The Sydney Thunder is heading to the country and bringing its Big Bash League (BBL) winning squad with it.
The Thunder, featuring the likes of Shane Watson and Pat Cummins, will play two trial matches against Hong Kong at Orange’s Wade Park in December.
And the side is coming to win, says Thunder director of cricket and fan favourite Mike Hussey.
Hussey skippered the Thunder to last year’s title and pledged to bring the franchise’s full squad for December’s back-to-back practice matches.
The two games against Hong Kong will be the middle third of the Thunder’s pre-tournament schedule, which also includes games in New Zealand and Albury, leading Hussey to label them “crucial preparation”.
“It’s important that we are able to provide our entire squad with the opportunity to fully prepare ahead of the season,” Hussey said.
“Playing two games against an international opposition such as Hong Kong will provide a good test a week away from our opening game.”
Hussey said he and his side is looking forward to playing at Orange’s home of cricket, and implored the local and regional community to come in force in support of the electric greens.
“I know from my time at the Thunder that we have many fans in Orange and the surrounding area and I’m sure we’ll see a good turn out of local cricket supporters,” he said.
Hong Kong director of cricket Charlie Burke said his troops will relish the chance to play in regional Australia against the Sydney Thunder, they’ll finish their 2016 international schedule at the same time.
Hong Kong is 17th on the International Cricket Council Twenty20 rankings and have appeared at the last two World T20s in Bangladesh and India, so playing in the colour city will be a far cry from what they’re used to.
“Our players are used to playing in the middle of skyscrapers here in Hong Kong so it will be something different. We are all looking forward to it,” Burke said.
“After two World T20 campaigns and few big wins in this format, I’m sure the crowd in Orange and the Sydney Thunder will be treated to some quality matches.”
He also said the two practice games at Wade Park will be an opportunity for development, and for his players to be exposed to the top level.
“The opportunity for some of our players to put their names forward for further opportunities in franchise competitions is something we have really wanted to be exposed to,” Burke said. “To play last year’s champions in Australia is something really special for our boys and a great way to finish a very busy 2016 international schedule.”
There had been whispers about the Thunder playing at Orange for some time and Orange City Council sports and recreation community committee chair Jason Hamling was delighted to confirm the news.
“In terms of cricket, this is one of the biggest games Orange has hosted in a long, long time,” he said.
The matches will both be played on December 11.