7th over: Thunder 38-1 (Trenaman 18, Knight 4) The fielding restrictions are over, which notionally should help the Stars but actually might complicate things. If they have players back, Thunder batters are more likely to find ones and twos into gaps, and that’s enough to win them the match. The restrictions can sometimes force fielding captains to be more aggressive, and thus more competitive.
Knight works the field as predicted, two runs to midwicket then a single. Then it’s Trenaman playing another class shot, standing up against Brunt to punch through point off the back foot, splitting the field for four.
6th over: Thunder 30-1 (Trenaman 13, Knight 1) Powerplay still active as the leggie gets another over. King nearly yorks Trenaman as the batter charges, only able to dig out a dot ball in the end. But that doesn’t stop Trenaman, who goes again and drives dead straight, along the carpet for four. King keeps tossing up the ball, and dives across the pitch to field when Trenaman drives straight again. Mignon du Preez is the most vocal player on the field at point. Good tussle.
5th over: Thunder 26-1 (Trenaman 9, Knight 1) Brunt gets rid of her England teammate Beaumont, and immediately has to bowl to her England teammate Knight. Such a composed looking batter, she is. Stands up tall and defends, takes a single from that defensive push as it comes.
WICKET! Beaumont lbw Brunt 16 (15), Thunder 24-1
There’s the one they needed. Brunt swings around and changes ends, angles a ball in at Beaumont, and it beats the inside edge as she drives. Hits her back knee in front of leg stump and that’s enough for the umpire.
4th over: Thunder 22-0 (Beaumont 14, Trenaman 8) Tammy Beaumont keeps the show going as Alana King comes on, with Beaumont walking at the leg-spinner and smacking her down the ground for four. There’s only another single from the over, but the boundary enough can be deflating.
What’s more deflating for the Stars is that King hits Trenaman right in front of middle stump, stretching forward, and the umpire rules that there was an inside edge. Doesn’t look like it on the replay! Should have been given.
3rd over: Thunder 17-0 (Beaumont 9, Trenaman 8) Sciver continues, length ball and Beaumont picks it up over midwicket for six! Classier than a slog, a straight-bat shot to the leg side, and that got plenty of air on the way. Beaumont’s problems with strike rate won’t arise if she can hit those. She follows up by crucifying a couple of cut shots, but one sizzles on the bounce to the fielder at backward point, and the next beats her but is stopped at deep third. One run from two top shots.
2nd over: Thunder 10-0 (Beaumont 2, Trenaman 8) Katherine Brunt bowling from the other end, and Lanning is standing at slip for Brunt, who is bowling seam-up and getting some outswing. But we said the batters need to take some initiative, and Trenaman does! Walking at Brunt to reduce the swing, and outside off a little to straighten up the line, so that Trenaman can drop-kick it over square leg for four. Two balls later, a similar movement and Trenno, as she is inevitably called by her teammates, can play in a similar area but along the ground for another quatro. Last ball of the over Brunt is up in a big appeal, swinging in and hitting pad, and it takes an excellent decision from umpire Eloise Sheridan to rule that the ball was missing leg stump. It was, says the computer, just.
1st over: Thunder 1-0 (Beaumont 1, Trenaman 0) That’s one run, no wickets, for newcomers and the perennially nervous. The Thunder openers may be nervous too, small target syndrome. They don’t want to start too slowly and put pressure on themselves though. Sciver opens the bowling, Beaumont works a single to square leg, and that’s it for the over as Trenaman faces out most of it.
Sydney Thunder must chase 87 to win the Big Bash League
A complete blindsider of an innings there: it’s not that the Stars were some incompetent mess, it’s that they were completely outbowled. Sydney dropped five catches and still took nine wickets. The swing and pace bowlers up top were outstanding, with Ismail getting 2 for 12 from four overs, and Johnson 2 for 11, with Darlington also frugal early. Then the spinners kept that going: Bates 1 for 18 from four, Smith 1 for 18 from two, Knight 1 for 9 from two. And Darlington came back to finish it off with 1 for 15 from her four.
That leaves Johnson on 22 for the season (first), Darlington 19 (equal second), and Bates 18 (equal third), unless Sciver goes on a tear in the second innings for the Stars. For their batting, Sutherlands 20 from 20 and Brunt’s 22 from 27 were the best scores in a dismal card. The best all season, and their absolute worst on the most important day.
