T20 specialist Rachel Priest finds her formula for smashing success

Rachel Priest in action for Hobart Hurricanes. © Getty Images

Rachel Priest cut the third ball of the last over of the power play aerially towards backward point where Erin Burns flung herself to her left and managed to palm it but couldn’t hold on. She was on 24 off 18 then and went on to make an unbeaten 92 off just 63 balls.

“In T20 batting sometimes you just have your day out and luckily for me, today was my day,” Priest would say on Saturday (November 14) after Hobart Hurricanes registered a nine-wicket win against Sydney Sixers at the Sydney Showground Stadium in the sixth edition of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).

“I had that early chance which would have been a hell of a catch if Burnsy had managed to take it. I wanted to make them pay for that after getting that reprieve. The wicket was actually pretty good. As long as you got close to the ball and played good cricket shots it would be a good day for you. Happy it came off for me.”

Priest, who is more of a see-ball-hit-ball player, largely was happy to camp on her back foot and play the cut despite being grassed. Anything being even a tad short would be thrashed or guided through the arc between point and short third. The New Zealander put down her success against Sixers down to the fickle nature of the role she plays, despite keeping track of her record against them.

“I was just saying to the girls that I have never scored a 50 against the Sixers,” she said. “It’s pretty high up there. Probably one of the better innings I have played in the WBBL. Any contribution against any side is special but I couldn’t have had a chance to do that without our bowlers, who were good at holding them today to a chaseable total.”

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Hurricanes were chasing 140 after Ellyse Perry carried her bat in her knock of 72 for the Sixers. That meant that Priest, who has two unbeaten fifty-plus scores in her last three innings, could afford to take her time at the start.

Rachel Priest raises her bat after crossing the half-century mark. © Getty Images

“Sometimes I’m a bit slow to get going. I think while opening the batting sometimes it either comes off or it doesn’t. I have been lucky in the last three games that it has come off for me.”

“I was disappointed when I scored 80 against Thunder that I couldn’t get us across the line. I said to Hayley (Matthews) today that we aren’t taking it to the last over. I don’t want another scary finish. Luckily, we were able to do that,” she said after her undefeated 127-run alliance with Matthews, who also finished unbeaten on 41.

Priest, who announced her retirement from international cricket earlier in the year after being not given a central contract with New Zealand, is known to explode her way at the start. That meant Sydney Thunder, Western Storm and New Zealand did benefit from that in the past. However, her inconsistency at doing so meant that such innings were fewer.

The burly right-hander didn’t start WBBL06 all that well with two ducks in her first three innings with the Hurricanes. Her 34-run knock against Melbourne Renegades featuring six fours showed what she is capable was, and yet it was far from being the trademark Priest innings.

“The way I play is I want to go hard in that first six (overs),” she said. “Once we got out of that first six, we wanted to keep going as we were. Ash (Ashleigh Gardner) came on and bowled a couple of really tight overs. At that point, I knew we were starting to discuss when do we go for this. We need to get closer to a run-a-ball.”

She took time to get her eyes in and got to her fifty only on the 41st ball she faced. On the previous ball, she camped back and guided a Stella Campbell ball past backward point, before flicking the next ball through square leg for successive boundaries.

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That was the point after which she changed gears rapidly.

“I think it was Ash’s third over we managed to get a couple away and we never really had to consciously go after a bowler. I just managed to get a couple away against her and we managed to get close to run a ball and we were lucky to finish it off before the last over.”

Gardner bore the brunt of it, being belted for two fours and a six off her third over. An over later, a Marizanne Kapp over went for 19 and pretty much sealed the deal for Hurricanes, who got their third win on the board. Priest hit a couple of fours off that over before Matthews helped herself to a six and a four.

Quite fittingly, Priest then finished off the game after pulling one off Perry through square leg. She had managed to belt 41 runs off the last 22 balls she’d faced after her fifty. The innings would also serve a timely reminder of her destructive powers with the wicketkeeper-batter largely playing just T20s in the leagues wherever she can.

In terms of momentum, the win for Hurricanes could be vital as only three points separate second-placed Thunder from the seventh-placed Adelaide Strikers. As for Priest herself, she seems to have found a new formula that works for her heading to the business end of WBBL06.

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