This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
As the final weekend of the WBBL regular season approaches each game is crucial. There are three teams fighting it out for the final position on the ladder.
Currently, the Brisbane Heat and the Adelaide Strikers are guaranteed a finals position. But given that the team that finishes at the top of the ladder will get the opportunity to host the finals weekend, plenty is on the line for both teams.
The Heat were tipped by many to take out that top spot, but with their surprise loss to the Melbourne Renegades earlier this week, they will now have to beat the Melbourne Stars on the weekend. The will also hope that the Adelaide Strikers lose at least one of their two remaining games.
There’s also rain forecast for Melbourne this weekend which will no doubt lead to some nerves.
For the Strikers, should they win both games this weekend they will take out the top spot. The only thing standing in their way is the Sydney Sixers who are currently on a four-game losing streak, their longest losing streak since WBBL01. The impact of losing Ellyse Perry to injury has been huge.
What also adds spice to this clash is that in the duration of the WBBL, the Strikers are yet to beat the Sixers.
The key for the Strikers will no doubt be the wicket of Alyssa Healy. The last three times these two teams have played, Healy has scored 106, 63 and 112*. With Healy struggling with the bat in her four most recent matches scoring 4, 10, 2 and 0, the big question is, can she find form when her team needs her the most.
Then there are the Perth Scorchers currently sitting pretty in third spot. They can only drop out of the top four if they lost their final two matches and the Renegades win both their final two games.
Then there’s the Renegades, Sixers and Thunder (by a thread) battling it out for that final spot. Results and net run rate will be the deciding factors here unless the Sixers and Renegades lose all their remaining games and the Thunder win their final game against the Renegades.
Then the Thunder most likely steal fourth spot.
A big cliche in sport is that everything changes when you get to finals. This could not be more true in this season of the WBBL with English players unavailable for the finals series as they head to Malaysia for a series against Pakistan in preparation for the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup to be played in Australia next year.
This doesn’t impact all teams, but for the teams that it does, it completely changes everything.
For the Renegades, they lose both Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt. This will be particularly disappointing given their performance on Wednesday. Wyatt brought up her half century from just 34 balls and between her and Beaumont put on 74 runs for the second wicket.
Wyatt is also the Renegades leading run scorer and has scored the fifth highest number of runs in the competition at 418.
But arguably, the team most impacted will be the Perth Scorchers. Their surge this season has in part been due to the strong opening partnership between Amy Jones and Meg Lanning.
The Scorchers will be without Jones for the finals; a big loss considering the 387 runs she has scored. Not far behind her is Nat Sciver who has been explosive with the bat and also with ball in hand.
These departures fundamentally change these teams and I’m looking forward to seeing which players are brought in as replacements. But I genuinely do feel sorry for these teams as they potentially head into finals without some of the players who were key to getting them there.
When it comes to stability that means that the Heat, Strikers and the Sixers (if they make it) certainly have the upper hand.
Comments have been made this week about other cricketing boards making a decision to support the WBBL, given its status as the premier women’s cricket competition in the world.
But with a T20 World Cup looming each nation is doing what they think is best in terms of preparation for their national teams.
No doubt we won’t know which approach is best until the final on March 8, 2020.