The Sydney Thunder registered a comfortable seven-wicket victory over the Melbourne Stars to win the sixth edition of the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) at the North Sydney Oval.
While two of the most consistent teams in the competition locked horns for the summit clash, the final game proved to be a one-sided contest with the Thunder clearly dominating from the get-go.
The Thunder bowling unit sets the tone for the win in the finals
The Melbourne Stars elected to bat first after winning the bat flip in the all-important contest. The nerves of playing their first-ever finals of the WBBL was evident as the Stars struggled to get going in the initial overs.
Despite having the first crack with the bat at the surface for the WBBL finals, the batting line up failed to absorb the pressure, and the magnitude of the occasion just got the better of them.
The Sydney Thunder has the most experienced bowler Shabnim Ismail operating with the new ball. Along with Sammy-Jo Johnson, the duo wrecked through the top order of the Stars in the first ten overs of the WBBL final.
Despite a couple of dropped chances in the field, the Sydney outfit managed to scalp the important wickets of Vilani and Mignon du Preez in the powerplay. However, the highlight of the WBBL final was clearly the use of Shabnim Ismail by the Thunder in this epic clash.
Rachael Haynes is regarded as one of the astute leaders in the women's game, and this game proved exactly that. With the powerplay done and dusted, the skipper had the option of saving Shabnim Ismail for the back end of the innings.
However, with Meg Lanning in the middle, her wicket early in the innings would dent the Stars further and this prompted Haynes to give the South African fast bowler another over.
This move proved to be a masterstroke as she got the all-important scalp of the Australian skipper off the very first delivery. The Stars never really recovered from this early jolt, and were four down for 36 runs in the first ten overs.
With their international stars back in the pavilion, it was downhill for the Stars thereafter. Despite a patient 22 from Katherine Brunt down the order, the team could only manage a below-par score of 86 runs for the loss of nine wickets in the WBBL final.
A disciplined bowling effort from the Thunder led by Ismail and Johnson scripted an exceptional effort in the first innings. While Johnson is the leading wicket-taker of the competition with 20 wickets, support from Sam Bates and Hannah Darlington has helped the Thunder dent the opposition in the middle overs.
Chasing 87 runs for the coveted title, Thunder started in a commanding fashion with Rachel Trenaman leading the charge with 23 runs off 26 balls. With three wickets down for 54 runs, it was all on the shoulder of Heather Knight and Rachael Haynes to take the team through the finish line.
The duo, with years of international experience, forged a crucial unbeaten partnership of 33 runs for the fourth wicket to help the team win their second WBBL title.
WBBL 2020, Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Thunder: Who was the player of the match in the final?
Shabnim Ismail has been one of the most consistent performers for the Sydney Thunder in the WBBL. With an immense amount of experience at the top level, Ismail started the innings by bowling a disciplined line and length.
Pitching it fuller than usual, she made optimum use of the conditions on offer and troubled the batters with her swing.
The 32-year-old bowled her full quota of four overs on the trot and rattled the Stars with two big wickets of Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning early in the innings.
She was deservedly named as the player of the match for the WBBL final due to her exploits, bagging two wickets for 12 runs in the summit clash.