The Renegades have won four on the trot, but the Sixers and Thunder remain the team to beat as the WBBL enters the home stretch.
Hobart Hurricanes v Brisbane Heat
The Hurricanes’ woeful season continued on New Year’s Eve, with a heavy loss against Brisbane.
After a solid opening stand, the Heat’s innings never really got going due to a constant flow of wickets. Grace Harris continued her fantastic season at the top of the order and looks to be making an insurmountable case to be in the next Australian T20 team.
Everyone in the middle order got a start, but no one could get going until 18-year old Josie Dooley smashed 44 off 30.
The standouts with the ball were veterans Heather Knight and Veronica Pyke, as well as young Meg Phillips, who continued her good form and cleaned up the tail.
The Hurricanes were slight favourites at the halfway point, but their innings did not go to plan as they consistently lost wickets and their biggest partnership was just 22 runs.
After two years at the bottom of the ladder, this squad needs a complete overhaul. For the Heat, their solid season continued, and all of their bowlers got at least one wicket. Harris proved especially tough to get away, claiming 1/8 off three overs.
Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Sixers
The Sixers continued their WBBL success, and Adelaide’s finals hopes slipped away in a tight New Year’s Eve match at Adelaide Oval.
Ellyse Perry had another fantastic knock, this time supported by Ash Gardner, as they put on 93 for the second wicket. Gardner’s ability to get on top of the bowling was clear, but Amanda-Jade Wellington proved tough to get away, picking up 2/19 off four overs.
The Strikers run chase was a microcosm of their season – one of their openers fired, a middle order batter played a helping hand, and nearly everyone else was out in single figures.
Suzie Bates and Tahlia McGrath were the contributors, taking their side from 3/46 to 4/113. At that point, the Strikers looked to be favourites but within six deliveries both McGrath and Bates were out and the game had turned.
Dane van Niekerk was awarded Player of the Match honours for her spell of 2/12, but it was the crucial wicket of Bates that really turned the match. The Strikers needed 28 off the last four overs, but with new batters at the crease, they lost four wickets in four overs and fell just short.
This loss essentially spelled the end of the Strikers season, while the Sixers are shaping up as the team to beat once again this season.
Melbourne Stars v Melbourne Renegades
The New Year’s Day clash went the way of the Renegades, who pulled ahead of their crosstown rivals on the ladder.
Sophie Molineux returned at the top of the order and was phenomenal, blasting twelve boundaries on her way to 78 not out. Her innings showcased her incredible off-side stroke play, with eight of her first nine boundaries coming through the off side.
Whether it was hitting drives on the up, gliding full-length balls through third man or cutting anything slightly short, she showed off the entire array of strokes.
Her all-round ability is incredibly promising for Australia’s future considering she was picked in the national team as a bowler.
The Stars have been reliant on Lizelle Lee and Erin Osborne for runs all tournament, so when those two failed, it was bad news for the Stars. A late stand between Georgia Elwiss and Annabel Sutherland wasn’t enough to get them over the line.
The spinners were the key for the Renegades, with Molly Strano and Georgia Wareham picking up five wickets between them. Their current bowling attack includes four front line spinners (the other two being Molineux and Amy Satterthwaite), and it appears to be working so far. It’s a bold strategy but given the success of spinners in T20 cricket and the class of the four spinners mentioned, it could be the point of difference that gives them an edge for the rest of the season.
Sydney Sixers v Sydney Thunder
The top of the table clash might not have been the run-fest that everyone expected, but it might have been a sign that the power balance in Sydney has shifted, with the Thunder walking away comfortable victors.
Lisa Griffith was the star with the ball, dismissing Perry with a ball that stayed low before clean bowling Alyssa Healy with a textbook inswinger. From there, the Sixers fell to 6/33, as young Rachel Trenaman – more known for her batting than her leg-spin – picked up 2/11 on debut, including a fantastic delivery that drew Ash Gardner out of her crease and beat the outside edge.
Marizanne Kapp provided some lower order resistance, with 40 off 41, but a total of 98 was never going to be enough, even on a difficult pitch. Rachael Haynes and Naomi Stalenberg made light work out the chase, scoring 43 and 44 not out respectively.
These two sides look to be the outstanding teams in the competition this season, and it will be intriguing to see what the Sixers learn from this match come finals time.
Melbourne Renegades v Hobart Hurricanes
Molineux backed up her fantastic match against the Stars with a second straight player of the match performance.
Once again, the Hurricanes’ batting left plenty to be desired. Corinne Hall managed to bring their total to a respectable mark of 115, but their top order’s constant run-scoring issues mean that their lower order are being relied on far too heavily.
