Thursday, 11 November 2021

The race to the WBBL Finals

WBBL07 is less than two weeks away from completing its group stage, with the teams finishing in third and fourth due to play Eliminator One on 24th November. 

The winner of that game will then play in Eliminator Two, the following day, against the team that have finished second in the table. 

And the winner from that game will then play the table-toppers, who will go straight to the final on 27th November.

Finishing top is therefore a big plus. Finish second and you will have to play at least one game before the final. If you finish third or fourth then you will need to win three games in four days to take the title. 

Here are the current league placings

So what games do the teams have left to play? Here they are in table order....

Renegades - Thunder, Hurricanes, Heat 
This looks a very comfortable run in for table-topping Renegades who are almost certainly into the Play-Offs, but would really like to finish top of the league and go straight into the final. Two wins and 20 points should be enough to claim top spot, but Renegades will be looking to win all three games, which would leave only Heat as contenders for league winners. They would have to win all of their last four games.

Scorchers - Strikers, Stars, Sixers
Currently sitting in second place Scorchers have a tougher set of fixtures to finish their league season. They will back themselves to beat struggling Stars, but Strikers and Sixers will be tougher opponents. That one win may be enough, but two out of three will make life much more comfortable for them. Three out of three and they might sneak top spot.

Heat - Sixers, Strikers, Thunder, Renegades
Heat also have a tough finish to the season. Thunder are almost done, but that means they can play with some freedom and it would be no surprise to see Thunder's Smriti Mandhana win a game on her own. Sixers, Strikers and Renegades will all be scrapping for top four, but Heat have already beaten both Sixers and Strikers. One win may be enough, but three or four could see them finish top.

Stars - Scorchers, Strikers 
Stars have won only four of their twelve games, so only have two more to come. They did beat Strikers in a 14 over bash, but then lost their last two games badly to Renegades and Scorchers. They may have all the points they are going to get in WBBL07 which means they are unlikely to make the Play-Offs.

Strikers - Hurricanes, Heat, Scorchers, Sixers, Stars 
Strikers still have five games to play and their destiny really is still in their own hands. Win all five and they will end up with 19 points, which probably won't get them straight to the final, but would be enough for a Play-Off spot. But five wins on the bounce would be a big ask. Two this weekend would be a great start - Hurricanes and Heat stand in their way.

Sixers - Heat, Thunder, Strikers, Scorchers
Sixers have been disappointing all season, and winning their last four games may not be enough for them, even if they could do it. Given their opponents 4/4 looks unlikely. Depending on other results three wins and 15 points might just be enough to sneak into the top 4, but even then NRR might let them down. Sixers need wins and big wins at that.

Hurricanes - Strikers, Renegades, Thunder 
Technically Canes are not out of it, but they would have to win all three and other results would have to go their way. Neither scenario seems very likely, but they could dent Strikers' hopes if they can string together a full performance.

Thunder - Sixers, Renegades, Heat, Hurricanes 
Last year's winners can make it to 14 points if they win all four of their games. But even that is very unlikely to be enough to get through. They have only managed two wins to date so four on the trot seems unlikely, but who knows in this topsy turvy version of the WBBL?

With four games over the weekend, not involving either Renegades or Scorchers, the chasing pack have the chance to state their claim. Can they take it?

Martin Davies

Monday, 1 November 2021

Heat dialled down, as Gades march on!

 Another unpredictable (well by me anyway) weekend in the WBBL!!

Table-toppers Brisbane Heat managed to lose top spot having beaten Hurricanes in a high-scorer on Saturday, but then limping to just 95/9 against struggling Stars to lose by eight wickets on Sunday.

Meanwhile Melbourne Renegades marched on with another defeat of lacklustre Sydney Sixers, and then a remarkable 161 run-chase on Sunday against Adelaide Strikers. Gades needed 106 from the last 10 overs and then 58 from the last 5 overs. The problem was that Harmanpreet Kaur was batting; Megan Schutt was bowled out; and Strikers felt unable to bowl either Amanda Jade Wellington or Dane van Niekerk. Gades got home with two balls to spare with Kaur 73*(46). It took Renegades to the top of the table.

