After a blockbuster opening round, the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL 04) got into full flow this past weekend with each team playing twice and a familiar look developing at the top of the table after three completed rounds.
Two-time defending champions, the Sydney Sixers, headlined by two outstanding performances from Ellyse Perry, overcame their first-up loss to the Melbourne Stars last weekend with consecutive wins over the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Thunder to get their campaign underway and move to the first place on the ladder. The Thunder, WBBL 01 champions, bounced back themselves by racking up a huge score against the Brisbane Heat, ensuring they also finished with two wins from three games to sit just behind the Sixers on the ladder.
With the power-packed Sydney teams starting to hit their stride, the Stars completed one win from two matches this past weekend to sit alongside the Thunder, whilst the Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades, who had a game washed out against each other, were joined by the Hobart Hurricanes, Heat and Strikers Women in all sharing a win apiece to date.
Whilst the first full round took place in Melbourne last week, normal service was resumed as the WBBL show was showcased from Burnie to Ballarat this past weekend. Here is how things panned out (Part I):
Match 5: Skipper Perry blazes Sixers to first victory
Perth Scorchers 167/9 (20 overs) (Jones 57, Bolton 40, Van Niekerk 3/32, Smith 2/12) lost to Sydney Sixers 171/4 (18.4 overs) (Perry 102*, Graham 2/33) by six wickets.
The reigning champions wouldn't have been happy to lose in the manner in which they did to the Stars last weekend and a brutal captain's knock more than atoned for it against the Scorchers in Sydney.
Set 167 to win, the Sixers lost the red-hot Alyssa Healy early in the chase. But last season's leading run-scorer Perry seemed content to do it all herself anyway, smashing 102 off 59 balls, which included 14 fours and two sixes. The Scorchers bowlers all took some punishment, including one Emma King over which Perry took for 17 runs. An unbeaten 67-run stand for the fifth wicket with Dane Van Niekerk (32 not out) saw the Sixers canter home by six wickets, with eight balls to spare.
Earlier on the Scorchers would have been disappointed not to have scored more than 166 after the platform set by captain Elyse Villani and wicket-keeper Amy Jones; the pair putting on 77 for the first wicket in just 46 balls. Englishwoman Jones was particularly severe, flaying 57 off 29 balls and setting the Scorchers alight. However, after her dismissal, the innings fell apart somewhat and despite a brisk 20 off 10 balls from Amy Cross and an anchoring role from Nicole Bolton, Perth could only manage 58 off the last nine overs. Van Niekerk complemented her later batting effort with a three-wicket haul.
Match 6: Osborne, du Preez lead Stars to two in a row
Hobart Hurricanes 158/6 (20 overs) (Knight 82*, Sutherland 2/30) lost to Melbourne Stars 159/5 (19.5 overs) (Osborne 67, du Preez 59*, Matthews 2/23) by five wickets.
Another captain's knock, this time from Erin Osborne saw her and Mignon du Preez rescue the Stars from dire straits in their chase against the Hurricanes to see them come away with a five-wicket win with one ball to spare in Burnie, Tasmania.
Chasing 159 to win, the Stars were in all sorts of trouble at 23/4 after six overs, as the Hurricanes' bowlers ripped the heart out of Melbourne's top order. Last game's centurion Lizelle Lee was out stumped first, and West Indian Haley Matthews took two more to have the Stars on the ropes.
With the Stars requiring almost ten runs per over at the start of the seventh and two new batsmen in, Osborne and du Preez took the attack to the Hurricanes. Between them, they hit seven fours and four sixes, with the stand producing 126 runs off just 75 balls. When Osborne was dismissed for 67 off 46 balls, the Stars needed only 10 runs from nine balls and du Preez got them home, to finish with 59 off 38 balls.
Osborne's innings built from her great day with the ball, as Heather Knight had to perform her own rescue act for Hobart in the first innings. Her superb 82 not out off 55 balls, which included three sixes, was a lone hand in Hobart's 158/6 after they had been reduced to 48/4 in the first seven overs. Osborne's off-spin and Alana King's leg-spin caused trouble for the Hurricanes, as they conceded just 40 runs from eight overs between them.
Match 7: Heartbreak for Strikers as Renegades seal win in a last-ball thriller
Adelaide Strikers 153/7 (20 overs) (Bates 54, Devine 39, Wareham 2/20, Molineux 2/21) lost to Melbourne Renegades 154/4 (20 overs) (Wyatt 62, Koski 39*, Wellington 3/20) by six wickets.
The Melbourne Renegades got their tournament off the ground as a last-ball boundary from gave them a six-wicket win over the Strikers in their first of two encounters in Melbourne.
Chasing 154, Danielle Wyatt struck a composed 62 at the top of the order and after she departed at 92/4 in the 13th over, it was left to Koski and Erica Kershaw to move the Renegades to the target. They did so in an assured fashion, as Koski remained unbeaten on 39 and Kershaw on 30. With eight runs needed off the last over and four off the last ball, Koski whipped a full ball from Sophie Devine to the square leg boundary for the win.
Adelaide struggled for fluency at times during their innings as the Renegades spinners spun a web earlier on. Whilst the New Zealand duo of captain Suzie Bates and Devine, opening partners at international level as well, got them off to a good start, the spin duo of Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham chewed up balls and kept the scoring in check.
By the time Devine had been dismissed, she had scored 39 off 43 balls and the score had reached 86 in the 14th over. Talia McGrath upped the scoring rate with a brisk 33 off 20 balls and Bates scored a half-century herself, but wickets at regular intervals to Molineux, Wareham and Molly Strano ensured the Strikers wouldn't score more than 153.
Match 8: Heat pick up first win by thrashing Scorchers
Perth Scorchers 103/8 (20 overs) (Villani 45, Johnson 2/9, Jonassen 2/17) lost to Brisbane Heat 104/3 (12.5 overs) (Jonassen 28*, Cross 2/26) by seven wickets.
The Heat opened their tournament account and dealt Perth their second straight loss for the weekend with a resounding seven-wicket hammering of the Scorchers in their clash at Sydney.
Contributions from Beth Mooney, Jess Jonassen and captain Kirby Short saw the Heat make light work of the target of 104, reaching it with a huge 43 balls to spare.
That was in stark contrast to the Scorchers' innings which never got out of first gear as they limped to 103/8 in their 20 overs batting first. Skipper Elyse Villani almost carried her bat, making 45 off 55 balls but received no support from anyone else as the Heat's bowlers bowled a probing line and length which never let the Perth batsmen get away. Medium-pacer Sami-Jo Johnson was the star, taking 2 for 9 from her four overs including one maiden, whilst Jonassen and Delissa Kimince also shared two apiece.