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WBBL mid-term report – Melbourne Stars flying high, Brisbane Heat hat-trick long way off

Melbourne Stars (4 wins, 11 points)

Season so far

Is this the year the most underwhelming record in the WBBL is flipped? After their first three games were abandoned at various stages due to rain they have put together four wins on the bounce – and they have all been dominant. Three came chasing, but when they batted first against the Heat it made no difference. The way they chased a not-insignificant 155 against the Strikers stood out and their Powerplay batting is very threatening.

Who’s going well?

It’s difficult to imagine Meg Lanning could bat any better than she is right now. Four half-centuries in five innings, guiding chases and setting the tone. There is a level of power – even a touch of brutality – to some of the strokeplay you wouldn’t always associate with Lanning. A nod, too, to Alana King who was not in the starting XI originally but has six wickets in three matches with her legspin and has conceded 5.08 an over. Spin was a question mark for the Stars, and probably remains their weakest area, but King is doing a fine job.

What can improve?

There are very few holes to pick at the moment although Lanning always stresses improvement and, speaking after the big win over the Heat, said she did not think there had been the “complete” game. Annabel Sutherland’s returns with the ball are a touch disappointing – one wicket in 10 overs at an economy of 7.50.

Sydney Thunder (4 wins, 10 points)

Season so far

After some smart recruiting, the Thunder have looked a well-balanced team with three convincing victories following the damp start. They had a slip-up against the Renegades but responded well the next day to defend 129 (just) against the Hurricanes.

Who’s going well?

Heather Knight has taken her T20 game to a new level in the last 12 months and that has continued into this tournament – with bat and ball. Left-arm spinner Sam Bates (10 wickets at 6.50, economy 3.82) has also been a stand-out, showing outstanding control in pressure situations which included a five-over chase where she bowled a double-wicket maiden. A mention as well for the glovework of Tahlia Wilson.

What can improve?

They can’t leave the batting to Knight and Rachael Haynes (and the occasional Powerplay dash by Sammy-Jo Johnson). Tammy Beaumont has struggled at the top of the order – strike rate 81.17 – and there is still a question mark over the best place for Phoebe Litchfield who ideally needs time to get into her innings.

Sydney Sixers (4 wins, 10 points)

Season so far

Three very comfortable wins and one slightly tighter affair against the Hurricanes has established the Sixers as one of the favourites after the surprise of missing the knockouts last year. However, they stumbled against the power of Sophie Devine on Sunday, a game where none of their ‘big three’ Australians – Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner – had their best day

Who’s going well?

The strike-rates of Healy and Gardner (156 and 155 respectively) stand out while Perry has produced one superb all-round performance against the Heat. Stella Campbell has impressed with her bounce and pace. Marizanne Kapp’s half-century against the Scorchers, while in defeat, was also important to illustrate the batting below the top three.

What can improve?

Outside of Perry’s WBBL-best performance of 3 for 17, her bowling has been a little off colour at times with an economy rate of eight.

Adelaide Strikers (3 wins, 7 points)

Season so far

After starting with a bang by dismissing the Hurricanes for 84, they had three defeats by hefty margins in the next four games – and they were on track to lose the other before rain arrived against the Scorchers. However, they responded impressively this weekend with two strong performances in the field to net victories over the Heat and the Renegades.

Who’s going well?

Laura Wolvaardt has played some of the shots of the tournament so far – an inside-out cover drive for six against the Stars being especially memorable – as her development as a T20 batter continues apace. Darcie Brown has been superb with the ball, both in terms of her pace and her accuracy with an economy rate of five an over

What can improve?

Spin bowling is shaping as a concern. Amanda-Jade Wellington is going at nearly nine an over (although has six wickets), Stafanie Taylor has only bowled six overs and appears to be carrying a few niggles and Madeline Penna has only been given three overs so far. The middle order, too, looks vulnerable with Wellington and Bridget Patterson low on runs.

Perth Scorchers (2 wins, 6 points)

Season so far

They created much of the pre-season talk after bringing in Sophie Devine and Beth Mooney, and that pairing may just have given the campaign the shot-in-the-arm it needed with their huge stand against the Sixers. Before that, two heavy defeats raised questions after their competition began with a loss to the Heat.

Who’s going well?

Devine struck the first century of the competition on Sunday to really get her tournament up and running. Mooney has been consistent and their pairing at the top could yet carry the Scorchers a long way.

What can improve?

The bowling attack looks a little thin with Devine, a key component, going at nearly nine an over and taking just two wickets so far. They will also need the middle order to deliver. Outside of the openers, the top score is currently 29 by Heather Graham and no one else except Chloe Piparo (who has faced 17 balls) is striking at over 100.

Hobart Hurricanes (1 win, 4 points)

Season so far

Their one victory has come against fellow strugglers the Renegades although they should have taken the scalp of the Thunder but they messed up the closing stages of the run chase. They were also very unfortunate against the Heat. The match was three balls short of being official when it was called off with the Hurricanes well on track.

Who’s going well?

The bowling is holding its own, with 15-year-old Amy Smith very impressive while Hayley Matthews is the leading wicket-taker and Nicola Carey’s wicket-to-wicket seamers have proved effective.

What can improve?

The batting. Only one player, Rachel Priest, has so far passed 100 runs – and has scored the only half-century. Even taking into account the rain-affected games that’s a poor return. They need much more from Matthews and Chloe Tryon, although there remains uncertainty about the latter’s best position.

Brisbane Heat (1 win, 4 points)

Season so far

It has been a real struggle for the defending champions since they opened with an impressive victory against the Scorchers. Following two no results (the second of which was heading for a defeat against the Hurricanes) they have suffered four straight losses and by considerable margins.

Who is going well?

Grace Harris has made two of the team’s three half-centuries and is comfortably the leading run-scorer after her unbeaten 81 against the Stars. Captain Jess Jonassen has bowled nicely for her eight wickets.

What can improve?

The big unknown ahead of the season was whether they could replace Mooney’s runs and it doesn’t feel as though they have. New Zealand overseas pair Maddy Green and Amelia Kerr need to deliver more with the bat.

Melbourne Renegades (1 win, 4 points)

Season so far

They did some soul-searching after being bowled out for 81 by the Hurricanes and dug very deep to defend 110 against the Thunder which has prevented the season from getting away from them. But they could rue not being able to chase 128 against the Strikers. They have been badly hit by injuries with Lea Tahuhu yet to play and Maitlan Brown ruled out of the tournament.

Who is going well?

Georgia Wareham, enjoying more responsibility than she gets in the Australia team. She has batted well in the middle order with a strike-rate of 146 and made a maiden WBBL fifty.

What can get better?

They need all-round improvement if they are to mount a challenge. Amy Satterthwaite, crawling along at a strike-rate of 59.25, and Lizelle Lee have 103 runs between them in 10 innings while Sophie Molineux is only striking at 80.35 at the top of the order. Wareham and Molly Strano, two-thirds of what should be a strong spin attack, only have five wickets between them.

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