The WBBL semi-finals are set, and the Sydney Sixers will take on the Melbourne Renegades, and the Sydney Thunder will take on the Brisbane Heat, with both matches at Drummoyne Oval on Saturday.
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Renegades
It was a high-quality match-up at Spotless Stadium, with two teams that are peaking at the right stage of the season facing off.
The Thunder won the toss and elected to bowl, but it was the Renegades who got off to a fast start, with Sophie Molineux and Danni Wyatt finding the boundary early.
Molineux hit the first six of the innings in the fifth over with a lusty blow over long on, but the very next ball she found herself heading back to the dressing room after trying to replicate the shot and holing out to Nicola Carey.
That didn’t stop Wyatt, though, who built up another partnership with fellow International Amy Satterthwaite. While they had wickets in hand, the Renegades were struggling to keep the scoreboard going, and after 13 overs, they were scoring at just over a run a ball.
The Thunder’s tight bowling continued, and the Renegades weren’t able to capitalise on the wickets in hand, making a slightly below par total of 139.
After a successful season for the top order, it was good to see Alex Blackwell hit the match winning knock, with a dominant 66 off 48 not out. In a throwback innings, she showed her class, hitting plenty of drives down the ground.
Alex Blackwell fires a fours straight back over the bowler's head 🔥 #ThunderNation pic.twitter.com/JvOlvtUYNW— Sydney Thunder WBBL (@ThunderWBBL) January 8, 2019
She hit the winning runs with a six over long on to cap off a whirlwind innings, which put her side on top of the table.
Adelaide Strikers v Hobart Hurricanes
The Strikers prevailed in the second super over match of the season, and once again, it was Suzie Bates who starred.
Bates and Tahlia McGrath put on 105 for the second wicket, and it was actually McGrath who was the aggressor, smashing nine fours and two sixes in her 63 off 42. After a relatively down season for McGrath, it was fantastic to see her back in the runs after being elevated to first drop again.
Let's just take a moment to admire this MONSTER 6⃣ from Tahlia McGrath 😱 #BlueEnergy #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/dldZXSNxlm— AdelaideStrikersWBBL (@StrikersWBBL) January 9, 2019
Once McGrath was dismissed, Bates took over and closed the innings, with the Strikers scoring 45 runs off the last 14 balls, with 41 of those being scored by Devine, who came tantalisingly close to a century, ending on 99 not out.
189 was always going to be tough to chase, but Smriti Mandhana put Hobart in a great position with a whirlwind 52 off 25 at the top of the order.
Georgia Redmayne made an unbeaten half-century in the middle order with some help from Sasha Moloney and Veronica Pyke, and the Hurricanes looked as if they were going to pull off an improbable victory when they needed eight to win off the final over.
Two wickets in the first two balls swung the odds in the Strikers’ favour, and going into the final ball, Hobart needed four to tie. Tailender Katelyn Fryett was on strike and slapped a four through point to send the match to a super over.
Smriti Mandhana hit a six, and Hobart ended their over at 1/12, but it wasn’t nearly enough, because Sophie Devine chased it down in just three deliveries, hitting two sixes and a four.
The two teams met again the following day, and once again the Strikers were successful. McGrath continued her hot finish to the tournament, scoring 65 off just 39 deliveries. Devine and Suzie Bates both passed 30 at the top of the order to set up a fantastic platform for Adelaide.
Is it a bird?— AdelaideStrikersWBBL (@StrikersWBBL) January 9, 2019
Is it a plane?
No, it's @sophdevine77! 😇 #BlueEnergy #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/GJGMScIxjN
These two matches showed the value of top order runs for a thin batting line-up like the Strikers, who should certainly be looking to acquire some middle order batters for next season.
Hobart’s disappointing season continued, and despite Heather Knight scoring a half-cenutry, they fell 25 runs short in a chase that never truly threatened Adelaide’s total.
Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Stars
The Melbourne Stars were disappointing, but the Heat were clinical in a comfortable win at the Gabba.
Sammy-Jo Johnson and Jess Jonassen were the standouts for the Heat, with Johnson picking up the first three wickets and Jonassen cleaning up the middle order. Delissa Kimmince cleaned up the tail with three wickets in the last over.
The Sammy-Jo special! 💪#WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/PyfygUFLYA— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) January 10, 2019
The Stars were poor with the bat, but the most disappointing part of their innings was the lack of intent. They’d settle for singles when twos were possible, and they didn’t look to dominate the bowling at all.
With the bat, Johnson and Jonassen were the stars once again, with both facing just fourteen deliveries, making 30 and 34 not out respectively. It took the heat just 8.4 overs to chase down the runs.
Adelaide Strikers v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide continued their strong finish to the season with a win over Perth in the first match of a doubleheader for these two sides.
Unsurprisingly, it was Devine who provided the fireworks for Adelaide, smashing 59 off 48 at the top of the order. This time Bridget Patterson provided the support, hitting three sixes of her own in an aggressive knock.
