What we’ve learnt from the WBBL so far

This article was first written for and published by The Roar

Two rounds into the WBBL and the one thing we know for certain is that this is going to be one of the closest competitions we have seen.

At the moment the Adelaide Strikers and the Sydney Thunder are leading the pack with three wins each. They are followed by the Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Sixers who are all on four points.

Rounding out the bottom of the ladder are the Perth Scorchers on two points and the Melbourne Stars who are yet to win a game.

So what have we learnt so far?

In the first two rounds, my key takeaway has been that the future of women’s cricket is extremely bright, with young talent being the stand out so far.

There’s Phoebe Litchfield from the Sydney Thunder who has so far registered scores of 26, 52*, 16 and 4.

Litchfield has come to the crease under pressure on most occasions and has managed to form some memorable partnerships with Alex Blackwell. Her 52* was crucial in guiding the Thunder to victory against the Heat.

Litchfield is just 16 years old and lives in Kinross, near Orange. Her parents drive her home after her weekend matches so she can attend school while she juggles her cricketing commitments.

Litchfield also plays for the Australian U16s hockey team and is no doubt a star of the future.

Phoebe Litchfield of the Thunder

Phoebe Litchfield of the Thunder

Then there’s Maddie Penna who made her debut for the Melbourne Stars last Saturday. In her second match, against the Thunder on Saturday, the teenager took 4/20 off four overs including the key wickets of Rachael Priest, Litchfield, Nida Dar and Hannah Darlington.

Who could forget the New Zealand international Amelia Kerr who is playing in her first WBBL? Kerr is a genuine all rounder and has proven that on Aussie shores already.

She helped scuttle one of the most dominant teams in this year’s competition, the Sixers, for just 73 runs.

Kerr took three wickets in four balls claiming the wickets of Hayley Silver-Holmes, Jodie Hicks and Sarah Aley finishing on figures of 3/8. Then on the weekend against the Hurricanes she scored 29* off 19 balls including three boundaries.

Not to be outdone by the next generation, some of the more experienced players are also shining this summer.

Alex Blackwell from the Thunder has been a stand out particularly in a match-winning performance against the Stars on Sunday. She scored 45* off 36 balls in an innings which included three boundaries and one maximum.

That maximum came at a crucial time in the penultimate over and took the Thunder’s run chase to less than a run a ball.

The internationals have also been impressive this year. Despite a disappointing Ashes series, the English women have been in fine form including Heather Knight and Lauren Winfield. Genuine fast bowler from South Africa Shabnin Ismail has been stunning audiences with her pace.

In the Thunder’s win against the Renegades, she finished with figures of 3/14. Marizanne Kapp took a hat trick in the Sixers win over Stars and in the same game, her wife Dane van Niekerk took a wicket on her first ball after returning from injury.

But the season is still young and there are plenty of questions still remaining.

Like can the Stars turn their season around? The club has a new captain in Elyse Villani who, until Sunday, was struggling for runs this summer.

Hopefully, her 52 against the Thunder gives her confidence for the Stars’ upcoming matches against the Scorchers and the Sixers.

It’s been a tough start for the Stars who are chasing their first win, but they have not been helped by injuries to some key players including Ange Reakes, Alana King and the absence of Annabel Sutherland, the latter of whom is juggling her cricket with her studies.

The positive is that this injury has meant players like Maddie Penna have been given an opportunity – an opportunity they have taken with both hands.

Another feature of this year’s competition are some smaller batting totals. The highest so far has been 192, with plenty of scores hovering between 140-160 – and some lower than 120.

Maddie Penna beats a run out

Maddie Penna of the ACT get run out during the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) One-Day match between Victoria and the ACT at Park 25 in Adelaide, Sunday, September 22, 2019. (AAP Image/Mark Brake)

This seems markedly lower than what we saw last summer, where there were two scores greater than 200 just on the opening weekend.

This could partly be because of the point in time that the season is taking place in. Pitches are greener and softer in October, which may be having an impact.

Additionally, smaller totals are not necessarily a negative thing, particularly when you consider how well teams like the Adelaide Strikers have been bowling.

Either way, the action on the field as well as the growing support off it shows that women’s football is in rude health.