CHANNEL 7 – THE HOME OF WOMEN’S CRICKET
Unless it coincides with the golf.
After a season of more big strides for the WBBL, the two best teams of this season in the Heat and Strikers played off for the Big Bash title, and unsurprisingly, the best team of WBBL 05, who were also the best team of WBBL 04, came through with flying colours.
If you ask me, one thing seemed to separate the Heat and Strikers from everyone else – When their top performers stumbled, they had the depth to fill in.
So that said, time to complete this two-part affair I’ve created, and have a look at the 4 finalists from WBBL 05.
Brisbane Heat (12-4, Champs)
After claiming that breakthrough title in WBBL 04, Peter McGiffin stood down as coach, to be replaced by former Bulls stalwart Ashley Noffke (Remember when he made an Ashes squad?), and the Banana Benders retained the core of their title-winning team, while still being able to improve their playing stocks by bringing in Kiwi internationals Amelia Kerr and Maddy Green, who spent most of the tournament disproving those dodgy scientists who say Kiwis can’t fly.
Once again, aside from Kirby Short’s rock-steady captaincy, the champs were led superbly all tournament by Beth Mooney, who posted some 743 runs, including 9 half-centuries, finishing runner-up to Sophie Devine as the Player of the Tournament, Jess Jonassen took 22 wickets, also earning her a spot in the team of the year, with Sammy-Jo Johnson and Delissa Kimmince’s 18 and 17 wickets, plus the Harris sisters, forming the Heat into the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife of a team.
Despite starting a relatively simple 2-3 after 5 games, the quality shone through, the team figured out playing the double-headers new to this standalone Big Bash, and proved even better than last season, winning 8 of their last 9 matches, and claiming home-field advantage on the last day of the season with a rain affected win over the Stars in Melbourne, combined with the Sixers knocking off the Strikers.
Considering what happened this weekend, that match in Sydney was a forgotten pivotal moment in the outcome of the season, as history shows that regardless of ball sport, Queensland teams have proven hard to beat in the Tropics when it comes to the crunch.
This is now the part where you bring up the Brisbane Lions losing 2 finals at home this past AFL season.
In the semi final against the Renegades at a sold out Captain Grumpy Field, the Heat followed the trend of the current WBBL by choosing to bowl first, and watching as the Renegades posted a somewhat formidable 162 in a knockout final.
The Heat said ‘Hold my XXX’, and used the strength of their batting depth to mow down the target with 2 overs to spare, thanks to Jess Jonassen and Grace Harris combining for an 80 run stand off only 44 balls, after Jonassen had taken out the dangerous Jess Duffin right at the end of the ‘Gades innings, which in all, earned her player of the match honours.
The previous best chase by any team in a knockout WBBL final was 132 by the Heat in last year’s Final – Not only did they shatter that record, they made it look pretty bloody casual, which was a sign of just how good they were all season.
In the Final against the Strikers, the final hurdle in the charge to Back2Back titles followed pretty much the same story as Saturday’s semi – Bowled first, conceded around the 160 run mark, and mowed it down by keeping the run rate high.
The highlight of the chase was pretty darn simple – Sammy-Jo being promoted up the order, and providing a cameo of 4 sixes in an over off Devine, who did dismiss Johnson, but considering the Kiwi went for 46 off 3 overs, the damage was irrevocably done.
The big sub-plot of today’s Final was the battle between the two best players of WBBL 05 – Devine in the blue corner, and Mooney in the teal corner.
Given Mooney was once again named the Player of the Final with an unbeaten 56, compared to Devine’s 1 and 1/43, the Aussie won that fight in a knockout, and continued her remarkable record against the Strikers.
Those ladies probably sleep with the light on because of Beth.
By winning the Final, the Heat finished WBBL 05 with a perfect record when batting second – 8 wins from as many attempts, and if you include the end of last season, they’ve won their 10 matches when batting second.