Their only hope is to create some nerves in the chase.
20th over: Stars 86-9 (Brunt 22) Last over, Darlington to bowl. Brunt lashes two down the ground. Faltum calls her through for a leg bye, then belts through for her own run off a bottom edge. Brunt baseballs at a shorter ball but only miscues a single, straight, and there’ll be a run out from the last ball as the Stars try to steal a bye.
Faltum run out (Darlington) 3 (7)
19th over: Stars 81-8 (Brunt 19, Faltum 2) Sammy-Jo to bowl her final over, Brunt batting out of her crease and trying to get momentum, walking at the bowler, but still can’t get beyond ones or twos. Faltum tries to swing one down the leg side but misses, gets glove or arm into the ground, no wide called. Johnson’s last ball is in at the leg stump, through the gate as Faltum leaves it wide open aiming over midwicket, but somehow the ball misses the woodwork and she survives.
18th over: Stars 76-8 (Brunt 16, Faltum 2) Time for those Faltum Prison Blues. She’s only batted three times this season. Brunt tries a big loft over cover, and Haynes nearly takes another blinder running back and diving, put in every effort, but can’t quite get there.
WICKET! Flintoff b Darlington 1 (6), Stars 73-8
Darlington does what Darlington does: straight at the stumps, and after a couple of dot balls late in the innings, Flintoff is desperate enough to try backing away to cut off her stumps. She misses. Hello, Vegas.
17th over: Stars 72-7 (Brunt 13, Flintoff 1) Brunt is giving every shot her all, but hasn’t timed one all night. Lots of exclamations and heaves, three singles and a leg bye from Bates’ over.
16th over: Stars 68-7 (Brunt 11, Flintoff 0) You can understand the rationale of Trent Woodhill’s team that they should just keep attacking no matter their position. The thing is, they’ve attacked looking flustered and panicky, not looking in control. It’s a big like when Maradona the coach was in charge of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup, packing a team with strikers and no defence. It looked great when it worked against lesser teams in the group stage, but looked messy when it didn’t against Germany in the knockouts.
Johnson has bowled three overs, 2 for 6.
WICKET! Osborne c Haynes b Johnson 6 (11), Stars 7-66
Osborne falls – you’ll never believe it – caught at cover. Tries to muscle yet another shot in that direction, mis-strikes in exactly the same way, and this time it loops more comfortably to Haynes for another. Sammy-Jo Johnson goes further ahead.
15th over: Stars 64-6 (Brunt 8, Osborne 5) It’s all finger spin after the start was all swing. Knight following Bates following Smith. Osborne is trying to keep the scoring going. Charges and gets a thick outside edge for two. Charges and is dropped at cover, this time by Haynes: a skewed lofted shot that has Haynes running backwards, back-pedalling at speed, and unable to clasp as it hits her collarbone and free. Then Osborne plays the same sort of shot and skews it flatter between cover and point for a run. For all that swinging, still only six from the over.
14th over: Stars 58-6 (Brunt 6, Osborne 1) Sam Bates bowls her third, finishes it with 1 for 15 after conceding five runs. Brunt is trying to find something, walking at the bowler, swinging hard, but keeps finding the outfielders.
13th over: Stars 53-6 (Brunt 2, Osborne 0) The Stars are out of hitters, with Osborne more of a nudger with the bat.
WICKET! Sutherland c Haynes b Smith 20 (20), Stars 53-6
And another one! The Stars still trying to hit their way out trouble. Sutherland advances to Smith and smashes the first off-break a mile up and long enough to leave the ground for six. Then anticipates a wider ball and drives it over point for four. But tries to go big three balls in a row, heaving a shorter ball to the leg side, not getting much of it, and it’s flat to Haynes at short midwicket. Five wicket-takers for the Thunder.
12th over: Stars 43-5 (Sutherland 10, Brunt 2) Darlington keeps the screws tight, curving her deliveries full up at the stumps. The outfielders are well placed, and Brunt and Sutherland both hit hard but without placement. Four runs from the over.
