HEAT coach Dan Vettori has backed big-hitting batsman Chris Lynn to come out firing in Brisbane's Big Bash League opener.
The Heat will kick-off their 2016-17 campaign against the Strikers in Adelaide on Wednesday with one of the competition's most skilful squads.
Former Kiwi star Brendon McCullum will add plenty of quality to their top order, while West Indian spinner Samuel Badree, the No.1-ranked bowler of last summer's tournament, is back on deck.
With McCullum and former Strikers star Alex Ross in their ranks, the Heat looks to possess a much stronger batting line-up.
However, all eyes will be on Lynn, who is returning from a shoulder injury and has had a limited preparation.
The batsman clubbed a record 27 sixes last summer and scored the most runs (378) in the 2015-16 tournament.
Vettori admitted Lynn was below full fitness, but backed the 26-year-old to once again dominate with the bat for the Heat.
"I don't think he'll be at his quickest in the field to start with but he'll definitely be at his best from a batting perspective,” Vettori said.
"This is the time of year Chris really loves. We've seen what he's done the last couple of years, what an amazing player he is.
"He sets pretty high standards for himself. Hopefully we can see that again.
"We want that pressure on him because he handles it bloody well. He was amazing with that pressure last year.
"He likes it. He wants to take that responsibility.
"Even though he's not captain he's one of the integral leaders in the team and we expect him to heap that responsibility on himself again because it sits really comfortably with him.”
The Heat warmed up for its season-opener with two wins against Hobart in practice matches on the Sunshine Coast last week.
All-rounder Ben Cutting was the stand-out performer, smashing 39 from 17 balls in one match.
"He won us the first game. He was fantastic,” Vettori said.
"That's a continuation of where he was last year.
"There's not many guys who can bowl any time of the innings and bat in the top order. It's a really rare commodity.
"We appreciate how important he is to the team.”
The Heat has not made the BBL finals since winning the 2012-13 tournament and has been a notoriously slow starter in what is a condensed competition.
"We need to get under way in these first couple of games,” Vettori said.
"In a lot of ways, playing away from home will alleviate some of that pressure.
"The guys can go out and play and hopefully come back to the Gabba confident in how we're playing.
"I know there's high expectations around our batting but we see some real positives around our bowling attack.”
The Heat is away to the Sydney Thunder on December 28 before playing its first home game against Hobart on December 30 at the Gabba.
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