I thought, in general, the Sixers had one of the most balanced squads of last year and given their lack of big-name players their trip to the semi-finals came somewhat under the radar.
Their early season form was maintained largely off the back of their bowling all-rounders with Tom Curran and Sean Abbott playing important roles in victories with both bat and ball. Equally impressive was the lower order hitting of Jordan Silk who while not contributing the big numbers of some of the players who got to bat from early on in the innings did put together some crucial knocks when his team needed him most. Indeed, I recall a few of the Aussie commentators potentially tipping him for a call-up to the national team given how well he was managing the game in the closing stages.
Only 5 players hit the 20 wicket mark in last year's BBL and 3 of them played for the Sixers
Alongside Curran and Abbott, former Test spinner Stephen O'Keefe had a dream season for the Sixers. It's not very often in T20 cricket that you see an orthodox finger spinner near the top of the wicket-taking charts but everything that O'Keefe did in 2018/19 turned to gold and he was undoubtedly assisted firstly by the excellent bowling of those around him and secondly by some sluggish wickets around the country. This year the Sixers have kept their bowling attack together as well as adding the pace of former international Jackson Bird into the equation.
Alongside the experienced heads mentioned above, the Sixers also have some young talent to add weight to their already impressive bowling options. U-19 leg-spinning prodigy Lloyd Pope played half a dozen games for the Sixers last year and will be hoping to build upon that experience this time around. He recently played for the Cricket Australia XI against the touring Pakistanis and took 5 wickets including that of Babar Azam. Pope will have competition for the wrist spinners spot from another youngster in the form of Daniel Fallins who like Pope has been called upon to play T20 warm-up games against both the touring Pakistani and Sri-Lankan teams taking a wicket on both occasions. If the Sixers get one or both of those 2 leggies firing then you'd once again have to say that they've got almost the perfect balance to their bowling attack and will fancy making the top 4.
The young talent in the Sixers side isn't just limited to their bowling. Josh Philippe is considered a keeper-batsman of some promise who already showed his class in last year's tournament and is tipped by many to be an international star of the future. With the T20 World Cup being played down-under in 2020, this year's tournament could prove the perfect platform for the youngster to stake his claim. Former U-19 international Jack Edwards will also be looking to build on his debut season in the BBL. Edwards struggled to make the step up last year but he has maintained a place with the NSW side in both first-class and List A cricket this season and that experience should serve him well.
Perhaps the biggest coup of BBL 09 is the Sixers signing of Steve Smith. Smith was of course banned for last year's tournament and has generally struggled to be available for the BBL due to his international commitments. Those commitments will once again limit his involvement but he should be available for at least the last 2 games of the regular season and the then the play-offs and final. If the Sixers can make it that far again then having arguably the best batsman in the world to call upon for their final push might be the difference between crashing out at the semi-final as was the case last year or adding to their win achieved in the inaugural tournament 9 years ago.