The WBBL ladder is starting to take shape after another massive round of matches.
The two Sydney teams sit first and second on the table, while Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne Stars all have four wins each. The Hurricanes will need to come home with a barnstorming finish to make the finals, but the rest of the competition is well and truly alive.
Hurricanes v Scorchers
The round started with a big win for the Scorchers, but Hobart’s openers got them off to a flyer, putting on 59 runs for the first wicket in the powerplay. They had contributors throughout the order, but no one could convert their start. Sasha Moloney found the boundary late, with a handy cameo of 23 including three fours and a big slog sweep six over square leg.
Perth’s chase was on track the entire time, but they kept losing wickets when they built partnerships. The innings mirrored the Hurricanes in that they had contributors all through the order, but no one could convert a start.
Going into the last two overs Perth needed 25 off 12 – then the Heather Graham show started. With Perth needing 22 off 9 and the match looking out of reach, she struck her first boundary, a lusty blow over cow corner. Still, going into the last over, Perth needed 17 to win, with Heather Knight to bowl it.
WICKET!@Heatherknight55 traps Bolton in front with her first delivery of the afternoon 👌— HurricanesWBBL (@HurricanesWBBL) December 18, 2018
She'll send the next one down to a familiar face, England teammate Kate Cross.
Scorchers 2-55 early in the eight over.#TasmaniasTeam #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/su1omQwmVr
On the second ball, Graham once again targeted cow corner with a slog sweep and found the boundary, and the very next ball she struck a boundary over cover before three consecutive slogs to the mid-wicket fence for two levelled the scores after 20 overs.
This took us to the first super over of the competition. Perth batted first, and sent out Nicole Bolton and Ellyse Villani, while Brooke Hepburn took the ball. Bolton found the boundary twice, setting an imposing target of 16 off one over. Hobart opened with Smriti Mandhana and Heather Knight, but Heather Graham was too good, with both batters dismissed and Hobart falling 6 runs short as Perth snatched the unlikeliest of victories from the jaws of defeat.
Stars v Heat
The Heat cruised to a comfortable victory thanks to a record-breaking century from Grace Harris at the Gabba.
Today, Grace Harris constructed the fastest century in WBBL history!— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) December 19, 2018
From 42 balls, she hit 13 fours and 6 sixes, totaling 101* runs.
Simply remarkable, @189Grace 👏 #WBBL04 #WATCHME pic.twitter.com/gU20wSGllf
The Stars batted first but didn’t score nearly quickly enough, with top order batters Ange Reakes (strike rate 100) and Katie Mack (76.47) struggling to score. Their total never looked to be enough and Grace Harris made short work of it, smashing the fastest ever WBBL century, 101 off 42 balls with 13 fours 6 sixes.
She set the tone in the second over of the innings, smashing four boundaries off of Erin Osborne, but the last four innings of the sixth over, bowled by Kristen Beams, were the highlight of Harris’s innings, with two fours and two sixes over long off and cow corner showcasing her incredible array of strokes.
One particularly unique over was the tenth, bowled by Ange Reakes, which saw 21 runs come off first two (legal) deliveries of the over due to a combination of wides, no balls and sixes.
Finally, there were hilarious scenes in the final over as Beth Mooney sent Grace Harris back despite an easy single being available because scores were level, but Harris was on 95 and Mooney wanted her partner to get her century. Eventually, on the last ball of the over, Harris cleared the long on boundary to bring up her century and guide her side to a comfortable win.
Thunder v Hurricanes
The Hurricanes suffered yet another loss, this time at the hands of the Thunder, who look to be the team to beat at this stage of the tournament.
Erin Fazackerley went bang at the top of the order for Hobart, smashing a quickfire 35 as her and Smriti Mandhana got their side off to a good start. Unfortunately, the middle order failed to fire, with spin twins Sam Bates and Stefanie Taylor taking five wickets between them to stall Hobart’s innings.
At one stage 170 looked possible, but the Thunder bowled beautifully in the middle stages of the innings to restrict Hobart to 153.
The Thunder comfortably chased the runs. Explosive keeper-bat Rachel Priest looks to be finding her feet in WBBL06, smashing 40 off just 21, and Naomi Stalenberg anchored the innings with 55 off 39.
This victory took the Thunder top of the table. They look to be a balanced side, with depth in their batting and plenty of bowling options, and they could be the team to beat.
Strikers v Stars
The first of three double headers this round saw the Strikers and Stars split the two match ups.
The Strikers were once again too reliant on too few with the bat, and although Sophie Devine scored 46 at the top of the order and Tegan McPharlin contributed with a handy 41 not out, the rest of the top order fell for single digits.
Adelaide were 4/45 in a situation that has become too familiar for them this season. That’s when Devine and McPharlin came together and put on 63 in a partnership that gave them a chance.
The Stars chase got off to a fast start with Lizelle Lee smashing 33 off 19, but it was experienced campaigner Erin Osborne that starred with the bat, guiding her team home in a perfectly timed chase with 54 off 45 not out.
