In the first few months of this calendar year, Meg Lanning and Racheal Haynes must have intricately planned against opposition teams and their batters in the lead-up to the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in Australia. However, on Saturday, two of the astute leaders in the women’s game will be up against each other as the Melbourne Stars take on the Sydney Thunder in the final of the 2020 Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).
WBBL 2020: Three player battles that could decide the game
After a month of exciting action encompassing 58 gruelling matches, two of the most consistent teams in WBBL 2020 take on each other in the summit clash.
With plenty of international stars in action along with a bevvy of domestic talent, a few player match-ups could decide the outcome of the game. On that note, let us take a look at three potentially key player battles in this all-important clash:
#1 Meg Lanning (Melbourne Stars) vs Shabnim Ismail (Sydney Thunder)
Meg Lanning is one of the key players for the Melbourne Stars heading into the WBBL 2020 final. The right-handed batter has scored 458 runs in 13 games and only trails Beth Mooney in the tournament's run-scoring charts.
The 28-year-old has shouldered the responsibility of anchoring the Stars innings and has managed to single-handedly guide them over the line on many occasions. Along with Elyse Villani, the duo has forged a formidable opening partnership in the sixth edition of the WBBL.
However, the final match could pose a different challenge altogether for the Stars: Shabnim Ismail, who is likely to open with the new ball for the Thunder.
The right-arm pacer has been the standout bowler for the Sydney outfit in the WBBL this season, picking up 12 wickets. With plenty of experience at the international level, Ismail has brought her experience to the fore, bowling accurate line-and-length deliveries while surprising the batters with a quick short one.
Ismail's opening spell against Lanning could be crucial, as the latter's wicket early on in the Stars innings could put The Thunder in the ascendancy.
#2 Heather Knight (Sydney Thunder) vs Alana King (Melbourne Stars)
The skipper of the England team, Heather Knight, is the leading run-scorer for the Sydney Thunder in WBBL 2020, with 403 runs in 14 games. Coming in to bat at number three, Knight has been one of the mainstays in the batting unit of the Thunder along with Rachael Haynes.
With the coveted WBBL trophy eluding the Thunder in the past four seasons, the 2020 final could provide Knight the ideal opportunity to score big and get her team over the finish line.
However, the right-handed Knight will have her task cut out, as she will be up against the young and promising leg-spinner Alana King. The 25-year-old was the 'Player of the Game' in the Stars' semi-final win against Perth Scorchers, where she took three key wickets.
By bowling slow and spinning the ball away from right-handers, King has reaped rich rewards for her consistency in attacking the stumps. Along with Erin Osborne, she could be the key bowler for the Stars in the middle overs.
#3 Natalie Sciver (Melbourne Stars) vs Hannah Darlington (Sydney Thunder)
One of the most valuable players in WBBL 2020, Natalie Sciver has been outstanding for the Stars in all three departments of the game. Apart from her hard-hitting abilities in the middle order, the England allrounder is currently the highest wicket-taker in the competition with 19 wickets in 13 games.
While Sciver played an unbeaten knock of 47 runs in the first semi-final, she will be up against the medium pace of Hannah Darlington in the final. The 18-year-old was the 'Player of the Game' in the second semi-final for her exploits of three for 19 that helped the Thunder register a 12-run victory.
Darlington would look to bowl fuller length deliveries consistently and attack the stumps in her bid to pick up the prized scalp of Natalie Sciver.