on the Way Up
I t’s been a boom year for the Strikers men’s team, winning a magnificent, historic first BBL championship … but don’t forget the women.
Adelaide Strikers’ rebel WBBL|03 side created a slice of their own history, storming into the finals for the first time and setting up a memorable semi-final double-header with the men at Adelaide Oval.
It was a remarkable effort for Suzie Bates’ side after the Strikers had finished with just three wins from 14 games and the wooden spoon last summer and in seventh spot in the first year of the competition.
Suzie Bates shows her style in the WBBL match against the Perth Scorchers in Alice Springs.
Superstar New Zealand allrounder Bates came on board for the Strikers’ campaign and straight away made her intentions clear. In the opening over of the season, against Hobart at Glenelg Oval, opener Bates belted star Hurricanes import Hayley Matthews for three fours through the covers.
A really strong allround team performance saw the Strikers win by 45 runs and the next day Bates blasted 102 from 65 balls against the hapless Hurricanes, the Strikers completing back-to-back beltings.
And when Melbourne Renegades were just one run behind the Strikers with one ball remaining the following week, medium-pacer Bates took it upon herself to dismiss Lea Tahuhu caught-and-bowled and Adelaide was on top of the table with a 3-0 win-loss record. And the Strikers were learning how to win the close ones.
Bates’ coolness under pressure, as an allrounder and skipper, set a great example but other Strikers stepped up when games were on the line.
Talented teenager Tabatha Saville played a heroic matchwinning innings against Melbourne Stars, hitting a four over cover from the last ball of the match for a miracle one-wicket win. Saville scored an unbeaten 28 after the Strikers had looked down and out at 6/77 in reply to 5/132.
The Strikers’ other superstar Kiwi allrounder Sophie Devine turned it on in a stunning super-over win away against Sydney Thunder. Devine made a duck in Adelaide’s 5/114 but everything she did after that turned to gold. She bowled a stunning final over (0/4) when the Thunder needed just five runs with six wickets in hand. She improved on that with her super-over over, claiming 1/4 then, as if that wasn’t enough, opened with Bates and made an unbeaten six, hitting the winning runs with two balls to spare.
Success or otherwise in close games can make or break your season and the Strikers showed remarkable resilience and fighting spirit in winning the close ones. Bates, with an unbeaten 49 from 47 balls, battled superbly under the scorching sun against Perth Scorchers in Alice Springs to guide Adelaide home with one ball to spare. Earlier, allrounder Tahlia McGrath had stepped up with her best WBBL figures of 3/17.
The Strikers won eight of their first 12 games but remarkably their finals hopes still were not certain when they faced up to reigning champions Sydney Sixers in the last two games of the regular season.
The star-studded Sixers line-up was the only team that stood between Adelaide and an improbable title win. Superstar Australian keeper-batter Alyssa Healy gave the Strikers a nervous wait to see if they were in the finals, blasting 106 from 66 balls and 63 from 52 balls in back-to-back seven-wicket wins for the Sixers. After the second loss in Sydney, Strikers players huddled around mobile phones watching the finish to the Brisbane-Sydney Thunder clash that would decide who would be the final side in the finals. All except for Bates, who, after all the hard work and having been in the top four basically all campaign, just couldn’t stand watching other teams decide her side’s fate.
When the Heat fell narrowly short in its thrilling run chase against the Thunder, the Strikers had made history by qualifying for the finals – but they would face their nemesis, the Sixers, again in a semi-final.
The WBBL Strikers sign autographs for young fans.
Adelaide had never beaten the Sixers in the WBBL and it remained that way – the semi-final decided in three fateful overs. After being 0/20 in the fourth over chasing the Sixers’ 5/138, the Strikers lost a staggering 6/3 (that’s 6/3 the Australian way, not 6/3 the English way!).
Sarah Aley was player of the match with 4/18 but again the Strikers refused to give up. England World Cup star Tammy Beaumont displayed a mixture of courage – she was hit flush on the helmet by a short ball – and resourceful strokeplay to score her first half-century of the campaign and No. 9 Alex Price displayed her favourite reverse sweeps in making 19. Despite the horrific collapse, Adelaide finished just 17 runs behind.
And the Sixers then dominated the final against Perth Scorchers, winning the Adelaide Oval decider by nine wickets with five overs to spare. It all means the Strikers are not far away. And star leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington believes they can step up further next summer.
“To see the improvement of the girls has been incredible … it’s fantastic to see what we have been able to achieve from the first year to the third year,” Wellington said. “Hopefully next year will be our year, fingers crossed.”
Wellington was one of a number of young Strikers who enhanced their reputations in their breakthrough campaign. She snared 17 wickets at 20.9 while conceding just 6.5 runs per over, finishing equal fourth in the WBBL wicket-taking list, along with team-mate Devine.
McGrath stepped up with 229 runs at 16.4 and her highest Big Bash score of 44 not out against the Sixers, while taking 13 wickets at 19.7 with an economy rate of 6.3.
Amanda-Jade Wellington is congratulated by Tegan McPharlin after taking the wicket of Ellyse Perry of the Sixers.
Bridget Patterson’s blue blade flashed for some important cameos in making 213 runs at 19.4 with a strike-rate of 110. Beaumont was the Strikers’ third-highest runscorer with 301 at an average of 20.
Australian international swing bowler Megan Schutt kept the run-rate below six an over despite bowling in the difficult first six overs and claimed 12 wickets, while off-spinner Price bowled some important spells, including 2/21 off four overs and a run out to win the player-of-the-match award against the Stars.
In the last couple of games left-armer Katelyn Pope showed she could be a bowler with an X- factor, sliding the ball into the right-handers quicker than expected and conceding a meagre 5.7 runs per over.
Behind the stumps, Tegan McPharlin rarely put a foot wrong, snaring 13 dismissals – second behind Healy (14) – while showing her nimble glovework in completing a remarkable 10 stumpings.
But it was Bates and Devine who dominated.
Bates finished equal fourth in voting for the rebel WBBL|03 Player of the Tournament won by Melbourne Renegades’ Amy Satterthwaite.
Bates scored 434 runs – fifth-best in WBBL|03 – at an average of 31, claimed seven wickets and took 12 catches – second-best in the League.
Power-hitting Devine plundered 355 runs at 25.4 with a strikerate of 117.6 – she hit 17 sixes in the campaign, second most in the WBBL – and snared 17 wickets at 17.5 with an economy rate of 6.2.
The Strikers had a settled side with nine players – Bates, Devine, Schutt, Wellington, McGrath, Beaumont, Patterson, Saville and McPharlin – playing all 15 games. Wellington believes this improving and stable core group can improve again next season.
Fingers crossed she’s right.
By Peter Cornwall