Heat smarts a must in Lehmann era: Cutting

13 March 2019

Allrounder looks back at the reasons behind a disappointing campaign, but finds cause for optimism under BBL|02 winning coach

Chris Lynn made mention of it several times during the KFC BBL season.

Darren Lehmann was quick to home in on it during his first press conference as Brisbane Heat coach.

And now Ben Cutting has acknowledged it as well: if Brisbane Heat are to make improvements in BBL|09, they need to play smarter.

"We always talk about entertaining and taking the game on, but you can't always do that in every game and every situation," Cutting told cricket.com.au in reviewing another season of missed opportunities for the Heat, who finished in fifth spot in BBL|08 – a single point out of the finals.

"So we need to take the quality of players that we've got and refine our skills a little bit, to suit the plans we come up with with 'Boof' (Lehmann).

"We spoke about that as a playing group during this BBL, the need to play a little bit smarter.

"You don't always need to blast your opponent off the park – you can win scrappy, and that's also entertaining."

With the Bash Brothers at their disposal in recent campaigns (plus Max 'Baby Bash' Bryant in BBL|08), Brisbane have routinely been a box-office attraction in the Big Bash. But their penchant for spectacular hitting at the top of the order has to some extent masked their failures; only 10 wins have come from the past two seasons – the equal-fewest in the tournament with Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars.

In fact, in the six seasons since Lehmann left his post as title-winning coach in BBL|02, the Heat are the only team not to have played multiple finals matches – their lone appearance coming in a Super Over defeat to the Sixers in BBL|06.

But in the closing stages of BBL|08, there were signs that indicated the potential beginnings of a shift in fortunes.

The shuffle of the batting order – which thrust Cutting into the unlikely role of opener – was one, and the 32-year-old hopes he has found a new full-time role. If his devastating 81no from just 30 balls in the final match of the Heat's campaign is anything to go by, it's likely he and Bryant will resume their partnership to at least kickstart BBL|09.

Cutting goes crash, bang at the Gabba

"I enjoyed it," Cutting said. "It took me a few games to wrap my head around the concept, and the way to go about things. It's a different game plan to what I've been used to at the back end of the order for the last 10 years – it was pretty much about taking the game on while there were only two fielders out, and I'm used to trying to do that with five fielders out.

"The ball swings a little bit more at the top of the order but there's a bit more room for error with just the two fielders.

"If I'm batting up the top, there's such a long order behind me – 'Lynny', 'Burnsy' (Joe Burns), Alex Ross – that if I come off, fantastic, but if not, there's still plenty of batting to come anyway."

Filling out that Heat middle-order could well be Matthew Renshaw, who in January played a stunning breakthrough innings of 90no (50) to see his side home against the Strikers. The knock drew high praise from T20 legend Brendon McCullum at the time and Cutting believes it is only the start for the gifted 22-year-old.

Brilliant Renshaw guides Heat home

"I think he'll definitely play a bigger role next season," he added. "I know he came onto the scene as a Test cricketer but I've always seen him as having that ability to take the game away from the opposition.

"The range of shots that he's got, he's too good not to do that, and all your good players can adapt from format to format."

Cutting, who has one year remaining on his contract and hopes to re-sign and ultimately close his T20 career with the Heat, was trusted to take on a greater workload with the ball in BBL|08 and it paid off; his 12 wickets were the second-most for the club (equal with Mujeeb Ur Rahman) while he conceded one run fewer per over than in BBL|07.

"I had a lot more confidence with the ball this tournament just because I had clear plans that I'd worked on across the last year," he said.

"Probably the big tournament for me in that time was the CPL (Caribbean Premier League).

Australia allrounder stars in CPL thriller

"I've found those slower, lower conditions over there do suit my bowling a little bit more, but I can still take those plans to places like the Gabba where the pitches are fast and bouncy.

"Some nights they don't come off, but that's T20 cricket – you've got to back yourself anyway."

Then there is the return of Lehmann, who despite experiencing a highly-publicised exit from his coaching role with Australia's men's team, remains highly-credentialed and regarded as one of the country's best cricket mentors.

Cutting is enthused by the prospect of again working with the 49-year-old, whom he revealed has already been hitting the phones as he reenters the coaching game with gusto.

"It's very exciting – he was obviously our coach at the start of the BBL, and when we won in BBL|02," he said.

"He's had some time away from the game which I'm sure he's loved and now he's ready to get back into it.

"He's pretty keen, he's been contacting all the guys, catching up for coffees and trying to plan for the season 10 months down the track.

"I'm all for that – I like that sort of structure and planning – so I'm looking forward to catching up with him."

Ashes 2019

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Brisbane Heat Men

Ben Cutting