It was a day of farewells; or perhaps hundreds; or a non-hundred.
Alex Blackwell and Kristen Beams of Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars respectively were playing their last game. Both of them ended up on the losing side and had a day to forget. But a ton and a ton that wasn't to be hogged the spotlight in the final day of the league stage of the fifth edition of the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) on Sunday (December 1).
Blackwell was walking on a cricket field for the final time as a player, when she led Sydney Thunder at the Junction Oval against Melbourne Renegades. Her team began on the right note as well, sending two Renegades batters back with just six runs on the board.
However, Danielle Wyatt was showing no signs of slowing down. She got nice support in skipper Jess Duffin, who extended her purple patch, scoring yet another half century this season. Wyatt fell for 44 in a bid to clear long off while Duffin was stumped for 53. The 72-run stand between the two helped the red-clad side post 151, even though Samatha Bates’ three-fer pegged them back a bit.
Blackwell’s farewell wasn’t to be a winning or a memorable one as she was run out for one, coming back for a stiff second run. Molly Strano spoiled it further, picking up three and giving away just 26 in her four overs, two of whom were the opening duo of Rachel Priest (19) and Naomi Stalenberg (28). Thunder could just make 122 for the loss of seven wickets. That win helped Renegades become the fourth semi-finalists.
Blackwell was given a guard of honour, along with Rene Farrell, by both teams plus by Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat, who then had a game at the same venue.
A drizzle saw that second clash at the Junction Oval being reduced to just ten overs-a-side.
Stars could only muster 87 with the opening pair of Lizelle Lee (16) and Elyse Villani (25) adding 45 in quick time. However, no other batter reached double figures, thanks to a thrifty spell by Amelia Kerr, who gave away just four runs and picked up two wickets in her two overs. Jess Jonassen also picked up a brace.
The chase was all about Beth Mooney, who stroked her way to yet another half century in the season. Her 49-run association with Laura Harris proved enough for Heat. Beams was taken for 14 runs in the sole over she bowled.
By virtue of the win Heat have the opportunity to host the semi-finals and finals. The victory meant that they leapfrogged Adelaide Strikers to the top of the table.
Strikers lost that opportunity because of their loss to Sydney Sixers earlier in the day. The crowd at Hurstville Oval in Sydney were treated to some wonderful stroke-play. First, it was Alyssa Healy, who was in a particularly belligerent mood. She hammered seven fours and an equal number of sixes in her 38-ball knock that yielded 84 runs. She looked poised to get a ton but was knocked over as she looked to take on Suzie Bates.
The Australia wicketkeeper-batter’s knock helped the Sixers post 177 on the board. The Strikers owed it to Sarah Coyte and Tahlia McGrath, both of whom picked up a brace each to peg the high-flying Sixers back.
The hosts’ bowlers came good, despite not getting their fielders’ support. There were as many as four catches of Sophie Devine dropped, after which, the New Zealander capitalised. She displayed her repertoire of strokes as she made her way to 60 off just 38 balls.
But Erin Burns pouched a full-blooded sweep at square leg to put a full-stop to Devine’s innings, which was a decisive moment in the chase. Post that, the other Strikers batters couldn’t do much, though a cameo by Amanda-Jade Wellington threatened to do the unthinkable. Stella Campbell shone for the hosts, picking up two wickets as well as effecting a couple or run outs.
Sunday, though, had to witness a WBBL ton and Meg Lanning duly delivered. Her previous highest score was an unbeaten 98 but she ensured that she got into triple digits against Hobart Hurricanes, sweeping Chloe Tryon to get to the mark. The Australian captain achieved what the Aussie wicket-keeper couldn’t.
Lanning’s innings had a nice flow to it – beginning a touch watchfully before unleashing her boisterousness. She took 34 balls to bring up her half century and just 21 more to get to hundred. She was severe on Maisy Gibson, Heather Knight as well as Chloe Tryon, carting them to all parts. But Tryon eventually got her wicket as Lanning holed out to deep square leg for 101.
Lanning, along with Nicole Bolton (44), added 154 for the opening wicket. That acted as a strong base for the 167 that Scorchers eventually posted.
Hurricanes were never in the hunt in riposte. Nicola Carey (26), who picked up two wickets earlier, added 65 runs with Knight (36) for the second wicket. Yet the innings never had any momentum.
Two wickets each by Taneale Peschel and Samantha Betts sucked all the life off the chase. Corinne Hall (28 not out in 18) and Maisy Gibson (22 not out in 14) just reduced the margin of defeat for the Hurricanes, who finished second-last in the points table.
Heat and Strikers finished with 20 points each. But the former finished on top thanks to a better run-rate. Melbourne Stars were the wooden-spoon holders finishing with just two wins in their 14 outings. This was the first-time ever that no New South Wales team will features in the finals of any domestic tournament in Australia, leave alone the WBBL.
Melbourne Renegades 151/6 in 20 overs (Jess Duffin 53, Danielle Wyatt 44; Samantha Bates 3/21) beat Sydney Thunder 122/7 in 20 overs (Naomi Stalenberg 28; Molly Strano 3/26) by 29 runs.
Melbourne Stars 87/6 in 10 overs (Elyse Villani 25; Amelia Kerr 2/4, Jess Jonassen 2/14) lost to Brisbane Heat 88/2 in 8.4 overs (Beth Mooney 50*) by eight wickets.
Sydney Sixers 177/7 in 20 overs (Alyssa Healy 84; Sarah Coyte 2/27, Tahlia McGrath 2/32) beat Adelaide Strikers 164/7 in 20 overs (Sophie Devine 60; Stella Campbell 2/12) by 13 runs.
Perth Scorchers 167/4 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 101, Nicole Bolton 44; Nicola Carey 2/25) beat Hobart Hurricanes 132/6 in 20 overs (Heather Knight 36; Taneale Peschel 2/22, Samantha Betts 2/30) by 35 runs.