At the other end of the table Sydney Thunder managed not just one win, but two!! On Saturday 133/5 proved too much for Stars with youngsters Tahlia Wilson (53) and Phoebe Litchfield (49) setting up the win, which spinners Deepti Sharma and Sam Bates then secured with 5/39 between them. On Sunday they posted a respectable 146/6 against Hurricanes thanks to a workmanlike 50 from Smriti Mandhana. Once Mignon du Preez (41) was out Canes never looked like getting close and finished 37 runs short. Deepti was again in the wickets (3/13). Having looked down and out Thunder are right back in it.

Perth Scorchers weekend was only saved by the fact that Sophie Devine is unbeatable in a Super Over. Her stats in the game settler are just phenomenal as @Hypocaust pointed out on twitter....

Scorchers duly won their second Super Over game, this time against Strikers, who failed to score 68 off the last ten overs with 7 wickets in hand to win the game "in normal time". Just five runs off the 18th over from Alana King meant they needed 20 off the last two, which became nine off the last, and then four off the last 4 balls, but they could only manage three. Strikers then scored nine in their Super Over, but Devine dispatched Schutt's first two balls for 6s and walked off!
If only Devine could have played the same way in the match the following day. Instead she, and the rest of the Scorchers, looked out of sorts against Sixers, who put 161/3 on the board (and it probably should have been more) including 95* for Alyssa Healy, and then strangled Scorchers who scored just 117/9 in response. It was a welcome win for Sixers, breaking their losing streak. 

So we are halfway through, with just two games to be played in mid-week this week, before six more games next weekend in Adelaide and Perth. Can Gades keep their winning run (now four on the trot) going against Scorchers and Heat mid-week? Two wins and they would have a toe in the Finals set-up!

Martin Davies

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Tough weekend in WBBL07

 Who would be foolish enough to try and predict all eight results in the WBBL this weekend? goes......

Renegades v Sixers
Well this is where it could all go wrong before it has even started!
All-star Sixers were just about everyone's tournament favourites before this all started, but they have not looked like potential champions in their four games so far. They were unconvincing in their first two games, but managed to get 4 points on the board, but then they batted poorly against both Stars and Renegades and were soundly beaten. By contrast Renegades have won their last two fixtures against Thunder and Sixers themselves, basing their bowling around their spinners (with leggie Hayward stepping in for the injured Wareham), and the dibbly dobbly seam of Leeson and Webb. Surely Sixers will have figured out a way of dealing with Pace-Off Gades?
Winners - Sixers

Thunder Stars
It has been a tough start for last year's winners Sydney Thunder, and it is difficult to see it getting much better. On the plus side Smriti Mandhana has now got a score under her belt and you can expect more, but she has precious little support. Stars missed a golden opportunity to pick up another win when they allowed Mignon du Preez to lead Hurricanes to a win in mid-week, but Meg Lanning is due a big score.
Winners - Stars

Scorchers v Strikers 
This could be a cracker. Neither team played in mid-week. Scorchers have the most-feared opening partnership in the WBBL in Sophie Devine and Beth Mooney, but, IF you can get them early (big "if" I know), the batting looks thin behind them. Strikers will be buoyed by the return of Megan Schutt to their ranks, although she will be short on cricket. The only game Strikers have lost was an 11 over shoot out with the hard-hitting Heat. Tough to call, but overall strength suggests
Winners - Strikers

Heat v Hurricanes
Hurricanes are coming off a good win against Stars, but I think they will find the high-flying Heat too strong again, as they did on Tuesday. Heat's triumvirate of spinners - Jonassen, Yadav and Harris are tough to see beyond and their batting is sound.
Winners - Heat

