Veterans and youngsters shine as women’s cricket returns

This article was first written for and published by the Roar

For the first time in several years cricketers participating in the WBBL had a welcome break over Christmas.

In previous years the WBBL has coincided with the BBL and run over Christmas. This year, with the first-ever standalone tournament, the competition concluded in early December and meant that for our Australian women’s cricket team in particular there was some well-deserved downtime over Christmas after a very busy and successful 2019.

The relaxation is over now, though, because the Women’s National Cricket League returned this week and will continue into next week.

There have been some significant moments from the opening few games – Elyse Villani scoring 99 for Victoria in their win against Western Australia on Tuesday and continuing to push her case for selection in the World Cup squad, the return of Sophie Molineaux to cricket after a break from the game to take care of her mental health, Sammy Jo-Johnson scoring 40 not out from 26 deliveries and taking two wickets and also the debut of Ellyse Perry for Victoria. Seeing Perry play for Victoria is going to take some getting used to.

But, most importantly, it’s so obvious how bright the future of women’s cricket is. There were several debutants, including Darcie Brown, who made her state debut for the South Australia Scorpions, and also Stella Campbell, who was presented with her baggy blue by Alyssa Healy. Additionally, 16-year-old Hayley Silver-Holmes claimed 3-18 from eight overs in the Breakers’ 87-run win over Queensland. Annabel Sutherland was also impressive for Victoria, scoring 47 runs and taking 3-21 in their 117 run win over Western Australia.

The only disappointing thing was that in most cases there was no live stream of these games available. That left plenty of fans wanting, especially after so much women’s cricket to enjoy over the summer. Credit to Cricket NSW, who do provide a live stream and commentary of the NSW Breakers home games. Hopefully other clubs follow suit in coming years.

But after the conclusion of the WNCL early next month the world will turn its eyes to Australia for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.

Earlier this week members of the Australian women’s cricket team, including Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner, visited Bondi Beach for the commencement of a trophy tour, which will see the trophy visit several locations ahead of the commencement of the World Cup in Sydney next month. In total the trophy will travel over 14,000 kilometres and stop in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide.

Though excitement about this World Cup continues to build, I am not for one moment going to pretend that there aren’t other things occupying the nation at the moment, notably the bushfires, which have devastated many parts of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Some in positions of power might suggest cricket is a worthy distraction from this devastation. I disagree, but I am pleased to see that this trophy tour will also act as a platform to promote bushfire emergency relief efforts through UNICEF.

This women’s World Cup is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet, with high hopes to set a new world record for highest-ever attendance at a female sporting event on 8 March at the MCG and matches all across Australia including Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. No doubt all of Australia will be watching this tournament to see if our Aussie women can win the trophy on home soil, particularly considering just how dominant Australia has been on the world stage over the last year.

Alyssa Healy

(Jan Kruger-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

The funny thing about T20 cricket, though, is that it is volatile. The soap opera of cricket – all it takes is for one player to have an off performance or one player to have a stand-out performance and the results can change almost instantly.

Judging by some of the form we saw from the internationals during the WBBL, this is not going to be an easy tournament for Australia. Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones were in exceptional form Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee were both dangerous.

Then of course there was the WBBL player of the tournament, Sophie Devine. Devine reminded us of just how good she can be that with another dominant performance with the bat, this time for Western Australia in the WNCL, hitting 109 to 103 to lead Western Australia to victory over Victoria.

No doubt Matthew Mott will continue to have eyes on the WNCL as we get closer to finding out who Australia’s squad for this tournament is going to be. Jess Duffin certainly made his job a little easier, last week announcing she will be unable to take part in the tournament if selected because she is pregnant. More significantly, Duffin becomes the first player to take advantage of Cricket Australia’s new parental policy, which was announced late last year.