The Sydney Thunder registered a 12 run victory over the defending champions Brisbane Heat in the second semi-finals of the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) at the North Sydney Oval ground.
Featuring two of the most consistent teams in this edition of the WBBL, the match lived up to all the hype and excitement. The game went all the way down to the wire, with the Thunder edging past their arch-rivals courtesy of an unbeaten knock of 48 runs from their skipper, Rachael Haynes.
Rachael Haynes and bowlers set up the win for the Sydney Thunder in the WBBL semi-final
The Thunder were put in to bat by Jess Jonassen on a sluggish wicket at the North Sydney Oval in the WBBL match. The ball tends to hold on to the surface in the first innings, making it difficult for the batting side.
Regardless of the pitch, Tammy Beaumont started off the innings for the Thunders in a commanding fashion, scoring 27 runs off 20 overs. Despite the blazing start by the England opener, the reigning champions managed to bounce back by scalping two crucial wickets in the powerplay, mainly due to their exceptional fielding.
With the experienced duo of Heather Knight and Rachael Haynes joining forces in the middle, the bowling unit of the Heat were accurate with their line and length, giving very little away. They put on 27 runs for the third wicket before Knight was caught at covers for 17 runs off 22 balls.
The wicket proved to be massive considering the form the England skipper was in leading up to this game. The right-hander is the highest run-scorer for the team with 403 runs in the 14 league games of the competition.
However, it did not deter the experienced Haynes at the other end. The left-hander went about her business with absolute calmness, picking up ones and the twos before launching an attack in thefinal couple of overs.
She finished the innings unbeaten on 48 off 44 balls with four boundaries and one massive hit over the fence. Her impetus in the back end of the innings helped the Thunders reach a fighting total of 143 runs for the loss of six wickets, making their stand to reach the WBBL final.
Chasing 144 runs for a place in the WBBL finals, Heat started the innings steadily with Nadine de Klerk and Jess Jonassen putting on 46 runs for the third wicket.
However, the wickets of Jonassen and de Klerk in the span of six deliveries dented the reigning champions in their run chase. While the skipper was undone by the lack of pace from Hannah Darlington, the South African all-rounder was caught short of her crease courtesy of a beauty from Beaumont from the point region.
Despite the runout, the Heat were well and truly on course to enter their third WBBL final with 26 runs needed in the last five overs with six wickets in hand. However, the 16th over of the innings proved to be the turning point of the game with two crucial run-outs for the Girls in Green.
The pressure of the run chase is always very different especially in the WBBL knockout games and with a flurry of wickets in the end overs, the Heat eventually fell short by 12 runs.
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The two-time champions will be guilty of creating an unnecessary panic situation in the back end of the innings. Despite Laura Kimmince's attacking knock of 37 runs, they losing five wickets for 10 runs in the space of 16 deliveries.
Hannah Darlington, the right-arm medium pacer was the wrecker in chief as she first picked up the prized wicket of the skipper, Jess Jonassen, before returning with the ball in the 18th over.
Bowling an accurate line and length, Darlington was rewarded for her ploy of keeping it full and attacking the stumps in the end overs. She picked up two crucial wickets of Charli Knott and Georgia Prestwidge off consecutive deliveries to help the Thunders inch closer to the victory.
Her exploits of three wickets for 19 runs helped the Thunder storm their way into the finals of the sixth edition of the WBBL. The 18-year-old is deservedly the player of the match for her performance in the second semi-finals.