This article was written by Kristy Williams.
A Haidee Birkett screamer away from playing in the Final in WBBL04, the Thunder have seen their squad fleeced of talent and will be up against it to return to finals this season. Two of their star internationals, Harmanpreet Kaur and Stafanie Taylor won’t be pulling on lime green this season, and a host of other NSW locals have opted to move over to the Hurricanes. It leaves Rachael Haynes’ side a little vulnerable and their new coach, English wizard Trevor Griffin, will have his work cut out for him.
Batters: Rachael Haynes, Alex Blackwell, Hannah Darlington, Pheobe Litchfield, Naomi Stalenberg
Allrounders: Saskia Horley, Rachel Trenaman, Nida Dar
Wicketkeepers: Rachel Priest, Tahlia Wilson
Bowlers: Sam Bates, Rene Farrell, Lisa Griffith, Shabnim Ismail, Kate Peterson
Ins: Tahlia Wilson (Sixers), Nida Dar (Pakistan), Shabnim Ismail (SA), Kate Peterson, Phoebe Litchfield (CricketNSW) | Outs: Nicola Carey (Hurricanes), Maisy Gibson (Hurricanes), Belinda Vakarewa (Hurricanes), Stafanie Taylor (Strikers), Harmanpreet Kaur (India)
Best XI: Haynes (c), Priest, Stalenberg, Blackwell, Dar, Wilson, Trenaman, Griffith, Farrell, Bates, Ismail
Last season (WBBL04)
It was a heartbreaking end for Carey and the Thunder at Drummoyne Oval last year. They can hold their heads high for the season they produced however, with an even contribution from the entire side. Seven players scored over 100 runs (fellow semi finalists, the Renegades had 5), while the bowling load was shared evenly amongst three spinners and four quicks. Plenty of positives despite the semi final loss.
MVP: Stafanie Taylor: 15 matches, 212 runs @ 35.33, SR: 108.71, 20 fours, four sixes, HS: 55. 19 wickets @ 15.89, ER: 6.91, BB: 3/23.
The West Indian captain has been a crucial cog for the lime green machine, and she will be impossible to replace at both first-drop and in the primary spinner role.
There is a lot resting on the shoulders of Haynes and Priest. The former just struck her maiden ODI century and has been in glorious touch while the latter has been explosive on occasion in the WBBL but frustratingly inconsistent. Priest smacked 15 sixes at a strike-rate of 145 in the recent KSL, in a good sign for the Thunder. Stalenberg has promised so much in her WBBL career, and will be wanting to improve on last season in the pivotal first-drop position. Veteran strokemakers Blackwell and Dar will provide valuable experience to their young teammates such as Wilson and Litchfield. Wilson struck a superb 95* in the first round of the WNCL, which will give her a huge boost of confidence. Look for young leg-spinning allrounder Trenaman to push the envelope.
In Farrell and Bates the Thunder have a very unique opening combination of inswing and left arm orthodox. Bates may not take bags of wickets, but she keeps it very tight in this format. The big-name recruit is Ismail. Her WBBL debut saw her take a remarkable 3/10, blowing away the Stars top order; but batters will be much better prepared for her this time. Does she have more than sheer pace in her bag of tricks? Yes. Trenaman will be under a lot of pressure to back up Bates in the spin department, though the accurate off-spinners of Dar will alleviate some of that. Can Griffiths keep it tighter? She copped some tap on occasion.
Despite their age, Haynes and Blackwell are still two of the most dangerous infielders in the competition. Outside of that, the Thunder are not one of the most athletic fielding sides in the competition. Priest can be messy behind the stumps but her experience will be vital to this young side.
Rachael Haynes’ last four innings for Australia read 63, 118, 56 and 41, numbers that bode well for the Thunder. Her steady influence as a lefthander is the perfect compliment to her opening partner Priest, though Haynes loves to clear the front leg and hit it over cow corner if given the opportunity. And who could forget those screamers in the ring.
There are a number of talented juniors in this squad, but Orange youngster Phoebe Litchfield might be the best of the lot. Compared favourably to fellow leftie Nicole Bolton, the 16 year old had her net session go viral recently, showcasing her clean hitting and superlative timing. She’s already got a first grade century, and has not looked overawed in the opening rounds of the WNCL, batting at number five for the Breakers.
Heart & soul
The 32 year old may have retired from international cricket, but Rene Farrell has shown no signs of slowing down on the domestic circuit. Relying more on yorkers and changes of pace than her prodigious inswing, Farrell has proved to be very miserly for the Thunder and Breakers, and she is the type of infectious personality her teammates like to see leading from the front.
Ready to explode:
An explosive personality and fiery fast bowler, Shabnim Ismail hasn’t had much of an opportunity to impact on the WBBL, but she has a superb record at international level for South Africa. Her strike-rate of a wicket every 19 balls is better than star compatriot Marizanne Kapp, and an RPO of 5.77 is sensational over 84 T20I matches. Opposition analysts will be watching her recent tapes closely.
The Thunder will be leaning heavily on their experience this WBBL, and despite the fine veterans in this line-up they will be unable to keep pace with the top sides unless Priest, Ismail or Dar can pull a rabbit out of a hat. Haynes is an astute tactician, and she’ll need every inch of that to challenge for a finals spot again.