Melbourne’s spin-first approach worked wonders again, with their four spinners combining for 4/67 off 13 overs.
The chase couldn’t have started any better, with Molineux smashing consecutive boundaries off the first two deliveries of the match. She ended up scoring 14 runs in an eventful first over but holed out to deep mid-wicket on the last ball of the over. From there the Renegades never looked like losing, and they got the runs with eleven deliveries to spare.
Brisbane Heat v Adelaide Strikers
Harris and Dooley were again the stars with the bat for the Heat, who recorded a comfortable victory over Adelaide in Mackay.
Brisbane’s innings very much resembled their match earlier in the week against the Hurricanes, with Grace Harris hitting runs at the top of the order to set up the innings before Dooley finished it.
On paper, the Strikers bowling attack looks to be one of the most diverse and talented in the competition, but they have undoubtedly underperformed this season. Dani Hazell and Tahlia McGrath are both conceding over eight runs an over for the competition. Sarah Coyte has been economical but has taken just three wickets for the tournament.
It was the same old story with the bat for Adelaide, whose openers combined for a 75-run partnership before the rest of the order fell apart to end the innings on 7/117.
The composition of the squad has to be reassessed for next season, with some specialist batters desperately needed. While Tabatha Saville and Bridget Patterson are promising, neither of them look like being able to craft an innings of much significance, which leaves plenty of pressure on the openers.
Given that nearly their entire line-up can bowl, replacing a specialist bowler or two with top order batters would seem like a logical move.
Sydney Sixers v Perth Scorchers
It was a record-breaking day for Sixers’ skipper Ellyse Perry, who continued the most dominant WBBL season ever seen.
Her innings off 80 off 54 not out set up the match for the Sixers, but also saw her pass 50 for the sixth time this season – a feat never before achieved. To add to this, she also eclipsed Meg Lanning’s mark for most runs in a WBBL season, which was previously 560 in WBBL01. Perry currently has 617 runs with four matches to go. Healy and Gardner played handy supporting roles, and both passed 40.
Perry wasn’t done. She took new ball, got Amy Jones out in the second over of the match and backed it up by clean bowling Heather Graham for a golden duck. Perry’s captaincy was fantastic too, she was aggressive with her two strike bowlers (Marizanne Kapp and herself), with both opening bowlers bowling three overs in the PowerPlay.
As if she hadn’t done enough, Perry’s golden day continued when she dismissed Lauren Ebsary with a direct hit run out.
A defiant knock by Aussie skipper Meg Lanning – a knock that felt somewhat like an answer to Perry’s incredible form – kept the Scorchers in the game, but she had little help, with Mathilda Carmichael second top scoring with 19.
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars
It was a see-sawing, low scoring affair at Bankstown Oval, but Nicola Carey stamped herself as a world-class player.
The Thunder’s innings went slowly, with all of the top order struggling. Naomi Stalenberg made 21 but it took 30 balls, and after fifteen overs the Thunder had just 74 runs on the board.
When Carey and Rachel Trenaman came together, the Thunder’s innings shifted gears, with Carey dominating the bowlers on her way to 39 off 32 not out. After a slow start, Trenaman showed some signs and struck two boundaries. The Thunder ended up scoring 25 runs off the last two overs, which proved crucial in the end.
The Stars have been heavily reliant on their openers all season, and when they struggled in this innings, the Thunder took control. Lizelle Lee scored slowly and was dismissed as soon as Maisy Gibson was introduced into the attack.
At 1/69, the Stars were cruising, but from there they lost 8/48 in a collapse that has become all too familiar for them this season. A theme of this tournament has been that the successful teams have had batting depth, and the unsuccessful teams have not.
This was never more prevalent than this match, with Sydney’s number seven top scoring for the match, and Melbourne’s numbers four through eleven combining for just 35 runs.
Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Renegades
The second Mackay match didn’t go quite as well for the Heat, who went down to the in-form Renegades.
Once again, Molineux showed her class at the top of the order, scoring another half-century in a handy partnership with Danni Wyatt. That partnership set up the innings for the Renegades and allowed Amy Satterthwaite and Jess Duffin to tee off at the end of the innings.
Lea Tahuhu was the star with the ball, and her extra pace and ability to shape the ball away clearly troubled the Heat batters. The Renegades showed their versatility, and it was the quicks who took the majority of the wickets, with Maitlan Brown taking three of her own, including Beth Mooney, who was threatening to take the match away from the Renegades with 44 at the top of the order.
Sune Luus made 17 from number ten and pushed her case for a promotion – a move that would seemingly make sense given that she has nine international half centuries and bats in the top five for South Africa.
The Renegades have stormed into the top four after winning their last four matches, and look to be a good chance to make the finals after a 2-4 start.