The balance has well and truly shifted in the Women’s Big Bash – The Sixers are no longer the benchmark team – The Heat are.
Adelaide Strikers (Runners-Up, 11-5)
After not really doing much for the first 4 seasons of the WBBL, the Strikers brought in Luke Williams as coach, and crucially to their season, retained the services of the Kiwi Smash Sisters – Suzie Bates, and the Angel Devine, who is apparently named Sophie.
By far, Devine was not only the Strikers’ best player, but was rightfully named Player of The Tournament, finishing on 769 runs, just 8 short of Ellyse Perry’s record from last season, and picking up a team-best 19 wickets with the ball.
Given she’s been there for 5 seasons, why not just rename the team the Adelaide Devine?
It does make you forget that the Strikers also signed West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor as a marquee player, but because of scheduling conflicts, she was nothing more than a myth, with the marquee spot mostly filled by England’s Lauren Winfield.
A Winfield in Blue… I’m surprised British American Tobacco weren’t on the phone to say thanks.
So, led by Devine and a host of others like the world’s best T20I bowler in Megan ‘Not That’ Schutt, the Strikers were very consistent throughout the season, winning 6 games in a row and sitting on top with a game to come against the Perry-less Sixers, the day after utterly demolishing the Sydneysiders by restricting them to 93, and ending their season.
Anyway, the Sixers batted first, posted 177, won by 14 runs, and ensured everyone headed up to Brisbane for finals weekend.
Yep, once again, that didn’t matter at all.
Taking on the Scorchers in the semi, the umpires really should have stepped in and awarded the Croweaters the victory the moment Devine and Alex Price combined to remove Meg Lanning for 1, because the Strikers weren’t losing from that moment, chasing down the paltry 127-run target with 8 wickets in hand, thanks to Devine’s unbeaten 65.
It was like watching Australia play India many moons ago, and the air being sucked out of the balloon the moment Sachin was dismissed.
The same thing would seemingly befall the Strikers in the Final against the Heat, when Devine fell for 5 only 8 balls in (And missed out on the run-scoring record), it felt like a hair pull to the Strikers’ hopes of glory, although to the credit of the rest of the team, especially Amanda Wellington’s rapid 55 off 33, they did reach 161, and gave the Heat something to chase.
Despite a fairly decent total in a cut-throat match (Sticking to the throy of scoring runs in a final), once Devine was force-fed a dose of her own medicine by Smokin’ Sammy-Jo Johnson with those 4 sixes in 5 balls, the Strikers, just like the Renegades, were never able to curtail the scoring rate, and were quite simply cut down by the better team with several overs remaining.
Despite the fact that the game was pretty much out of reach, some of those dropped catches and missed run-outs…. by jingoes.
A very good season by the Strikers, by far their best-ever, but they just ran into an elite team when it mattered most.
Perth Scorchers (3rd, 9-6)
I should savour this, because the Scorchers’ women could be the only Scorchers team to get a win this season, let alone appear in the finals.
After missing the finals for the first time in WBBL 04, the Scorchers appeared to be light on for batting depth following the loss of Ellyse Villani, but they still had the two aces in our national captain Meg Lanning and English opener Amy Jones, with the pair joined by another English international Nat Sciver, Jemma Barsby crossed over from the Heat’s title winning team, Georgia Redmayne took up the gloves, while Nicole Bolton and the recent Australian debutant (And last season’s leading wicker-taker) Heather Graham formed the bulk of the team.
But, stuff the majority of them, because the Scorchers’ performances seemed to boil down to how well Jones and Lanning went as an opening pair – When either player/both got a start, the Scorchers looked very good- Case in point, they beat the Heat in Brisbane by 9 wickets, Lanning dragged the team to a remarkable win in the D/L game against the Renegades, chasing 77 off 7 overs, the pair put on 141 against the Strikers in Adelaide in a narrow win, and after Jones departed for national duty, Lanning posted her maiden WBBL century against the Hurricanes, in the last game of the season.
