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English invasion is once again at the top of Big Bash League’s overseas player list

There was a time when English cricketers who spent the winter in Australia were likely to start the season in the second division. They’re the hottest item on the market right now: Englishmen make up 15 of the 24 confirmed overseas signings for this year’s Big Bash, with at least one in each of the eight teams and three in each of the Sydney teams. Last season’s dominance of the international player pool in England was no fluke.

When asked how English players came to dominate the overseas player pool, Ben Duckett, whose stint with Brisbane Heat will be his first in the BBL, joked this week, “I thought the Aussies hated us.” The most important factor is availability, with BBL clubs looking to sign players for the entire season and players looking to escape the English winter for the Australian summer, but England’s recent success in limited-overs internationals and unrivalled white-ball depth have also played a role.

“You’d see their fringe players go to England and play in the County Championship every year when Australia was the best Test team in the world in the 2000s,” one recruitment insider said. It’s the same dynamic in white-ball cricket as it is in the Big Bash.” The cycle feeds back on itself: England’s success makes their fringe players more appealing signings in overseas leagues, and their exposure to those tournaments creates a pool of players ready for international selection. There is immense strength in depth, as evidenced by a reserve squad’s 3-0 ODI series win over Pakistan this year.
A case in point is Liam Livingstone’s breakthrough season in an England shirt. Livingstone met with the ECB in 2019 to discuss his winter plans and decided that playing in T20 leagues rather than touring Australia with the England Lions would be the best option. Livingstone explained, “I’d already played two winters of Lions cricket.” “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn in different environments,” she says.

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“The pressure you face as an international player is probably unlike any other, and you’re under pressure to perform from the first game, wherever you go in the world.” It really helps you prepare for international cricket when you return.” He returned to England’s T20I squad this year after two dominant seasons with the Perth Scorchers, and scored a 42-ball century in his fourth game back. Coaches who have worked for counties or Hundred teams have hand-picked players they believe could follow in his footsteps – or relied on their contacts for referrals.

Several other players are in a similar situation now, which explains why so many Englishmen are playing in not only the Big Bash League but also the Abu Dhabi T10 and the Pakistan Super League: like Livingstone, Phil Salt and Will Jacks both played in the Big Bash last season and have had excellent T10 campaigns, while Tom Banton, who starred for Brisbane Heat two years ago, will fly from Abu Dhabi to the Lanka Premier League this weekend.

Livingstone is proof that success in the Big Bash League gives players a clear path to T20 international selection. Last winter, Eoin Morgan frequently mentioned the competition when praising James Vince, who scored 98 not out and 95 runs in Sydney Sixers’ two knockout games and was a travelling reserve in England’s World Cup squad.
Reece Topley, who will make his BBL debut for the Melbourne Renegades next week, believes the tournament will provide players with a “opportunity… to impress the right people” ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. Tymal Mills, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Curran, George Garton, and Sam Billings will all be in contention for a spot in England’s squad over the next two months, and could strengthen their respective cases.

A winter in Australia provides an opportunity for players who are a step away from international selection – six of the 15 Englishmen in this year’s BBL are uncapped in T20Is – to develop in a league that they grew up watching on cold winter mornings. The flat limited-overs pitches in both countries are nearly identical, but few county cricketers have seen Australia’s vast ground dimensions. During his time with the Melbourne Stars, Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke will swap Trent Bridge for the MCG: “I have to adapt my game for the ground, which is fantastic,” he said.

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The majority of the English imports will be well-known to Australian fans, but there may be a few surprises. Only a few major international names are now involved, reflecting the BBL’s lack of financial pulling power – salaries in the league are relatively low given the competition’s duration – and the addition of a third overseas slot in each playing XI last season has opened the door for lesser-known overseas players.

The Hobart Hurricanes have signed Harry Brook, the PCA’s young player of the year for the 2021 English season, as a specialist middle-order batter who can exploit the Power Surge overs, as well as Jordan Thompson, Brook’s Yorkshire teammate and a combative seam-bowling allrounder, as specialist middle-order batters who can exploit the Power Surge overs. After England Lions’ tour match against Australia A, Tom Abell, the innovative middle-order batter who has been approached by Jos Buttler for tips on playing the reverse-scoop, will join the Heat, and Laurie Evans will be the glue that holds the Scorchers’ batting line-up together.

Vince and Alex Hales, on the other hand, will be expected to lead their respective Sydney teams once again, with Billings putting a frustrating few months running the drinks behind him by hitting 90 off 45 balls in a warm-up match this week. Curran’s return is also significant for the Sixers, as he was a key player with both bat and ball during his two previous seasons with them, while Garton will look to build on a strong IPL season with Royal Challengers Bangalore by contributing all-round for Adelaide Strikers.

In the BBL 2021-22, England will have the following players:
Adelaide George Garton, George Garton, George Garton, George Garton, George Garton, George
Brisbane Tom Abell, Ben Duckett, Tom Abell, Tom Abell, Tom Abell, Tom Abell, Tom Abell
Hobart Harry Brook and Jordan Thompson are Hurricanes players.
Melbourne Reece Topley is a renegade.
Melbourne Joe Clarke, Joe Clarke, Joe Clarke, Joe Clarke, Joe Clarke, Joe Laurie Evans and Tymal Mills are Scorchers.
Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, and James Vince are the Sydney Sixers.
Sydney Sam Billings, Alex Hales, and Saqib Mahmood are the Thunder.

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