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Fast Start Vital

HEAT ABSORB CULTURE

Inspirational leader James Hopes would like the Brisbane Heat to absorb many of the characteristics of the Queensland Bulls as they prepare to launch into the KFC T20 Big Bash League.

While Hopes has been kept in cotton wool after injuring his knee and started training again in mid-November, a large number of players will leap straight from the Bupa Sheffield Shield/Ryobi Cup season into BBL|02.

The Bulls showed enormous heart to win the Shield last March, are leading the competition again in 2012-13, and have kick-started their one-day campaign with back-to-back victories.

There is a tremendous culture within the Bulls camp, never better illustrated than when Heat keeper Chris Hartley and Steve Magoffin piloted them to victory in the fourth innings in the Shield final, and Hopes would like to replicate that with the Heat.

"You just accept that the two guys in the middle, you train with them the whole off-season, and they'll get the job done," he said. "That's the belief the Queensland team have."

"If the Brisbane Heat get half that belief, they'll go a long way towards doing well."

Hopes was adamant that the new competition will be close and found it difficult to pinpoint a favourite.

"Each year you look down south at the Melbourne Stars Hobart have got a good list together but you add a couple of overseas players to all teams and the names they've got and it becomes who performs better on the night," he said.

"I know it's a cliche but it's the same in the IPL and it's going to be the same here with the standard of the teams, if you turn up and play well you'll gone a long way towards winning because the teams are so evenly matched."

The Heat lost their first four matches of BBL|01 in a nightmare start, only to finish with a flourish of three wins.

Had the Adelaide Strikers beaten the Melbourne Stars in the very last game of the qualifying rounds, then the Heat would have snuck into the top four instead of the Stars.

Getting off to a good start obviously has become a key point for the Heat in Year 2.

"It's pretty important for every side," said Heat coach Darren Lehmann. "We've got to start better than we did last year. With this group of players I'm sure we will.

"They're a good group of lads on and off the ground."

The Heat will have a solid chance of winning first-up if South African Dale Steyn and Australian star Shane Watson play, as is slated.

The Heat start against the Hobart Hurricanes at the Gabba on Sunday 9 December before a tricky assignment in Adelaide on Thursday 13 December.

West Indian paceman Kemar Roach flies in for that game, although spinning wiz Dan Vettori misses, having been available for the Hurricanes contest.

Vettori is back for the Gabba clash with the Perth Scorchers on Tuesday 18 December, while Mitchell Johnson jets in for his first game in teal for the Round 4 clash with the Melbourne Renegades at Etihad Stadium on 22 December.

Shane Warne and the Melbourne Stars visit the Gabba on 3 January while the reigning champion Sydney Sixers, with Brett Lee leading the attack, come to Brisbane on 7 January.

The Heat finish their campaign with the second clash of the tournament with the Hurricanes in Hobart on 12 January.

With the competition expanded from seven to eight games for each side this summer, Lehmann believes four wins as it was last year could be enough to claim a semi-final berth.

"I'd say four with a good percentage will get you in and five definitely," he said.