PS – If you’ve got any questions for us for our End of Year Vodcast, please post them in Have Your Say below!
|1. Sydney Thunder||7||6||1||0||12|
|2. Sydney Sixers||7||5||2||0||10|
|3. Brisbane Heat||7||4||3||0||8|
|4. Perth Scorchers||8||4||4||0||8|
|5. Melbourne Stars||8||4||4||0||8|
|6. Adelaide Strikers||7||2||4||1||5|
|7. Melbourne Renegades||6||2||3||1||5|
|8. Hobart Hurricanes||8||1||7||0||2|
With Christmas falling at pretty much the mid-point in the WBBL, we take a look at who has been good… and who is on Santa’s “Naughty List”!
With just one defeat – to the Sixers – the Thunder sit atop the tree on Christmas Day. They have been professional, rather than spectacular – perhaps indicated by the fact that their star player has been Stafanie Taylor… with the ball! Taylor has taken 14 wickets at a respectable 6.92, and has also done a job with the bat, coming in down the order and finishing Not Out in 4 of 7 innings.
After her incredible run of form at the World Twenty20, and an opening-day 70, Alyssa Healy has subsequently had a bit of a slump with a run of low scores; but the reason the Sixers were favourites wasn’t that they had Healy – it was that they had Healy and Perry and Gardner and van Niekerk and Kapp and… you get the idea! And whereas the Thunder have been clinical, the Sixers have sparkled, especially Ellyse Perry. With 2 centuries and 3 further fifties, the Player of the Tournament is probably already decided – the only question is whether Perry will get a winner’s medal to go with it.
Unloved and unfancied… at least by us in our preview… the Heat have upset some apple carts to sit third – on Net Run Rate, but with a game in hand over the Scorchers and the Stars. They have been helped by a couple of outstanding one-off displays – Grace Harris’s 101* against the Stars will be the one that goes down in the record books, but Sammy-Jo Johnson almost single-handedly beating the Sixers, with 51 runs with the bat and then 3-23 with the ball, was actually the bigger performance. However, consistency is going to be their issue during the run-in.
The Scorchers have to be disappointed with only 4 wins from 8, with Heather Graham’s comp-leading 15 wickets only partly compensating for some disappointing performances with the bat. To be fair, the injury to Meg Lanning, which led to her missing 5 matches, didn’t help things. With Lanning back and in-form, scoring 75 off 50 balls to beat the Renegades with some g-force acceleration at the back-end of the innings, the Scorchers should pick things up from here and cruise through to the knock-outs. Should!
The Stars may have been laid waste by “Bomber” Harris, but they have actually done okay overall. Veteran captain Erin Osborne has led from the front with wickets and runs, while Lizelle Lee scored a match-winning hundred to beat the Sixers, and probably has another couple of big scores in her before we’re done. The crucial player for them could be their other South African, Mignon du Preez. She is not, and never will be, a “Bosher”, but she seems to have found a way to play T20 cricket at this WBBL, taking the boundaries where she can and still running hard between the wickets – averaging 30 at a really useful Strike Rate of 128, she is giving them the backbone they will need if they are to push on.
The question for the Strikers was always going to be whether a great bowling attack was enough, when your batting tail starts at 3 – the answer so far has been a qualified “No!” Sophie Devine has been outstanding, averaging 50 with the bat, but it hasn’t been enough, and their bowlers are struggling to make up the difference – Devine is their leading wicket-taker, with 8, but she has been expensive, while the likes of Megan Schutt and Sarah Coyte aren’t making enough of an impact in the wickets column to really peg anyone back. They could still pull through, of course… but I wouldn’t bet money on it. (Sorry Raf!)
The Renegades problem has been runs on the board – Danni Wyatt has been in reasonable nick, as she usually is in Australia when the ball is coming on to the bat, but even she hasn’t really been laying on the fireworks. Wyatt aside, only Amy Satterthwaite has scored more than 100 runs for the Renegades so far… and Satterthwaite only just, with 115! With the ball, the notable performer has been Georgia Wareham – she has only taken 3 wickets, but at an Economy Rate of under 5, to which no one else in WBBL is even close!
The positive for the Hurricanes is that they’ve had some close games. But unfortunately not close enough to actually get more than the solitary win on the board. Heather Knight and Smriti Mandhana have hit enough runs to keep the wolf of embarrassment from the door; but they have been poor with the ball and their fielding has been terrible, bordering on amateur at times. Surrey Stars coach Richard Bedbrook has been now flown out to Hobart to try to rescue something for the ‘Canes from the season – we wish him luck… he is going to need it!
The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India by Sidhanta Patnaik & Karunya Keshav
At the Women’s World Cup Final between England and India in July 2017, we were privileged to share the press box with three wonderful colleagues from India, two of whom have now collaborated on a new book recounting the history of women’s cricket in India, from the founding of the first modern teams in the early 70s, through to that dramatic day at Lord’s.
The story they tell begins, like the finest post-modern novel, near the end – with Harmanpreet’s remarkable 171 not out in the semi-final against Australia – before, with little pause for breath, we are whisked back nearly 50 years to the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association of India by a group of girls who, long before Cyndi Lauper, just wanted to have fun.
Sidhanta and Karunya proceed to take us on a 500-page journey – from the early days of travel by second-class train ticket, playing at third-class grounds in front of a handful of spectators; to flying business class to compete at global tournaments, cheered on by a TV audience of millions.
The tale is engagingly told through the eyes of the key protagonists – the players and administrators – many of whose stories are set down here on record for perhaps the first time. The borrowed bats and the dormitory pranks are one thing; but the authors don’t shy away from the more difficult issues, such as how one deals with one’s period in the middle of a vital match.
It is a book for the reader, rather than the statistician or the academic historian – matches are recounted more by a shot remembered here, or a ball recalled there, rather than with the clinical details of a traditional report. Sometimes reading a cricket book can feel like a drowning by numbers, but this book takes a more anecdotal – more human – approach; and is all the better for it.
Controversies, such as the 1986 tour to England, when a diplomatic incident was created as India slowed their rate to a 7-overs-an-hour crawl in pursuit of a draw in the first Test, are dealt with in a balanced manner – and notably more equitably than they have been in English print, where the Indians have been accused of “[playing] the diva card to new extremes” to quote just one example!
If there is one small criticism it might be that the writers are a little too ready to believe the propaganda of the other boards – particularly Cricket Australia and the ECB – that things are so much greener on the other side of the fence, compared to the privations endured over the years by the Indians – we have to tell you, they really aren’t!
English readers should also prepare themselves for a fair smattering of Hindi – it is (loosely) translated in-line, but it can be hard work nonetheless.
Overall though, The Fire Burns Blue remains a thoroughly affable read which deserves a place under your Christmas tree this season.