I don’t think I have to tell you just how excited I am that tonight marks the start of the first stand-alone season of the WBBL.
The fact that the women get their own window, with all games available to watch in some way (on Seven, Foxsports and Kayo as well as radio coverage) is amazing in itself, but to have clear air away from the men and lead into the Aussie summer?
(I’m hoping my dodgy TV reception and internet hold up so I can at least watch some of the games).
I can’t wait for it to get started!
The women’s game is unique, in that we’ll see weekend festivals with multiple matches in most major cities, and the women will also play in regional centres, allowing more fans to get to a game during the season.
The opening festival weekend is of course in Sydney, at North Sydney Oval, where the Sixers, Thunder and Heat will go head-to-head over three days.
The season opens tonight, with the Sixers taking on the Thunder in the Sydney Derby, before the Sixers take on the Heat on Saturday in a grand final rematch that will be sure to go down to the wire. Sunday will see the Heat take on the Thunder to close out the festival.
Other matches this weekend will see the Strikers taking on the Renegades in Adelaide in two games over Saturday and Sunday; In St Kilda, the Stars take on the Hurricanes over two matches; and on Wednesday the 23rd, the Scorchers will take on the Renegades in their first match of the season.
The match I’m most looking forward to?
It has to be the grand final rematch between the Heat (who are my team) and the Sixers. The Sixers will be after revenge after the heartbreak of losing last year in a tight match and the Heat will be looking to get one over the Sixers early.
The Heat can be hot and cold at the start of the season, often winning one game and losing the next when they play the same team over two days, but I’m hoping they’re ready to get going this year.
Both teams have been able to retain their superstars and have added some new players with the potential to take them up a notch.
Brisbane have secured the services of New Zealander Amelia Kerr, who you may remember burst onto the scene, breaking Belinda Clarke’s record ODI score of 229 with an impressive 232* (and bagged 5/17 with the ball) against Ireland last year.
She’s an exciting prospect for the Heat and I can’t wait to see how she goes in Australian conditions with the ball and the bat.
For the Heat, keep an eye on Grace Harris, who has apparently been training with a baseball coach over the off-season, so we may well see some balls hit out of the ground.
For the Sixers, I expect Healy to continue her rich run of form and I’m predicting we’ll see two half-centuries from the ‘keeper-batter over the course of the weekend.
As for the bowlers, expect big things from the usual suspects in Sammy-Jo Johnson and Jess Jonassen for the Heat, ably assisted by Kerr.
And for the Sixers, Marizanne Kapp is always a handful for batters, and Ash Gardner just loves North Sydney Oval, so expect a few wickets from her.
So, who do I think is going to win this weekend?
Sixers v Thunder – Sixers
Hurricanes v Stars – Hurricanes
Strikers v Renegades – Strikers
Sixers v Heat – Heat
Stars v Hurricanes – Stars
Thunder v Heat – Heat
Strikers v Renegades – Strikers
Renegades v Scorchers – Scorchers
Players to watch this round
It’s hard to know before game-day squads are announced who I think might have big games. So for this first round, I think I’m going to throw up some names of players I’m most looking forward to watching if they play.
I’ve already mentioned that I’m looking forward to seeing Amelia Kerr and Grace Harris for the Heat, and Ash Gardner and Alyssa Healy are always great value for the Sixers.
The Strikers look like a great team on paper who just haven’t seemed to get going consistently with bat and ball, but Megan Schutt has been in great form for the Aussies and she’s currently the second-ranked bowler in the world (behind Jess Jonassen), so I expect her to do big things for the Strikers. The Smash Sisters, Kiwis Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine are back in Blue, so I’m expecting fireworks from them with the bat.
And of course, listen out for Alex Price on the mic again this year.
The Hurricanes have made some great signings this year, picking the pockets of the Thunder, the Renegades and the Scorchers. Keep an eye on young gun Tayla Vlaeminck with the ball and Heather Knight with the bat. They’ve underperformed in previous seasons, but with a new-look squad, I think they’ll be refreshed and ready to go.
The Scorchers have secured the services of Nat Sciver from England, who will bring some much-needed fire-power to the team. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nicole Bolton goes this season after taking some time off last season, and of course, their skipper Meg Lanning will always be a handful.
The Stars snagged Elyse Vilanni from the Scorchers, so it will be interesting to see whether the change of scenery will help her get back to her best. Kristen Beams should go well with the ball again this year. A senior player with plenty of experience, I think she’ll keep the ship steady for them in the field.
The Renegades have lost a few players over the off-season, but I’m looking forward to big-hitting Jess Duffin at the top of the order, and Lea Tahuhu ripping through batting line-ups with the ball.
Finally, the Thunder again look amazingly good on paper, with some big hitters in their batting line-up and a formidable bowling line-up with the addition of Nida Dar and Shabnim Ismail. Look out for Rachel Priest again smacking balls into the stands (assisted by Haynes, Bates and Blackwell) and for young South African quick Ismail to really bring the heat with the ball.
All-in-all, it should be a cracking first weekend of cricket.
Oh, I almost forgot…
My prediction for this years top four are Sixers, Heat, Hurricanes and Thunder.
See you on Monday for the wrap-up.
For the squad lists, go here. For the complete fixture for the season, go here. For a comprehensive wrap-up of each round, wrap your ears around the Ladies Who Legspin podcast, who share some great insights, as well as chat to players, coaches and other people involved in the women’s game.