WBBL | 04 Preview: The best show around

The fourth edition of the Women’s big bash (WBBL) starts this weekend. In the wake of Australia’s World T20 victory in Antigua it will certainly give the opening rounds a boost as the heroes of that win return to domestic duties. Sydney Sixers will be the team to beat again as they go for a treble of WBBL crowns.

Since WBBL|03 there has been player movement, the overseas internationals have been rejigged and all that is left to do is for the umpires to call ‘play’ and the action to get underway. While you are waiting for that to happen, we take you through the teams and assess their chances.

Adelaide Strikers

With the departure of Tammy Beaumont, the opening pair pick themselves this season. In Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine, they have the perfect firepower at the top of the order to win them games.

Without Beaumont though it leaves a gap in the batting. She was replaced by Dani Hazell, the highly rated England off-spinner. With the likes of Megan Schutt, Sarah Coyte, Tahlia McGrath, Amada-Jade Wellington the bowling is not short of quality.

For the likes of McGrath and Wellington, they may feel that they have something to prove ahead of next year’s Ashes series in England. They both played a part for Australia last year but have found themselves out of the frame of late.

For the Strikers they will want to improve on their fourth-place finish from WBBL|03. They have the players with enough experience to do just that. They will need the likes of Bridget Patterson and Tabatha Saville to continue their progress and add consistent runs in the middle-order.

Brisbane Heat

It was Beth Mooney who kept the Heat firing last season with five fifties to her name. She will be expected to keep the runs coming. The Heat will need Laura Wolvaardt to find some form this year; 32 runs from 6 games do not show the quality that the South African clearly has. Once she figures out this format, expect the runs to come in large quantity and with style to boot. Sune Luus, her Proteas teammate, will come into the tournament with some points to prove where she fits in the shortest format of the game.

Delissa Kimmince and Jess Jonassen are both proven internationals and give the Heat some backbone to rely on, which will allow some young players like Jemma Barsby, Haidee Birkett, Grace and Laura Harri to express themselves.

Sammy-Jo Johnson is the player that will be integral to any chances the Brisbane side will have of qualifying for the semifinals. A competitive bowler who along with Birkett and Kimmince forms one of the best pace bowling attacks in the WBBL.

Hobart Hurricanes

WBBL|03 was one to forget for Hobart Hurricanes. They failed to find any consistency or momentum which ultimately cost them. They have Heather Knight back this year after injury ruled her out last time. Knight will be joined by Smriti Mandhana and Hayley Matthews the hard-hitting openers. Mandhana moves from Brisbane Heat and if she performs in a similar vein to that shown for Western Storm in the Women’s Cricket Super League then the ‘Canies should get off to a better start than this time last year.

Salliann Briggs will swap the purple of Loughborough Lightning for the purple of Hobart Hurricanes as the highly respected coach makes the move down under.

They will also have Alex Hartley available for games when the other overseas signings are unavailable. It will be the perfect place to prove she deserves a recall to the England side with some impressive performances in front of her national captain.

Melbourne Renegades

There is enough quality in this Renegades side to push every team close. They tied two games and won both in the super over.

This year they have a real balance to them that suggests a title fight is well within their grasp. Danni Wyatt comes in to open the batting, and along with the New Zealand pair of Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu they complement some exciting young players.

Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham played important parts in Australia’s World T20 triumph and Tayla Vlaeminck is highly regarded.

That is before you talk about the likes of Molly Strano, Claire Koski and Emma Inglis. This could be the year that things finally fall into place for the Renegades.

Melbourne Stars

One of the strugglers last year, the Stars have recruited well. Nicola Hancock bolsters the bowling having had a good campaign for Hobart Hurricanes last time around. They kept their overseas stars from WBBL|03 in Lizelle Lee the big-hitting South African and her teammate Mignon du Preez, the busy batter. They also have Georgia Elwiss back whose bowling and middle order batting proved valuable.

In Kristen Beams, Erin Osborne and Alana King they have experienced spin bowlers. They contain the leadership group of captain Beams and vice-captain Osborne. They also have young players full of promise like Annabel Sutherland who is only just 17.

Perth Scorchers

There is something hugely exciting about this Scorchers line-up. The batting looks full of runs with Meg Lanning leading the side after missing last year’s competition from injury. She will be looking to make up for lost time.

Nicole Bolton and Elyse Villani more often than not got their side off to flying starts. This time around they also have Amy Jones to fit into that batting line-up. In the English Summer, Jones was in fine form and carried that into the World T20.

The Scorchers aren’t short of quality bowling options and that would suggest that Bolton will not bowl as much. They have signed England international Kate Cross a competitive bowler along with Hayleigh Brennan from Melbourne Stars.

Sydney Sixers

Again it is the Sixers that look the team to beat. In Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Ashleigh Gardner they have three of the most exciting players world cricket. The world-class players don’t stop there, Marizanne Kapp is one of the best T20 bowlers and is adding more runs to her game. Dane van Niekerk is a top all-rounder and the two South Africans will be looking to add to their T20 winners’ medals.

When you consider we haven’t yet mentioned the likes of Sarah Aley, Erin Burns, Lauren Cheatle and Sara McGlashan it would be difficult to imagine that the Sixers won’t be going for yet another title come the day of the final.

Sydney Thunder

Last and no means least, is Sydney Thunder. Another team full of world-class players and talented youngsters. Stafanie Taylor, Rachel Priest and Harmanpreet Kaur make up their explosive line-up of overseas talent.

Leading the side will be Alex Blackwell who spent the winter coaching Lancashire Thunder in the KSL. If she wasn’t already a leader on the pitch that experience can only have helped.

There is experience in the hands of Rachael Haynes and Rene Farrell who will help some exciting players like Hannah Darlington, Belinda Vakarewa and Maisy Gibson.