11th over: Stars 39-5 (Sutherland 7, Brunt 1) Four wicket-takers for the Thunder with Knight added to the list. Johnson further ahead on the season tally with 21. The Stars are getting rinsed! Who saw this coming?
WICKET! King c Litchfield b Knight 0 (2), Stars 37-5
That doesn’t last long! Alana King gets a promotion to try to hit the Stars out of trouble, and she gives it a shot. The only problem is Litchfield perfectly positioned this time at deep midwicket. Knight lives up to her Golden Arm nickname once again with the first over of her off-spin.
WICKET! Sciver c Haynes b Bates 11 (11)
10th over: Stars 36-4 (Sutherland 3) With spin still on offer, this pair still want to attack. First it’s Sutherland, who is dropped at long-on. Down the wicket to attack, lofts the ball, and Ismail who has had so many catches dropped from her bowling now has to throw a coin back in the tin. Down on one knee, takes it comfortably enough, then somehow the ball burrows out from between her hands and bounces off her ankle and into the ground.
No matter for the Thunder though, as the single brings Sciver on strike, at which point she plays towards midwicket for a single but gets a leading edge, up to cover. Haynes again, and all four of the big guns have been spiked.
9th over: Stars 33-3 (Sciver 10, Sutherland 3) Lauren Smith on, Haynes trying to burgle a couple of overs of spin. Sciver wants to take her own, sweeping hard to deep backward but Beaumont gets around to slide and save. So Sciver lofts to deep midwicket and it should only be a single, but Phoebe Litchfield yorks herself coming in off the rope and lets it through for four. Water in the desert for the Stars.
8th over: Stars 25-3 (Sciver 3, Sutherland 2) Hannah Darlington to bowl her first over: she does some wonderful work with inswingers at the death, but she’s on to have an impact further up the innings. She helps keep the stifle going, conceding three singles. The Stars have a long road back to get a competitive score.
7th over: Stars 22-3 (Sciver 1, Sutherland 1) So it’s Sciver and Annabel Sutherland at the crease, and Sutherland is dropped second ball! That would have been a worldly effort, Heather Knight at slip flying away to her right as Sutherland edges a big swoosh with an angled bat, and Knight gets a fingertip to it but can’t fly far enough. Great effort, great bowling. Ismail finishes her four overs at the earliest possible point of the innings, and leans over to get her breath on this hot Sydney night, congratulated by her teammates. She has set them up to perfection.
WICKET! Lanning c Wilson b Ismail 13 (15), Stars 3-20
That’s the big one! The biggest fish. Ismail has had Lanning dropped twice and gets her on the third attempt. Rising from back of a length outside off, Lanning just flirts with it, a nothing push, almost as though she’s trying not to play the shot as the ball decks away, but she does, and it does, taking the outside edge, through into the keeper’s gloves! The favourites are in disarray!
6th over: Stars 20-2 (Lanning 13, Sciver 0) Sciver, the England all-rounder, emerges to block the last ball of the over, and SJ Johnson has 1 wicket for 2 from 2 overs.
WICKET! du Preez lbw Johnson 4 (10), Stars 20-2
Johnson back on, so the spin experiment is over and the swing comes back. And what a good call! SJJ is beating the bat repeatedly. One ball swings in to hit Lanning on the pad, going down the leg side though. A couple more beat her outside off, then a thick edge flying airborne to deep third. That brings du Preez on strike, and Johnson gets the inswinger going again. Mignon doesn’t read the length at all, playing across the line even though the ball dips on her, hitting her on the toe in front of middle stump. That is Max Gawn.
5th over: Stars 19-1 (Lanning 12, du Preez 4) Ismail continues from the Fig Tree end, a hard length outside the off stump, giving very little away. Two singles are all that comes from the over, one of those via a misfield from Trenaman at point. The Stars 19 from five overs! It’s struggle time.
4th over: Stars 17-1 (Lanning 11, du Preez 3) Sam Bates with the ball, Haynes not using her swing bowlers even though there’s movement through the air. The left-arm spinner ties down Lanning for a couple of deliveries, to the field on the off side, but when Bates drifts a bit towards leg stump, Lanning picks her up over square leg for six! Way back onto the hill! So clean through the ball with that sort of pull-sweep, standing, that Lanning prefers.
