All things considered, I really enjoyed the Fox Sports coverage of the Big Bash from Australia.
It was innovative and interesting, with the commentators (Greg Blewett, Brendon Julian, Tom Moody, Mark Waugh and Alan Border) witty, informative and candid. Referring to a dire shot second ball from Owais Shah in the semi-final, Julian said that he "looked like he'd not bothered paying the final instalment on his brain", which was original if not especially complimentary. Aside from the aesthetic merits, I'm not sure of any other in having an attractive blonde approach a batsman who has just been dismissed and ask "how do you feel?" To their credit, all kept their cool, though Travis Birt looked miffed after a dubious decision had gone against him.
The crowds were excellent and the playing standard good, though on the basis of this competition there's not a great deal of depth to Aussie cricket. The only young player I saw who I would have loved to be a product of our Academy was Mitchell Marsh. A clean striking hitter of the ball, especially through the "V", at 20 Marsh looks an international of the future. His gentle medium pace is useful and his fielding brilliant, while his combative attitude bodes well. In many ways he was a right handed Ross Whiteley and I can see him in their national side before too long, certainly in the A team tour this summer. Nick Maddinson of the Sydney Sixers also looked a left hander of potential, though too easily cramped for room. He had good shots through the off side if he was given room and is another worth watching.
I watched it primarily to see if anyone stood out as a potential target for Derbyshire. I have no more idea of our "game changing" target than the rest of you, but for me the best batsman and bowler on show were Herschelle Gibbs and Brett Lee. Chris Gayle started with a flourish then petered out, but today's finalists essentially got there because of the efforts of those two stars. Their battle was always likely to settle the match and Lee bowled the perfect bouncer first ball that Gibbs middled - straight down the throat of deep square leg. As the tournament's top scorer, Perth's hopes rested on Gibbs, especially when they had some one-paced batsmen in their side, but Lee's removal of Gibbs, followed by the dangerous Luke Ronchi in the first over put the hosts on the back foot. Although the precocious Marsh hammered four straight sixes in his 77, it was not enough to set a demanding target.
Despite bowling two Powerplay overs and the two at the death in every game, Brett Lee only went for 6.48 an over, producing 90mph yorkers at will with an occasional bouncer to keep them on their toes (or backside...) As I texted to a friend this morning, it was like watching Langeveldt with pace, a go-to bowler par excellence. As the star turn in a side with few other names (Steve Smith and veteran Stuart McGill were the only others known in England) Lee set a standard in cricket skills and commitment that dragged others along. His enthusiasm when he dismissed Gibbs today - running to deep square leg who held the catch - belied his age, while his fielding is as good as I have seen from an opening bowler.
A lot of the top players in the world were not at the party, but if money was no object and you offered me one player from the Big Bash at Derbyshire in the T20 next season, Brett Lee would be my unhesitating choice.