WBBL03 semi-final notes: Scorchers vs Thunder

Perth Scorchers 148/2 beat Sydney Thunder 121/8 by 27 runs.
Cricket Australia scorecard

There have been twenty-three 50+ opening stands in the WBBL this season.  Only five of those have been made in the 1st innings, including Nicole Bolton & Elyse Villani’s 65 run partnership at Perth Stadium today. Bolton & Villani’s partnership for Perth Scorchers was the second highest partnership in a WBBL knock-out match, beaten only by their own 67 run opening partnership vs Brisbane Heat in the semi-final of WBBL02.  Natalie Sciver & Heather Graham’s unbeaten 62 run stand for Scorchers 3rd wicket was the 3rd highest partnership in a WBBL elimination match.

WBBL highest knock out partnerships

Bolton and Villani have been by far the strongest opening partnership in the WBBL this season, having amassed over 300 more runs than the next most successful pairing (Beth Mooney & Kirby Short of Brisbane Heat) and making twice as many 50+ stands than any other partnership.  Bolton & Villani have faced 47.3 overs more than their nearest challengers, and on average face a fraction over 7 overs per opening partnership.

Their three 100+ stands this season also make Bolton & Villani the only WBBL partnership to have shared more than one century stand for any wicket over the course of their WBBL careers.

WBBL03 opening partnerships

Sydney Thunder’s regular opening pair of Rachael Haynes & Pachel Priest, while not as impressive as Bolton & Villani, had played a large part in their success up to this point.  As Haynes’ form tailed off after a breakneck start to the season however, the weaknesses in Thunder’s middle order began to tell.

Sydney Thunder’s top scorers in WBBL02 (average batting SR in WBBL02 was 101.22):

Alex Blackwell 386 runs at SR 109.03 SR
Harmanpreet Kaur 296 runs at SR 116.99
Stafanie Taylor 289 runs at SR 105.09
Rachael Haynes 264 runs at SR 106.02

Those players in WBBL03 (average batting SR in WBBL03 is currently 105.15):

Alex Blackwell 338 runs at SR 95.48
Harmanpreet Kaur 107 runs at SR 95.53
Stafanie Taylor 168 runs at SR 84.00
Rachael Haynes 426 runs at SR 120.67

Blackwell’s runs total is still impressive but her SR less so, especially in light of an increased rate of scoring across the board in WBBL03.  Blackwell’s record is mitigated somewhat by the fact that her low SR is partly due to her performing the anchor role in a number of successful low-scoring, low-pressure chases after the Thunder’s bowlers had contained the opposition.

Her 1st innings SR displays better intent at SR 107.17 in comparison with a more sedate SR of 75.57 in WBBL03 chases.  However, Blackwell was unable to alter her approach to the chase when the Thunder’s expansive openers were dismissed early and a more challenging target of 149 was required today.

Taylor’s season with the bat was a write-off in all respects.  Whether measured by total runs, or strike rate batting 1st (89.26) or 2nd (75.95), she rarely managed to bat with the impetus displayed in previous seasons.  Both Blackwell and Taylor hit five sixes last season but could manage just one apiece this time around, again despite sixes being struck at record rates in WBBL03 compared with previous seasons.

Harmanpreet Kaur largely spent her abbreviated WBBL spell at #5 and had little chance to influence the innings.  That Kaur and especially Taylor, tend to bat higher in the order for their respective national teams than they did for the Thunder this season, begs the question of whether the Thunder had the right batting order.  Fran Wilson’s semi-final knock of 46 off 28 from #7, well after the game had gone, did similar.  A Thunder side stacked with international batting talent only reached 150 once all season.

Haynes’ season began with 268 runs and four half-centuries in five innings.  In the following ten innings she scored 158 runs and had a high score of 43.  While the Thunder continued to churn out the results required for qualification, in retrospect there were signs that they might struggle in a high pressure knock-out match.

Having been one of the most impressive chasing sides all season, against Adelaide Strikers at Wagga Wagga on 21 January the Thunder could only muster a tie in pursuit of a modest 115 target, and were never in contention during the super over.

