|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!
Sydney Thunder do look the most impressive side apart from a Perry-inspired Sixers. Without Perry, the rest of the Sixers are actually under-performing. Thunder’s performances have been more consistent and they look like the side to beat for me.
Strikers are seriously missing Tammy Beaumont at the top of the order. Unless they get off to a good start with Bates and Devine, it’s hard to see them getting too many runs with players like McGrath looking out of form. Their bowling attack is good, but the side looks unbalanced as it is.
The most unexpectedly impressive sides are Heat and Stars. Stars seem to be quite good at chasing. And Heat especially, performing very well twice against the Sixers with a fairly narrow loss in the first game, and then absolutely marmalising Sixers in the second. That was a huge defeat and Sixers looked very vulnerable when Perry (for once) actually lost her wicket. They must be concerned about that. Sammy-Jo Johnson is obviously a good player, and one with an incredible back-story, but you’d think Sixers would have worked out a way to stifle her – she seems very leg-side and front-foot dominant. So Heat could well qualify this time, I can see them putting in a decent challenge and they have the squad to cause a few more upsets yet.
Scorchers have batted quite disappointingly too often for me. Lanning is obviously a great but is she the player who can inject some much needed urgency into their order? She, like Villani and Bolton, often starts slowly and that slow start can last a bit too long sometimes. It’s in the balance if they will be able to keep their qualification spot. Renegades look OK, with 2 games in hand over some sides they might work their way up into mid-table as well.
From the English players, Knight and Wyatt have been in good form. Cross has played quite well too, and Jones at times. I think Elwiss will have wanted to do better. Hartley has been expensive too, likewise not helped by some poor fielding and catching from her teammates, although she will be satisfied to be one of the few bowlers to have actually dismissed Perry this WBBL. Perry’s weakness if any seems to be against spin, when facing pace she is imperious.
A couple of thoughts:
1) The bat has dominated the ball to a much greater extent in WBBL04. So I’d expect sides to start investing in wrist spinners who bowl more quickly in an effort to change that: more Georgia Warehams and fewer Amanda-Jade Wellingtons, much as I like the latter’s bowling. Pace has also made a bit of a comeback this season – Lea Tahuhu been much more effective since Christmas.
2) In the second half of the season, the emergence of good young local players down the order has made a big difference to two sides: Josie Doolan for the Brisbane Heat and Courtney Webb for the Melbourne Renegades. I’m far from the first to say this, but the WBBL seems to be doing a better job than the KSL at turning promising domestic players into internationals, with the notable and very welcome exception of Sophia Dunkley.
1) Pace bowling does seem to be back in fashion – the Renegades are leading the way, and that game against Heat really showed how it could be economical AND wicket-taking. Tahuhu was rapid and Maitlan Brown is like a little version of Perry, with her bowling.
2) That would be expected seeing how much more of the WBBL there has been compared to KSL – more seasons, more teams, more matches. CA is putting more investment into women’s cricket, but the truth was, they didn’t really need to to be up there with the best. Will BCCI and/or ECB, their closest rivals, follow suit? ECB’s recent financial problems exacerbated by wasting money on the 100, suggest they won’t be able to yet. I agree though, Dooley and Webb do appear to be very good, although still some way from Aussie selection I’d guess.