Melbourne needed 23 off 18, which turned into 8 off the last over. When Megan Schutt ran out Annabel Sutherland, it looked like Adelaide had the upper hand with six needed off four balls, but Alana King strolled out to the crease and smacked a first ball six to get her side home.
It was a different story in the second match as the Strikers cruised to a comfortable win. Suzie Bates was the star, scoring 95 off 60 before backing it up with five wickets with the ball. Her form has kept the Strikers alive with the bat, and she’s now the second leading run scorer in the competition.
She put on 131 for the third wicket with Bridget Patterson, who played a fantastic supporting role with her 51 off 42 not out. Holly Ferling, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock were expensive with the ball, and the Stars’ bowling attack might prove to be a weakness in this competition.
Devine’s 95 was brilliant, but she wasn’t done for the day. She had her blue headband on and starred with the ball, picking up a five-wicket haul.
Her ability to hurry up the batter with a bit of extra pace and the surprise element of a sharp bouncer clearly troubled the Stars’ batters. Combine that with the scoreboard pressure and the Stars batters couldn’t handle Devine’s bowling.
Sixers v Heat
Ellyse Perry proved that she is the most in-form cricketer in the world at the moment, smashing yet another century in a masterful innings.
💯 ANOTHER TON FOR @EllysePerry!— Sydney Sixers WBBL (@SixersWBBL) December 22, 2018
All the highlights from another incredible innings from the Sixers @WBBL skipper 👌
She's now scored 419 runs in six innings and is averaging an extraordinary 209.5 to start #WBBL04 😱#smashemsixers pic.twitter.com/QjlBQtfGxh
Her array of shots is second to none, and the technical adjustment she has made to open up the leg side hasn’t affected her ability to access the off side and has only made her more dangerous.
After the first match between these two sides, Perry had scored 419 runs in six innings at an average of 209.5. In this match, she was on 93 with two deliveries left in the innings, and she brought up her hundred in style, hitting a massive six and a four to end on 103 not out. Surely based on her form the Australian team will be forced to elevate her from number seven.
Brisbane’s chase never really threatened the total as they simply lost too many wickets., starting in the very first over when Marizanne Kapp got the dangerous Grace Harris.
The Heat did have a partnership of 54 for second wicket, but after that didn’t have a partnership bigger than 28, which was never going to be enough to chase down a solid total. Sydney used eight bowlers, which shows the flexibility that their all-rounders give their bowling attack.
The Heat turned the tables in the second leg of the double header, smashing the Sixers by 66 runs.
Sammy-Jo Johnson hit 51 off 30 and showed why she has been elevated to first drop this season with some powerful stroke play, while Jess Jonassen proved a more than handy foil at the other end, compiling a quick 40 of her own to help the Heat to a respectable total of 154.
The two star batters of the day then opened the bowling in what proved to be a fantastic move, with Jess Jonassen dismissing Alyssa Healy on the first ball of the innings. Sammy-Jo Johnson continued her good day by picking up the wickets of Ash Gardner and Sara McGlashan, and the Sixers disintegrated.
At 5/34 the Sixers were never going to win, and ended up being bowled out for 88 after 18 overs. Ellyse Perry didn’t have her finest day, scoring just two off eleven deliveries before being given lbw to Jemma Barsby.
The Heat will gain plenty of confidence from a big victory in what could end up being a finals match up.
Scorchers v Renegades
In the first match between the two teams, the Renegades had a fairly comfortable chase as the Scorchers struggled with the bat.
New Zealand Lea Tahuhu took the key wickets of Ellyse Villani and Meg Lanning early, which meant that Perth’s middle order had to try to rebuild the innings. Heather Graham, who is the leading wicket taker in the tournament, took up the task and proved her all-round value, scoring 42 off 41 and rotating the strike well.
The biggest issue for the Scorchers was that they couldn’t find the boundary, hitting just seven fours and no sixes. This was largely due to some tight bowling from the Renegades’ well-rounded attack, with Tayla Vlaeminck the only bowler to go over 7 an over.
The Renegades chased down the target fairly comfortably, with Jess Duffin anchoring the innings and building two solid partnerships with Danni Wyatt and Amy Satterthwaite respectively.
For the third time this round a double header match up was split one all, with Perth beating the Renegades on Sunday.
Aussie stars Ellyse Villani and Meg Lanning put on a clinic, putting on 143 for the first wicket. Lanning was especially clinical, and her ability to manipulate the field was fantastic to watch. She still showed that she has a power element to her game, though, slogging two big sixes over mid-wicket and another one straight back over the bowlers’ head.
When Meg Lanning gets going, it's a sight to behold!— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) December 23, 2018
The Scorchers skipper smacked 75 runs today to earn Fantasy MVP creds for the day! Get playing: https://t.co/wazrFePdqp@Dream11 | #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/FpsdTH7RPQ
Renegades looked to be a chance in the chase after Danni Wyatt and Sophie Molineux got them off to a good start, but they struggled to keep up with the required run rate due to some tight bowling, especially from Kate Cross. Wickets at inopportune times also proved costly, and no batter put their hand up to make the big score needed to chase down a sizeable total.