Thunder Hurricanes
Canes will be right back in action first thing on Sunday morning. Will Rachel Priest be fit enough to open the batting and keep both days? It will be tough with her finger injury. This game could be a real scrap, but I'm going to suggest that Thunder might just get over the line.....somehow.
Winners - Thunder

Strikers v Renegades
On paper Strikers look far too strong for Renegades, both with bat and ball. This is a game that they really should win at a canter, but Gades have a lot of self-belief at the moment. Their result from the previous day could be a decisive factor.
Winners - Strikers

Heat v Stars
This is another good match-up of a game. Heat's batting looks to be in good order at the moment and if they can come to the party again then Stars are going to find it difficult to keep them in check. Therefore
Winners - Heat

Scorchers v Sixers
Sixers have looked out-of-sorts with both the bat and the ball, and no-one is more likely to punish an out-of-sorts bowling attack than Devine and Mooney. If Sixers can keep Kapp at bay they will also back themselves to score big. This could be a high-scoring shoot out. The side that bats first will probably win. I'm going to plump for 
Winners - Scorchers

So there you have it, eight predictions. Six out of eight would be a reasonable return, particularly given the topsy-turvy nature of WBBL07 so far. Can the Sydneysiders come to the party this weekend? Or will the Melburnians in red keep their run going? 

Any team that can pick up two wins this weekend will feel they are on the right track; two losses and there will be a lot of ground to make up, as the competition reaches it's halfway stage on Sunday night. 

Martin Davies

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

The WBBL07 Roller Coaster continues

 After 20 games of WBBL07 just two points separate seven of the eight teams in the current league table.

On Tuesday Sydney Thunder, alst year's winners, kept Melbourne Stars to just 108/7, but then could only stagger to 96/5 in reply. At the end of the powerplay Thunder's response was in tatters at 13/4, with Kim Garth having bowled three maidens and taken three wickets. They never looked like getting back into the game, despite 44* from Deepti Sharma.
On Wednesday they had another shot at getting their first win on the board, but Melbourne Renegades clocked up 142/5, with Jemimah Rodrigues starring with an uneaten 75. It was a tough ask, but Thunder looked on course with Smriti Mandhana going well, but when she fell for 64 Thunder lost all self-belief and finished 9 runs short.
It means they prop up the table with just one point from five games. They have nine to come, but their season is looking done and dusted already. As for Renegades they are a surprising joint top, with Heat, on 7 points. 

Stars, having beaten Thunder, had the chance to move up to 7 points from six games when they took on Hurricanes on Wednesday, but having been dug out of trouble again by Maia Bouchier (42) and Kim Garth (44*) (who are both having great tournaments) to post 144/4, they ran into an inspired Mignon du Preez, who hit three crisp 6s, in her 62 off 45 balls. By the time she fell it was too late for Stars who were beaten with 4 balls to spare, by six wickets.

It was a welcome win for Canes, who had lost the previous day to a rampant Heat outfit. They chased down Canes 132/8 with consummate ease led by Grace Harris's 57* and a fine 49* from Mikayla Hinkley. Of all the teams Heat look the most convincing at the moment, with Scorchers, who didn't have a mid-week match, a close second. Here is how the table looks ahead on another packed weekend 
of games.

Martin Davies

Monday, 25 October 2021

Devine scorches Thunder as Strikers lose "unbeaten" tag.

After a rather damp weekend in Launceston five of the eight teams are tied at the top of the table on five points, with Brisbane Heat heading the standings due to a superior NRR.

All of Saturday's four games fell foul of the weather, and it was only due to an exceptional effort by the groundstaff, that all three of Sunday's games were completed. 

The first was restricted to just 11 overs a side due to initial damp conditions, played between Heat v Strikers. The shortened game favoured Heat's big strikers, who hit an impressive 104/5 off their 66 balls, despite a hat-trick from Darcie Brown halfway through Heat's innings. Georgias Voll (31*) and Redmayne (28) hit most of Heat's runs. In response Strikers seemed to have matters under control through Wolvaardt (54) and van Niekerk (24), who put on 68 for the first wicket, but DvN had chewed up 22 balls for her 24, which meant they only had 68 off 53 balls when she was given out lbw. An initial RRR of 9.54 had gone up to over 12, and that became 15.50 as new bat Maddy Penna struggled. When Wolvaardt fell in the 10th over the game was up for Strikers, as was their unbeaten tag. Heat won by 5 runs.

