This article was written by Kristy Williams.
Once again the Sixers start the WBBL as favourites, and given the incredible star power at their disposal, it isn’t hard to see why. They have two of the best players of their generation, a South African duo that is somehow still criminally underrated and a couple of homegrown off-spinning allrounders that can change a game with bat or ball. The club culture cultivated by Jodie Hawkins, Ben Sawyer and co. have created is nothing short of sensational.
Batters: All allrounders
Allrounders: Erin Burns, Ashleigh Gardener, Marizanne Kapp, Ellyse Perry, Dane van Niekerk, Jodie Hicks, Lauren Smith
Wicketkeepers: Alyssa Healy, Maddy Darke
Bowlers: Sarah Aley, Alisha Bates, Stella Campbell, Lauren Cheatle, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Emma Hughes
Ins: Maddy Darke, Emma Hughes, Stella Campbell, Alisha Bates (Cricket NSW) | Outs: Sara McGlashan (retired), Tahlia Wilson (Thunder), Carly Leeson (Renegades), Clara Iemma (omitted)
Best XI: Healy (k), Perry (c), Gardner, Burns, van Niekerk, Kapp, Smith, Aley, Cheatle, Hicks, Silver-Holmes
Last season (WBBL04)
Have run out of expletives to explain the best weekend of women’s cricket you will ever see- with Erin Burns’ fingernail and Alyssa Healy’s 22 yard bullet sending the Sixers to yet another grand final. The Sixers stayed healthy throughout WBBL04, which meant their consistency was almost impossible to top. What a club.
MVP: Ellyse Perry: 16 matches, 777 runs @ 86.33, SR: 121.21, 80 fours, 17 sixes, HS: 103*; 10 wickets @ 27, ER: 6.89, BB: 2/11.
How on earth did Perry IMPROVE in WBBL04? Despite topping the runscoring table in WBBL03, she copped criticism for her slow strike-rate (98.57), which placed extra pressure on the batters below her. Last season was gobsmacking- and that’s before you even mention her exploits with the ball. Almost 800 runs, a very healthy strike-rate and 17 sixes- Perry managed to alter her perfect technique so she could access more parts of the ground, and very nearly led her side to the championship.
If you’re an opposing bowler, it’s hard to imagine how you could wrap your head around needing to get through batters of the calibre of Healy, Perry, Gardner, Burns, van Niekerk and Kapp before you find any sort of weakness. This Sixers sextet is a fantastic combination of finesse, power and batting intelligence, and they compliment each other brilliantly. All six have been in great T20I form this year. In a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ situation, Smith and Aley are unheralded lower order players who have a long history of runs in Sydney grade cricket. If Healy goes down, rising star Darke will get the chance to show how she averaged 82 last year in grade cricket.
Is there a better executor of the death stare than Marizanne Kapp? Would hate to be on the end of it. Not only did she have the best economy rate in the competition last season, she took the third most wickets as well. The most reliable fast bowler in the competition by a mile. Gardner and van Niekerk are genuine wicket-taking spinners, with Burns their stingy sidekick. Perry uses herself sparingly these days, but was in career-best bowling form in the Ashes. Aley showed signs of slowly down last season, while Smith copped a bit of stick. Will Silver-Holmes take the next step? She didn’t look overawed last season and it is hard to believe she is still only 16.
This fielding unit is the whole reason they were playing in the final instead of the Renegades. Perry, Kapp and Burns are the three best outfielders in the competition, but are electric athletes anywhere on the field. Healy is the best keeper in the world, and often makes something out of nothing. Smith is a pocket dynamo in the ring, and Aley’s nickname is ‘Mitts’ for very good reason.
Where do you start? There’s a fair few in this side but one stands head and shoulders above the rest- skipper Ellyse Perry. She is a humble and astute leader who is the number one ranked T20I allrounder in the world. Her growth as a player in the shortest form was particularly exceptional given the high standard she had already set for herself. The only thing that will stop her is injury- which has barely happened in her 11 year professional career.
There’s a few promising fast bowlers floating around Australian cricket at the moment, so the Hawkesbury Hurricane, Hayley Silver-Holmes, has flown under the radar of late. Her tall action generates great pace, and as she gets stronger batters will need to look out.
Heart & soul
A wicketkeeper is always central to the energy and morale of the fielding side, and no one embodies this more than Alyssa Healy. Cheeky, tenacious and in sublime form, ‘Midge’ may not have the ‘c’ next to her name, but she is the driving force of this Sixers side. The ultimate teammate on and off the field.
Ready to explode:
In a worrying sign for the opposition, Ashleigh Gardner is ready to leave her mark on this competition in a more consistent manner. Her ‘deadly’ blade struck 15 sixes, but with limited opportunities given the spectacular seasons of Perry and Healy, Gardner often found herself needing to make an immediate impact. Tipping a 400 run/10 wicket season from the proudly Aboriginal superstar.
How could you back against the perennial challengers? There is only one factor that will work against them in WBBL05, and that’s if something significant happens to Perry, Healy and Kapp. If there are injuries to their key personnel, they will have to rely on young and unproven players. Fortunately, injuries haven’t been much of a factor over the journey, so it’s hard to see the Sixers not making a big impact on the competition again.