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Big Bash League: Star names make for special spectacle, says Matt Floyd

Brisbane Heat celebrate BBL triumph with then-coach Darren Lehmann

Now I know for most of you - barring of course all those understandably jubilant, gloating Aussie fans out there - the last thing you probably want to do right now is watch more cricket from Down Under.

But in the Big Bash League you may just find something to take your mind off the one sided Ashes beating we've all just witnessed - and you won't even have to stay up all night for it!

"This year there are some small changes. For one, the competition has been overrun by Englishmen..."

Matt Floyd

The Australian domestic Twenty20 franchise competition returns for a third instalment on Friday and, judging by last year's tournament, there will be plenty to look forward to.

From the first glimpse of Aaron Finch's destructive powers during the very first game between the two Melbourne sides, to Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels' dramatic bust up, and Darren Lehmann guiding the unfancied Brisbane Heat to the title (an early warning to England of Boof's much heralded leadership), it was six weeks packed with excitement and incident.

Add to that stumps which flashed red every time they were hit, cameras on umpires' heads and batsmen's helmets, as well as big, vociferous crowds and it felt like a truly modern day cricket experience.

This year there are some small changes. For one, the competition has been overrun by Englishmen...

This may seem a bit strange in light of what's currently happening in Oz but there will be no fewer than 11 of them involved in this year's competition, including the likes of Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales.

You can be sure they'll be getting a fair amount of stick just for being Poms at a bad time but it is genuinely an opportunity to show that English players can prosper in Australian conditions, albeit in a far less testing format.

You will also hear some new voices on the commentary mics. Network 10 have secured the host broadcast rights for the Big Bash for the next five years and they have lined up a list of big name ex-players to call the games.

It will be fascinating to see how Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist adapt to life in the commentary box and 10 have also pulled a left field selection out of the bag in the Master Blaster himself, Sir Vivian Richards. Decent top three that!

Stars

And how about on the field? The Heat have pretty much retained the same squad that won the trophy last year so will have to be considered amongst the favourites but the big question will be can Stuart Law continue to make the Brisbane side greater than the sum of its parts, as Darren Lehmann had done?

The two Melbourne sides look very strong once again. The Stars are Warne-less but still have plenty of top quality in their line up and, crucially, Lasith Malinga to lead the bowling attack. The Renegades, meanwhile, will be looking to get over the disappointment of last year when they were easily the best side of the group stages but got knocked out by the Heat in the semi-finals.

They've signed well, too. Jos Buttler plays the early season for them and Mohammed Hafeez joins later on - in addition to his top order batting, his presence adds to a very potent spin attack featuring Murali, Fawad Ahmed and Aaron O'Brien.

Last season's runners-up, the Perth Scorchers, should also be contenders and it may be worth keeping half an eye on the Sydney Thunder. The whipping boys of the tournament have lost a staggering 13 games in a row but may not be so bad this time.

Mike Hussey has been brought in from Perth to lead the side, they've signed big name overseas players in Tillakaratne Dilshan and Eoin Morgan, and David Warner should be available for their first game against local rivals the Sixers.

Having said all that, last year the Heat would have been near the bottom of my list of favourites so it will probably be someone I haven't mentioned to win Big Bash 3...get your money on the Adelaide Strikers, Hobart Hurricanes or Sydney Sixers then!

It all kicks off at 8.30am on Friday on Sky Sports 2 HD with the Melbourne derby at the MCG, followed by the Sydney derby the following day - Jos Buttler, Luke Wright, Ravi Bopara, Michael Lumb, Eoin Morgan and Chris Woakes could all be involved.

Hopefully they'll be able to show the Test lads how it's done....