Having said Sydney Sixers could not bat as badly again as they did against Stars, they did just that against Renegades! Shafali Verma got out first ball; Ash Gardner managed to edge a wide long hop to the keeper; and Alyssa Healy hit another Kaur long hop straight back to her. Sixers were 12/3! It mean that Ellyse Perry (50*) and Nicole Bolton (38) batted like it was a Test Match for 7 overs. At the end of the 11th over Sixers were 41/3 with Perry on 9 off 25 balls and Bolton on 17 off 21 balls. 13 runs off the next over suggested a shift in the gears, but it was a false dawn as Strikers' innings limped to 118/4 with Perry still there at the end, having scored 29 off her last 21 balls. After a positive powerplay from Renegades (44/1) it was a walk in the park for the team in red. Sixers bowling looked innocuous, with Perry failing to give herself a single over. Harmanpreet Kaur put Sixers out of their misery with two 6s at the end of the 17th over. Sixers really are not in a good place at the moment.

The final game went according to plan with Sophie Devine smashing the young Thunder bowlers for a 58 ball century, as Scorchers notched up 186/2. It was Devine's third WBBL century and she looked in fine touch. Thunder struggled to 105/9 in reply with Phoebe Litchfield top-scoring with 24. 

This week's mid-week games are :-

Stars, Canes and Thunder will be desperate to get something out of their two games, with just two wins from eleven games so far between them. Stars play both their rivals, so have the most to gain. Can their batting strength compensate for their bowling weakness? Two wins could rocket them to the top of the table by Wednesday night.

Canes will have to battle out their second game with the in-form Heat, who may well prove too strong for them with both bat and ball. Thunder face a buoyant Renegades in their second game. Could this be Smriti Mandhana's opportunity to kick start her WBBL? If so then Thunder could pick up their first win. 

Martin Davies

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Topsy turvy WBBL07 may be clearer by Sunday night

The focus of WBBL07 moves north on the island of Tasmania, from Hobart to Launceston, for the next few league games, with seven being played over the coming weekend.

Here are this weekend's games (UK times) :-

Undefeated Strikers have the early start on both days, facing off first against Canes and then Heat. Canes will be buoyed by their big win over Stars, particularly bearing in mind Stars then went on to beat Sixers the next day. Canes certainly bowled well, but their batting was almost entirely in the hands of skipper Rachel Priest. Who will stand up against Strikers should she fail? In-form Strikers will fancy their chances.

Heat have shown their good and their bad sides already in their two games against Scorchers. One they lost, when they should have won, and the other they won by a country mile. They are the infuriating, yet loveable, toddler of WBBL07. Some days they will be really naughty, but it is difficult not to laugh as you tell them off. Uber-sensible Strikers might give them a hard time.

Heat's other game of the weekend is against the Stars - the giant-killers of Wednesday! As well as Stars bowled you have to say that Sixers gifted that game to them. I'm not sure Heat will be so generous.

The final two games on Saturday are Thunder v Sixers and Scorchers v Renegades. Sixers can't bat as badly as they did against Stars can they? They do have issues though. They may well be strong enough to beat Thunder, but the road ahead does not look to be without some hazardous obstacles. Scorchers will back themselves to beat Renegades, all the more so after Renegades learned that Georgia Wareham's unfortunate knee injury will keep her out of the tournament. Renegades bowling line-up was thin before. Now it is just skipper Sophie Molineux. Things won't get any better for Gades on Sunday when Sixers are their second opponents of the weekend. 