3rd over: Stars 10-1 (Lanning 5, du Preez 2) Well. First ball of the over Ismail gets Villani. Second ball, she’s nearly through to hit du Preez on the pad, but the batter edges a single. Lanning takes a run to deep third, du Preez wafts and misses. Turns a straighter ball square for another run, then Lanning is dropped again! Or might have bounced an inch short. Lanning uppercuts over the cordon, down to deep third, where Johnson runs in and lunges forward but can’t get there. It escapes through her dive for four.
WICKET! Villani c Haynes b Johnson 1 (11), Stars 3-1
Gone! Ismail pitches up, first ball of her next over, and Villani tries to drive over cover. Hits it flat instead and Haynes take it chest-high. The length drew Villani into the shot, and she’s soaked up 11 balls for her single run.
2nd over: Stars 3-0 (Villani 1, Lanning 0) Brilliant first over from Ismail, and Sammy-Jo Johnson follows with another. The ball swinging about all over the place, and Villani is streaky as Canadian bacon. Comes down the track, swinging, and nearly loses her leg stump. Then swinging outside off and nearly giving up an edge. Just a single skewed to deep third from the over.
1st over: Stars 2-0 (Villani 0, Lanning 0) The score will be written in international style: runs then wickets. Shabnim Ismail with the ball, and she starts perfectly! Fast outside the off stump and a bit of outswing. Villani pokes forward and misses. Second ball, same again. And again! Three times past the outside edge. Finally Ismail bowls straighter and Villani gets a leg bye. Lanning sees a wide go past her legs. Last ball of the over, Lanning is dropped! Fends outside off stump, surprised by the bounce that kicks off the surface. It loops to Beaumont at backward point, an experienced international player, and she puts it down!
For those of you not in Sydney, I should also mention that it was 40 degrees today, and it’s still well above 30 even though it’s past 7pm at night.
Meg Lanning *
Mignon du Preez
Nicole Faltum +
Rachael Haynes *
Tahlia Wilson +
Heavyweight match-up in a couple of areas, with the top three wicket-takers in the league this season starting in this match: Johnson (20) and Darlington (18) for the Thunder versus Sciver (19) for the stars.
Lanning is second for runs (480) with Knight fourth (420). Both could jump a spot tonight over a couple of Perth players who have been knocked out of the comp.
In fac the whole Stars top four have been having big seasons with the bat. Then come three quality all-rounders through the middle, while Alana King bowls good leg-spin and has recently been hitting sixes late in the piece. Flintoff has picked up useful late wickets, the keeper comes in late a la the 1800s, and Sophie Day is a good left-arm spinner to round them out.
The Thunder have had England pair Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight contributing, the latter all season, the former finding some oomph after a poor middle part of the season. Trenaman has been patchy, Litchfield has started to blossom, both are still in their teens. Haynes has a lot of the lifting to do, and could join the 2000-run club with a ton tonight. Shabnim Ismail is the best bowler in these XIs to watch when she’s on song: fast and fierce. Bates bowls left-arm orthos at a frugal run rate, and Smith bowls offies while being the best across both teams in the field.
We’re set for a spectacle, if things go our way.
Melbourne Stars win the toss and bat
This is curious. Most of the teams this season have done better chasing. But the Stars definitely have the batting edge over the Thunder, and perhaps they reason that they’ll use the best of the remaining daylight and put up a score, and be able to put more pressure on Sydney in the chase.
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It took 58 matches in a condensed schedule of barely more than four weeks, and in the end it has come down to this. The Melbourne Stars, also known as Green Melbourne, who for the previous five years have been an absolute pile of pants, even when Meg Lanning used to make a million runs for them back in the opening two seasons. She returned this year after some time in Perth, and suddenly the Stars morphed into the best team in the comp, with a convincing XI all the way down the card.
Then we have the Sydney Thunder, also known as Green Sydney, a team that has often been a contender, and that was the inaugural champion back in 2015-16, but it is a different and younger side this year after losing a few of the veterans of years past. Nowadays, under captain Rachel Haynes, this is a team featuring a lot of teenage and early-20s players. They should have lost the semi to Brisbane, but somehow found a way back in the field. Tonight they’ll try for one more win.
Green on green, away we go.