Jake Lehmann scored 65 on his Heat debut on Thursday night (Image: Brisbane Heat/Twitter

In bizarre circumstances, the Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat have had to make some emergency phone calls in order field a team, and unfamiliar names are taking their unique opportunities.

Just as things began to seem like they couldn’t get more bizarre, the Big Bash League has thrown another spanner in the works in an attempt to persevere to complete the 2021/22 season as scheduled.

As living through the COVID-19 pandemic is now the new ‘normal’, the BBL has decided that there’s no room to continue postponing and putting games on hold.

In doing so, BBL teams such as the Melbourne Stars and the Brisbane Heat have been forced to play matches with nearly entirely new squad members, as regular XI players are testing positive to the COVID-19.

Whilst it’s frustrating to not see franchise players such as Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa, and Chris Lynn doing what they do best, the opportunity to see the talent challenging for BBL contracts will excite some.

On top of Stoinis and Zampa, the stars also lost Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Beau Webster, Andre Russel, and more recently skipper Glenn Maxwell who have all been struck down with the virus. Along with a handful of others, have been unavailable for selection in recent games.

On Thursday night, the Heat saw eight changes to their starting XI with Max Bryant, Ben Duckett, Xavier Bartlett, Jack Wildermuth, James Bazley, Mark Steketee, Matthew Kuhnemann, and skipper, Jimmy Peirson all unavailable.

With the significant absences, comes significant opportunity, and heads were indeed turned particularly from the Heat’s point of view.

Jake Lehmann, the son of Heat assistant coach Darren Lehmann, perhaps left the biggest impression of those that received the opportunity.

Lehmann opened for the Heat, not a position he’s known for, and scored more runs in an innings than any Brisbane opener this season so far.

Having last featured in a BBL match in February 2019, playing for the Adelaide Strikers, Lehmann provided composure at the top of the order that Heat fans aren’t used to.

South Australian, David Grant, returned strong bowling figures in his BBL debut in extraordinary circumstances, taking three wickets and conceding just 20 runs with his four overs against a batting lineup that featured Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, and Nic Maddinson.

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Ronan McDonald would have been shocked to receive a phone call asking for him to play. Currently 29 years old, McDonald played a couple of first-class matches for Queensland in 2013 and hadn’t featured at domestic level until this opportunity.

For the Stars, a 21-year-old Tom O’Connell has been able to provide himself with a label of ‘one to watch in the future’. The leg-spinner made the most of his two overs against the Renegades, taking two wickets for 11 runs.

BBL|11 is throwing up some interesting circumstances, and with COVID-19 cases growing daily, who knows how many more faces we’ll see this season.

The winner of BBL|11 could well end up being whichever team manages to prevent their regular players from contracting COVID-19 most successfully.

One piece of advice for any top-level, grade cricketer in Australia that might be reading this, remain socially distant and follow the safety protocols because you could be closer to a BBL debut than you think.

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