Sophie Devine is just smashing runs for fun this summer 💁♀️— AdelaideStrikersWBBL (@StrikersWBBL) January 12, 2019
Highlights from @sophdevine77's latest 5⃣0⃣ 👇 #BlueEnergy #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/qtxUdYBFoG
At the halfway point, the Scorchers would have fancied their chances given that their top order have such big names, but it was the Strikers that struck early, with Megan Schutt dismissing Meg Lanning in the first over.
When Elyse Villani and Chloe Piparo were also dismissed in the powerplay, and Amy Jones followed soon after, it was clear that Adelaide would cruise to a comfortable victory.
The second fixture between these two teams panned out differently, with Perth cruising to a comfortable win.
This time the Scorchers got Devine early, with Hayley Jensen cramping up Devine, who tried to cut a ball too close to her off stump and picked out Lauren Ebsary at backward point.
Everyone made a start for Adelaide, but no one converted their start into a big score. Amanda-Jade Wellington, who has struggled with the bat this tournament, contributed 30 off just 12 deliveries to boost Adelaide’s total to 140.
It was a dominant chase from Perth, with openers Amy Jones and Lanning putting on an unbeaten 144.
Meg Lanning notches up her fifth fifty of the season, getting there off 30 balls!— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) January 13, 2019
Always a pleasure to watch the #MEGastar in action! 💪 #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/CVwRDcEBu1
Jones was the first to accelerate, smashing a six and two fours in the fourth over. From there both players seemingly tried to keep pace with each other, and both ended on 70 not out, chasing down the total with 3.2 overs to spare.
Melbourne Renegades v Hobart Hurricanes
The Renegades secured their place in the finals by defeating bottom feeders Hobart in a tightly contested encounter in St Kilda.
Satterthwaite was the star for Melbourne, hitting 66 off 57 in her most important knock of the tournament, while Duffin provided support with 30 off 22. With Molineux and Wyatt also having played crucial knocks for the Renegades recently, their top order looks to be in good form heading into the finals.
CLUTCH! @SophieMolineux1 pic.twitter.com/6R7IVFtpeP— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) January 12, 2019
Alex Hartley picked up 3/21 off four overs, including Wyatt for a golden duck.
It was a strange chase from Hobart, who looked to have the match in the bag after a strong start from Mandhana (26 off 26) and Erin Fazackerley (52 off 41) but ended up falling three runs short after a flow of wickets at the end halted their momentum.
Lea Tahuhu proved tough to get away, taking 1/18 off her four overs. Going into the final over, Hobart needed nine to win, but Molly Strano held her nerve with the ball and Melbourne got over the line.
Brisbane Heat v Sydney Thunder
The Heat won the semi-final preview on the back of a classic Beth Mooney century.
How good is this!!! 🙌#BringTheHeat #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/RvRtqh95LZ— Brisbane Heat WBBL (@HeatWBBL) January 12, 2019
The Thunder’s innings was anchored by Rachael Haynes, who batted 18 overs for her 57 off 51 while other batters teed off around her. Rachel Priest started the trend by smashing a nine-ball 21, while Stefanie Taylor slogged 43 off 23 to end the innings.
From there, it was the Mooney show, as they Heat and Australian opener put a lean season behind her with a maiden WBBL century. Her century came off just 55 deliveries and included 14 fours and a six.
Harmanpreet Kaur went from hero to villain within the space of two overs. She dismissed Mooney in the seventeenth over, which looked to put the Thunder in the box seat, but then conceded 13 runs in the nineteenth over, leaking two fours and bowling a costly no ball.
The Heat will take plenty of confidence out of this victory going into Saturday’s semi-final, but the Thunder will be confident too, knowing that if they can get Mooney and Grace Harris out early, they’re a massive chance of dismissing the Heat for a low total.
Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Sixers
In what was a fascinating piece of scheduling, both of the semi-finals played off in regular season matches just days prior to the semi-finals.
The Sixers won the toss and batted, and as has been the case so often this tournament, Ellyse Perry was amongst the runs.
5️⃣0️⃣ @EllysePerry carried her bat for the 5th time this season! 💪— Sydney Sixers WBBL (@SixersWBBL) January 13, 2019
She's now scored 684 runs in @WBBL|04 at a Bradmanesque average of 97.71 🤯#smashemsixers #WBBL04 pic.twitter.com/WCpfiqYtEy
She batted through the innings for her 67 off 62 not out, and her innings was more reminiscent of last season, when she was tasked with anchoring the innings and accelerating late. She is now the first player to reach 2000 Big Bash runs.
Erin Burns was outstanding at the other end, smashing 53 off 37 not out, which allowed Perry to work her way into her innings.
Lea Tahuhu once again was brilliant with the ball, ending with 2/7 off four overs, including two maidens.
The Renegades struggled mightily in their chase, losing constant wickets and never getting ahead of the run rate. Marizanne Kapp, Perry, Dane van Niekerk and Gardner combined for 5/48 off 12 overs and showed the value of having world class bowlers in a T20 side.
Duffin provided some resilience with the bat, scoring a run a ball 39, but if the Renegades are to challenge the Sixers in the semi-final, they’ll need much more from their batters.