Finally Scorchers v Thunder will round out the weekend. Thunder are a very young side, led by a 19 year old captain in Hannah Darlington. That is a very big ask. Their batting relies on Smriti Mandhana and 18 year old Phoebe Litchfield. They are both immensely talented, but it is a tough ask to carry the batting in every game. Their bowlers are young too. Sophie Devine might just have a field day.

By the end of the weekend I'd expect Strikers, Sixers, Heat and Scorchers to be the happiest of the eight teams, and filling the top four places in the league.

Martin Davies

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Sixers' batting falls short, as Stars and Canes find their feet

What a difference a day makes!

On Monday Stars got their butts handed to them by Canes, who clocked up their first win of the WBBL07 campaign, but next day Stars dished out a convincing 30 run win over tournament favourite Sixers! But then that is T20 cricket.

Image credit: Punch Magazine, July 17, 1841
To be fair Stars didn't as much lose to Canes, but to Rachel Priest. The veteran Kiwi once again cocked a snook at the White Fern's selection committee by smashing her first WBBL century off 65 balls. Batting first Canes surged to 152/4 with Priest finishing unbeaten on 107. That is 70.39% of her team's runs - the highest percentage ever in the WBBL (courtesy of @_hypocaust). Stars had no answers as Priest helped herself to ten 4s and seven 6s. In reply Stars never recovered from being 3/2 in the third over and were bundled out for just 89. 

With the prospect of playing the mighty Sixers then next day it looked like Stars would start their campaign with a miserable and demoralising 0/3, but their bowlers, and a dismal batting effort from Sixers the next day, would prove otherwise. Stars set Sixers 140 to win, courtesy of 41 off the last 4 overs from Bouchier 32* (25) and Garth 24* (21). Given their power-packed batting line-up Sixers were still favourites to win, but Verma's luck ran out after three balls, and Healy holed out off Sutherland in the deep to leave Sixers 30/2 at the end of the powerplay. With Gardner and Perry there Sixers were still favourites.

Ash Gardner was going at about a run-a-ball, but Perry had 7 off 15 before she hit her first boundary in the 11th over. Two balls later the scoreboard pressure told on Gardner as she sliced to cover. The RRQ had climbed to nearly 9 an over. Nicole Bolton joined Perry. Three more overs - nine, six and four scored. RRQ 10 per over off the last seven overs. Things were getting serious for Sixers. Bolton and Brown departed in the 15th over from Flintoff, with only one run scored, and Sixers were toast! They limped to 109/8 at the end of their allotted 20 overs, with Perry out three balls from the end for 40 off 42 balls. Add that to her one over for 13 and it was a miserable day for the Sixers' skipper.

In the other games Heat took revenge on Scorchers for their Super Over loss on Sunday with a convincing win. Their top three - Harris 34, Redmayne 59* and Voll 24, set the platform for a formidable 162/5. Scorchers lost Mooney early, and after an initially positive start which took them to 34/1 after 4 overs, they found ways to get themselves out and were bowled out in the 18th over for 103. Spinners Yadav, Harris and Jonassen took 6/45 off their 11 overs. Heat will need them to keep having good days with the ball.

And finally Strikers looked assured as they rolled over Renegades. They restricted them to 126/6 with all their bowlers keeping things tight. Chief wicket-taker was Sarah Coyte with 3/20. In reply they never looked troubled. By the end of the powerplay they were 42/2, but from there Laura Wolvaardt (36*) and Tahlia McGrath (50*) sauntered along to finish the game in the 18th over. In all Renegades threw the ball to eight different players, with none of their seamers (with the exception perhaps of Courtney Webb) proving to be accurate or effective. This could be a recurring theme for the Gades.

The results were :- 

Hurricanes 152/4 beat Stars 89 all out (19.2 overs)
Heat 162/5 beat Scorchers 103 all out (17.2 overs)
Renegades 126/6 lost to Strikers 129/2 (17.3 overs)
Stars 139/3 beat Sixers 109/8

The next seven games are being played on Saturday and Sunday in Launceston and we will take a look at them all later in the week.

Martin Davies