It is very early days in the WBBL out in Australia, but originally 16/1 outsiders, Heather Knight's Hobart Hurricanes, could not have made a better start to the competition. Against all the odds they have won their first four games on the bounce against the Melbourne Renegades (twice), the Sydney Sixers, and the pre-tournament favourites the Perth Scorchers. It means they top the nascent league table ahead of the Brisbane Heat (3/3), followed by undefeated Melbourne Stars (2/0) and the Perth Scorchers (2/1).
[click here for points table]
The Hurricanes, based in Tasmania, are effectively the same squad as played under the Tasmanian Roar banner in the WNCL and finished plum last, losing all six of their 50 over games. Knight only joined them for their last three games, but Veronica Pyke remained their captain.
Before the start of the WBBL Knight was announced as the skipper of the new Hobart Hurricanes women's team. She has skillfully led them to four wins out of four. Victories have been based on some solid, if unspectacular batting - Knight herself has scored 26, 38, 50 and 25 at a strike rate of just over a run-a-ball - and some dogged bowling and fielding displays. Four run outs and some great catches against the Renegades reduced them to 86 all out chasing the Hurricanes 121/5.
[match highlights from two games v Renegades]
The wickets have been shared around amongst the six bowlers that Knight has used (the Hurricanes have fielded the same 11 for each of their four matches). Top of the pile is the very experienced 34 year old Ronnie Pyke with eight wickets and an economy rate of just over 4 runs per over. She has been backed up by the miserly Julie Hunter, who bowls with Pyke or Knight in those vital opening six powerplay overs. Hunter and Knight have six wickets apiece at 4.5 and 5 runs per over respectively. New Zealand import Amy Satterthwaite has not only strengthened the batting, but has been a revelation with the ball, taking the pressure off the slightly younger Brooke Hepburn and Erin Burns, although both of these two have been around the game for several years. All three have wickets to their name. The Hurricanes look like a tight unit and they are responding well to their new skipper, to whom England will need to turn at some stage in the not too distant future.
Knight has skippered her adopted Berkshire team since early in the 2012 season, taking over from Isa Guha, having come to the county in 2010 from her native Devon. But at Berkshire her resources have always been rather limited, often relying on her own abilities to get the results that have kept the county in Division One of the Women's County Championship. Now it appears that she has the, albeit rather limited, resources that she needs to get the results that put her team at the top of the league.
The Hurricanes will do very well to stay there, but they have already shown their mettle closing out tight games against the Renegades and the Strikers (effectively the Adelaide team that won the WNCL) by four runs and two runs, defending just 125 and 117. There will be tougher games to come as the Hurricanes leave Tasmania for mainland Australia, but if they can win just half of their remaining 10 fixtures they are likely to find themselves in a top four spot and a place in one of the semi-finals. And then who knows?
Just a few days after the WBBL ends Knight will be on a plane to South Africa with England, where they play three ODIs and three T20Is against the Proteas. After that in March England will be heading to the T20 World Cup in India. Perhaps the time is right in South Africa for new Head Coach, Mark Robinson, to hand over the England T20 captaincy to Knight, with a view to her leading her country in the WT20 tournament that follows so soon afterwards. It will be a tough call for Robinson to make as this is his first tour with the England girls and he is still to meet the nine players who are plying their trade in the WBBL. But if Knight can lead her Hurricanes into the WBBL semi-finals or even the final itself, then she will have thrown down the gauntlet to the new England Head Coach. The question is will he pick it up?