaries.

His ability to take the gloves also assists his selection.

Sam Harper (Melbourne Renegades)

Sam Harper's innovative style sees him pinch a place in the side as an opening batsman.

The young Renegades wicket-keeper has impressed in his first BBL season.

He plays with flair, he plays with dare and backs himself to use his aggressive and innovative skill-set to help his side put runs on the board. When he gets going, the Renegades put them on quickly.

The young man has a highest score of 56*, whilst also contributing some valuable quick-fire 30-odds.

His aggressive intent helps to take some pressure off of the Renegades' marquee players, such as Aaron Finch. He has shown a penchant for unorthodox stroke-making but has excelled in this role. Here's hoping we see more of him this season.

Harper has scored 279 runs at 23.25, with a strike rate of 134. This feat sees him included as one of our opening batsmen.

Middle Order

Jordan Silk (Sydney Sixers)

Jordan Silk's middle order stability earns him a place in the Unsung Heroes' XI.

Jordan Silk has primarily played as a middle-order stabiliser and specialist finisher for the Sydney Sixers this season. But he is capable of so much more.

Generally, he has walked in behind Joe Denly, Daniel Hughes, Josh Philippe, and Moises Henriques, yet he has been remarkably consistent throughout the tournament.

When wickets fall, you can count on Jordan to rotate the strike and consolidate. He rarely faces a dot ball, and this helps to lift those around him. He will excel at No. 3.

Silk has had 10 innings so far this season. He has compiled 260 runs at an average of 32.50. He has contributed several vital 40+ scores and a high score of 67. His strike rate of 119.81 means that he is better suited as a No. 3 consolidator than a late-order hitter.

George Bailey (C) (Hobart Hurricanes)

George Bailey's late-order hitting makes him the perfect candidate to slot into number 4. He helps to even out the relatively low strike rates of Dunk and Silk.

George Bailey is not D'Arcy Short, nor is he Matthew Wade.

However, he has been equally as important to the Hobart Hurricanes' stellar BBL 2018-19.

For the season, he has a high score of 70. He has clubbed 264 runs at an average of 66. That's right, 66. His strike rate for this has been an incredible 162. Two fifties have contributed to his remarkable year.

Knowing that George Bailey can come in to finish off the innings, with his phenomenal strike rate, gives the opening superstar pair the leverage to play themselves in. George's captaincy experience also sees him awarded the prestigious title, having captained at the highest level.

The Purple Superman's impact cannot be understated.

Jonathan Wells (Adelaide Strikers)

Jonathan Wells is an aggressive cutter of the ball. A real middle-order

A stabiliser and finisher. This pint-sized power packet has had an impressive tournament.

The Adelaide Strikers are renowned for their big hitters: Alex Carey and Colin Ingram. Rashid Khan steals the limelight from all of his teammates.

However, Jono Wells has quietly be putting together an impressive season. He has notched up 241 runs at an average of 40, showing his ability to stay there toward the end of an innings, with plenty of red ink.

His strike rate of 120 shows that he is more suited to rotating the strike than sending one into the stands. Don't be fooled, though. He can find the rope when he needs to.

Depending upon the game situation, his position could perhaps be swapped with that of Bailey. If early wickets fall, you can depend upon Wells to consolidate and rotate the strike.

All-Rounders

Daniel Sams (Sydney Thunder)

Sams' left-arm pace and aggressive batting have earned him a place as the #6 all-rounder.

Sams is more than a handy bowler. He has taken a large number of wickets throughout this season. His batting is aggressive. It is swashbuckling and he finds the rope with ease.

For these reasons, Sams slots into the No. 6 spot. Given the strength of the top five, Sams is the perfect player to come in at four wickets down and find the fence. He will not die wondering.

This year, we saw one instance where he struggled bowling the last over of the match. With six bowling options, we won't have that issue.

His tournament so far should be drawing more praise than it has. He has recorded 166 runs at a strike rate of 142. He also offers himself as a useful bowler, snaring 12 wickets at an economy rate of 6.2.

Cameron Boyce (Melbourne Renegades)

Boyce's 51* off 22 balls showed that he is wasted down the order

Cameron Boyce may be wondering what the altitude is like up at No. 7.

However, his recent whirlwind 51* off just 22 balls shows how dangerous he can be. He single-handedly denied the Thunder a victory against the Renegades. He also took two Thunder wickets in the match as well.

Boyce has gone relatively unnoticed this season. However, his 132 runs at an average of 22, at a highly aggressive strike rate of 160.97, makes him a dangerous weapon at No. 7.

His bowling is also as crafty as it is economical. Twelve batsmen so far have fallen into his trap, and everyone has struggled to get him away. His economy rate of 6.18 is up there with the best.