On another note, after years of being lumped with the Melbourne Stars, this was the first season in which Lanning had appeared in the WBBL finals, despite her high-profile career.
I suppose we can’t all be Ellyse Perry.
But, in the games where both players were dismissed cheaply or couldn’t score ‘enough’ runs, it seemed like the team just didn’t have the depth to post a reasonable/defendable score, which is understandable, given it is the national captain… but still, there’s another 9 of you.
Aside from batting depth, the other problem with the line-up was that the Scorchers at times seemed to lack a good strike bowler, evidenced by them only taking more than 7 wickets in an innings only 3 times, and the fact that the only bowlers to finish with more than 10 wickets were Graham (15) and the Irishwoman from Ireland, Kim Garth, who claimed 14.
The other big problem was that they were due to lose Jones and Sciver to England duties before the semi final, and all these problems cultimated when the somewhat undermanned Scorchers lost Lanning very cheaply to a perfectly planned off-side trap, and outside of Redmayne and Barsby, nobody wearing orange could get something going, having lumped the failed hopes of the state on Meg’s repaired shoulders.
The team limped to 126, but it was never enough against a strong Strikers top order, led by Devine, who doused the Scorchers out of the comp with 8 wickets and 2 overs to spare.
Another solid season for the Scorchers without claiming the big one, as their coach Lisa Keightley departs to coach England’s women, and the recruitment focus goes on trying to hold on to their biggest marquee player in Lanning, given the Stars have already begun a concerted tampering effort to bring her back to the years of suffering she endured.
To use a classic Frankie Boyle gag, it’s like putting 18-inch rims on a wheelie bin.
Melbourne Renegades (4th, 8-7)
After losing to the Sixers in that utter miracle of a Semi Final in WBBL 04, the Renegades came in with a much improved squad – Jess Duffin was named captain, Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux received Cricket Australia contracts, earning them marquee status, Josie Dooley crossed from the Heat, and English star Tammy Beaumont was a promising import signing, which offset the loss of Tayla Vlaeminck, and Kiwi captain Amy Satterthwaite, who is currently on maternity leave.
Despite all of those positives, the ladies in red looked fairly average for the opening month of the season, sitting at a mere 2-4, and eventually 5-6, which included their epic last-ball revenge against the Sixers, and an inexplicable loss to their arch-rivals.
But, in the last 4 games, their batting unit, led by Jess Duffin (544 runs) and Danni Wyatt (468), really started cooking with propane and propane accessories, chasing down a WBBL record 183 against the Heat (The champs’ only loss after November 2nd), then chasing 163 against the Stars with a ball to spare, and easily defeating the Thunder on the final day to smuggle themselves into 4th spot.
This also came despite losing Molineux for the rest of the season, when she became the latest Australian cricketer to take time away from the game to deal with mental health issues.
With Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt also going away on England duty, the Renegades sent out a Princess Leia to Obi Wan style plea to Sri Lankan ace Chamari Athapaththu, who hit a standout century against the Aussies in that T20 series two months ago.
Chamari could only score a golden duck against the Thunder, which makes me question why they bothered, followed by a slightly better 21 in the semi-final.
After being sent in to bat by the Heat in the Semi Final in Brisbane, Dooley, Duffy and Wareham scored quickly in the back half of the innings to post a competitive 163, but, despite Molly Strano removing Maddy Green and Beth Mooney in consecutive balls in the 8th over, the ‘Gades just couldn’t stop the Heat’s batting depth from charging to victory with 11 balls to spare – A record chase for a WBBL finals match.
If there was a positive from a disappointing end to the season, Strano’s 4 wickets in the semi took her to 24 for the season, the most of any bowler in WBBL 05.
The ‘Gades clearly have the talent, but like quite a few teams, they just seem to lack the quality to look a serious hope of winning the title.