This article was written by Kristy Williams.
The opening round of WBBL05 kicked off this weekend, and the first stand-alone tournament for the women was a resounding success. Prior to the season beginning, WBBL05 was promising to be the closest yet, and given the fluctuating fortunes for the six sides involved in the opening round this would appear to clearly be the case.
Each side managed to grab a win, leaving us none the wiser to who exactly will be challenging for the trophy, while a number of local youngsters announced themselves on the big stage. It was a mouth-watering start to WBBL05, before we head to Melbourne, Brisbane and suburban Sydney for round two.
Results from the Cricket Australia site can be found here.
The star: Sophie Devine
No surprise as to who the standout player was in the opening round; Strikers allrounder Sophie Devine. The most consistently explosive batter throughout all five editions of the WBBL, Devine was superlative across both of the Strikers opening games. She carried her bat for 72* in their win over the Renegades before blasting a quickfire 48 the next day. Her strike-rate across both innings is an absurd 160, and she’s already send EIGHT balls over the fence. Certainly didn’t disappoint will ball in hand either, opening alongside Megan Schutt; nabbing three wickets and conceding 48 runs across her eight overs.
The moment: Amelia Kerr’s three wickets in four balls
We warned in the season preview of the Brisbane Heat that Amelia Kerr would give opposition batters nightmares, given a large proportion of WBBL players would not have seen or played against her before. She proved that, and then some, when she was mere centimetres away from nabbing a hattrick with three consecutive wrong’uns. Three wickets in four balls isn’t a bad effort though.
7 fifties across the opening seven matches
An economy rate of just 4.28 from seven overs for Sixers quick Marizanne Kapp
19 years and 160 days age difference between Thunder pair Alex Blackwell and Phoebe Litchfield, who had partnerships of 97* and 68 across the opening round.
28 boundaries for the Sixers in their total of 192 against the Thunder
12 wickets for new Hurricane trio Nicola Carey, Belinda Vakarewa and Maisy Gibson
22 dot balls for Heat and NZ legspinner Amelia Kerr from her seven overs
Five things we learned
1) All aboard the Cane train
There were six huge inclusions to the Hurricanes squad prior to the start of WBBL05, and they all made an immediate impression in the opening two games. Maisy Gibson, Tayla Vlaeminck, Nicola Carey, Fran Wilson, Belinda Vakarewa and Chloe Tryon were shrewd pick-ups by Hobart coach Sally-Ann Briggs, and the sextet lead the Canes to the perfect 2-0 start. The highlights included South African allrounder Tryon scoring an explosive 46* off 18 balls in game one and former NSW speedster Vakarewa nabbing five wickets across the two games. It would appear Hobart’s deficiencies have all been filled.
2) North Sydney Oval is the perfect headquarters
Stand-alone and with prime time billing, the start to WBBL05 was a roaring success. The boutique atmosphere at North Sydney was a hit with adults and children alike, and the standard of play has noticeably increased. The TV ratings left a little to be desired, but the WBBL bigwigs will be pleased with how they are engaging with fans of all genders and ages.
3) Australian cricket is in good hands
There were plenty of highlights over the opening two rounds by homegrown players under the age of 21, and fans should be ecstatic about the future of Australian cricket. 16 year old Thunder batter Phoebe Litchfield dazzled us all on her way to a match winning innings of 52* against the reigning premiers. The kid from Orange is the cleanest ball striker we’ve seen since Meg Lanning. Erin Fazackerley, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Annabel Sutherland, Hannah Darlington and Josie Dooley all made meaningful contributions for their side, and have been given significant responsibilities. They’re only going to get better.
4) Both Melbourne clubs are already in trouble….again
There has been an air of mediocrity right from the start down in Melbourne, and WBBL05 is already shaping the same way. Unless they can get career-best seasons from their marquee players like Elyse Villani, Lizelle Lee, Dani Wyatt and Lea Tahuhu, they will struggle to push for finals. Cricket Victoria has made some controversial decisions over the past few years and it is beginning to bite them. The Stars and the Renegades have time to turn it around, of course, and for the sake of a competitive WBBL, let’s hope they can.
5) Sophie Devine is still the best T20 player in the world
There is no one who can clear the fence, and clear it consistently, like Sophie Devine- and that doesn’t even encompass her exploits with the ball or in the field. Devine and compatriot Bates have been the pillars of the Adelaide Strikers, and the women in blue are looking primed for a shot at the title. Devine was exquisite against the Renegades in Adelaide over the weekend, showing particular disdain for the acclaimed spin trio of Sophie Molineux, Molly Strano and Georgia Wareham. Opposition bowlers are in for a world of hurt, again.