Lasith Malinga of the Stars has proven to be the key bowler of the Big Bash League. Photo: Getty Images
The Brisbane Heat will aim to take apart a jet-lagged Shane Warne but is far more concerned about the influence of Melbourne Stars' super slinger Lasith Malinga at the Gabba.
In what is a "critical" Big Bash match for the Heat, Brisbane skipper James Hopes has identified Malinga as the biggest threat to the home side on Thursday night.
The Sri Lankan paceman is the most dangerous bowler in the BBL with 10 wickets – including 6-7 against the Scorchers – at a strike rate of one wicket per 12 balls, and he is also the most economical.
No other bowler in the competition has an economy rate under 5.5 runs per over, and Malinga's miserly return of 4.65 combines to build up immense pressure on the batting team.
But Hopes said the Heat's best policy is to limit the round-arm slinger's impact by playing him cautiously.
"If he can bowl his four overs and not take any poles and go for 20-25 it's going to go a long way to setting a target," the former Twenty20 international all-rounder said.
"I don't think there's any surprise that the top two teams on the table [the Stars and Renegades] have Malinga and Murali in their sides – two of the better T20 bowlers in the world, if not the two best."
Stars captain Warne jets into Brisbane from Britain, where he's spent Christmas with fiancee Liz Hurley, on Wednesday night – less than 24 hours before the match.
He took the mid-tournament getaway, missing the win to the Adelaide Strikers, in spite of a disappointed David Hussey asking him to remain.
Brisbane, which is sixth with a 2-3 record, hopes it could contribute to an end to the Stars' four-match winning streak.
"We'll be looking to take advantage of whatever way [Warne] comes back," Hopes said.
"[But] he's been around a while and I'm sure he won't come back and bowl badly."
The Heat is expected to make a bowling change of its own by promoting 12th man Alister McDermott to take the new ball.