His leg-breaks also add a great variety. Where there's a boundary to be protected or a batsman whose hand-orientation calls for it, Boyce can be called upon to spin a web.

Chris Green (Sydney Thunder)

Chris Green has performed his role all season. For that, he is rewarded.

The 25-year old Chris Green is starting to come into his own as a T20 player.

His nifty right-arm off-breaks are difficult to score from. He is a capable number 8 batsman who can find the fence when needed.

Throughout BBL|08, he has scored 104 runs at an average of 26 and a strike rate of 137. He has winkled out seven batsmen with an economy rate of 7.06.

Callum Ferguson and Shane Watson are the headline grabbers for the Sydney Thunder. But Chris Green is the player who performs his role game-in, game-out.

Whether he needs to come in and hit a quick-fire 10 or 20 off half as many balls, or whether you need someone to put the ball on the spot and re-calibrate the team's bowling radar, Chris Green is a handy addition to our team.

Bowlers

Ben Dwarshius

Batsmen have targeted Ben Dwarshius, and he has responded brilliantly.

Dwarshius has previously experienced periods in which batsmen take to him.

This season, he seems to have conquered this flaw. He is quick. His wide yorkers are a feature of his game which shows great control over his bowling processes. Dwarshius is generally a good thinker, knowing what to bowl, and when.

Falling behind Sean Abbott, Steven O'Keefe and the English import, Tom Curran, Dwarshius has held up his end in a side where batsmen may otherwise look to take to him. Being the fourth front-line bowler is not an easy job, and yet he seems to thrive performing it.

As a No.9 batsman, he can also give the ball a whack towards the end of the innings if required.

He has continued to bowl well, restricting his opponents to an average of 6.73 runs off of his overs. The big left-armer has taken 12 wickets so far this tournament.

Nathan Coulter-Nile

Coulter-Nile's short ball is a worry for any batsman.

If we're being honest, outside of the big name Scorchers players, few have failed to perform.

It has been a sour season for the boys from the West.

The Marsh brothers, Cameron Bancroft and Ashton Turner continue to hold the side together, while Ashton Agar has been injured of late.

However, Coulter-Nile has played his role within the side. Batsmen have generally had a difficult time getting him away, and he always looks threatening - especially with his rising short ball.

He should also enjoy having three other pace bowlers in this side. It is arguable that Coulter-Nile has suffered due to Richardson's absence, meaning that he is shouldering the fast-bowling load himself. But he has acquitted himself well, remaining the go-to pace bowler for the Scorchers.

His nine wickets at an economy rate of 7.48 and his right-arm pace as a variation from the other three left-armers allow him to slot in as the sole Scorchers' unsung hero.

Josh Lalor

Josh Lalor's accuracy has seen him race to the top of the Heat wicket-taking tally.

Josh Lalor is a club-cricket success. He has played very few List-A or First Class matches, but has emerged to make T20 his own.

For the Brisbane Heat, their season has been painfully unsuccessful in comparison to past forays. The 'Bash Brothers' - Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum - generally attract the most interest from viewers and pundits alike.

But Josh Lalor has been the pick of the Heat bowlers. His deceptive changes of pace and left-arm accuracy help to deny batsmen the room to free their arms and get him away. The control that Lalor shows will be a great addition to the other quicks, Dwarshius and Coulter-Nile.

He currently leads their wicket-taking tally, after playing only eight matches. He has claimed 11 scalps at an economy rate of 7.35. For that reason, Josh slots in at No. 11.

This team is a well-rounded playing eleven.

Perhaps one criticism could be the lack of right-arm fast bowlers. It is important that we bear in mind that left-arm pace bowlers have been very successful in T20 cricket.

At the top of the order, Ben Dunk's ability to change levels is complemented by Sam Harper's dashing flair.

Jordan Silk is better utilised at No.3, where he has time to go at his own pace and construct an innings.

George Bailey can be considered a 'floater', but one thing is for certain, he will put on a show. His captaincy nous should aid the team enormously.

Jono Wells is the other 'floater'. He can consolidate an innings but tends to excel in rotating the strike while a hitter launches from the other end. He has great staying power through the latter part of an innings.

Then the all-rounders. Daniel Sams, Cameron Boyce and Chris Green. All three can hit the ball a long, long way, and have shown a degree of competence with the bat. Having the sixth bowling option also provides some versatility for the captain should things go astray. Additionally, the inclusion of Boyce and Green affords both a leg-break and an off-break option. This is especially useful if there are alternating left and right-handers at the crease.

Ben Dwarshius, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Josh Lalor complement the side's pace bowling stocks, alongside Daniel Sams who remains up the order. All three are capable of restricting runs, giving the wicket-takers the run-rate leverage to turn the screws and bowl more aggressively.

I believe that this side would give an all-star XI a run for its money!