Three days later at Manuka Oval, the Thunder made surprisingly heavy work chasing down a target of 69 vs Melbourne Renegades, finishing with a 4 wicket victory.  They then looked powerless in failing to defend a total of 145 vs Brisbane Heat on 27th January.  The next day, the Thunder could only post 117/8 in their final group match vs the Heat. They came out the victors in that game but were aided by the Heat having to chase at a higher rate than usual, in an attempt to improve their net run rate.

Haynes’ massive improvement, the signing of Rachel Priest (264 runs at 118.91) and a return to form for Naomi Stalenberg (227 runs at 112.37), combined with strong bowling performances throughout the season largely made up for the fact that Sydney Thunder’s top three run-scorers from last year were progressing so slowly in the middle order.  In the semi-final their luck ran out.

The Thunder have averaged 7.42 wickets taken per innings against all opponents apart from Perth Scorchers this season, but have now taken just 10 Scorchers wickets in their three encounters in WBBL03 combined.  Their semi-final haul today, and the two wickets they took vs the Scorchers at the WACA on 8th January were the only instances of the Thunder taking fewer than four wickets in an innings this season.

At Perth Stadium the Thunder duly conceded their highest 1st innings total all season, and with Priest and Haynes facing 22 balls in total, the semi-final game was virtually gone by the end of the 5th over of the chase.

Katherine Brunt continues to be England’s  most impressive export to the WBBL. Brunt has taken a wicket in every match she’s played this season and her 23 wickets in WBBL03 mean she is just one scalp away from becoming the first overseas player and fourth bowler in all to take 50 WBBL career wickets.

Throughout WBBL03, commentators have repeatedly suggested that Natalie Sciver is having an indifferent season.  Sciver may not always have looked that fluent, but she has scored more runs in WBBL03 (337) than she did in her first two WBBL seasons combined (271).  Sciver, who has largely batted at #3-4 for Scorchers, has the 3rd most runs among player not to have opened the batting this season, and has the 8th highest SR (119.50) of any player to have faced 100+ deliveries.  Only Villani, Mooney, Haynes and Healy have more runs while maintaining a higher striker rate.  By contrast, Sydney Thunder’s Stafanie Taylor, who has mostly occupied same batting role, has the 3rd lowest batting SR (84.00) in the competition among the 49 players who have faced 100+ balls so far this season.

While Sydney Thunder’s Taylor and Blackwell offered diminished returns compared with last season, Perth Scorchers have managed to make up for the loss of Suzie Bates with Brunt’s best season with the ball, unexpectedly effective bowling returns from Nicole Bolton, and career best batting seasons for Villani, Bolton and new signing Sciver.

All three are having their best seasons in terms of total runs scored, individual high scores, number of fifties, number of sixes and batting strike rate.  Bolton in particular, with both bat and ball, is unrecognisable compared with the player who began WBBL01.

WBBL01 batting (average batting SR 97.61)
Elyse Villani (Scorchers) 326 runs at SR 112.41;  HS 72*;  2×50;  2×6
Nicole Bolton (Scorchers) 182 runs at SR 83.4;  HS 45
Natalie Sciver (Stars) 154 runs at SR 90.58;  HS 33;  1×6

WBBL02 batting (average batting SR 101.22)
Elyse Villani (Scorchers) 442 runs at SR 107.02;  HS 74;  5×50;  5×6
Nicole Bolton (Scorchers) 324 runs at SR 92.51;  HS 53;  1×50;  1×6
Natalie Sciver (Stars) 117 runs at SR 104.46:  HS 37;  1×6

WBBL03 batting (average batting SR 105.15)
Elyse Villani (Scorchers) 519 runs at SR 131.06;  HS 84*;  5×50;  7×6
Nicole Bolton (Scorchers) 477 runs at SR 103.24;  HS 71;  3×50;  10×6
Natalie Sciver (Scorchers) 337 runs at SR 119.50;  HS 84;  2×50;  3×6


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