Top order, King fire Scorchers into WBBL final
Perth Scorchers 2 for 148 (Villani 38, Sciver 38, Bolton 37) beat Sydney Thunder 8 for 121 (Wilson 46, King 3-17) by 27 runs
Perth Scorchers made the most of their fortuitous home semi-final, jumping Sydney Thunder at the start and then bowling tigerishly to successfully defend 148 and advance to the decider of the Women's Big Bash League on Sunday. Much had been made of the fact the second-placed Thunder and first-placed Sydney Sixers have been compelled due to the WBBL/BBL double-header finals to play away to the lower-ranked Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers, and the West Australian side enjoyed home support in emerging victorious at the new Perth Stadium.
Nicole Bolton and the Scorchers captain Elyse Villani certainly made themselves at home in an opening stand worth 65 after the Thunder captain Alex Blackwell chose to bowl. By contrast, the Thunder were to start their pursuit disastrously, slipping as low as 5 for 46 when Stafanie Taylor was dismissed in the face of some high-quality overs from Bolton, Piepa Cleary and offspinner Emma King. From that horrid beginning, the Scorchers were always heavily favoured, and cruised home despite the best rearguard efforts of Fran Wilson.
Australian pair make the early running
A hot Perth sun beat down on the city's new stadium as the Australian international duo of Villani and Bolton sought to build a winning total. They were beneficiaries of some first-up generosity via Rene Farrell's leg-side wide, and nine runs from the first over set up a fast start for the hosts. The rate was maintained so effectively that the Scorchers had 45 on the board after five overs, a platform from which it was possible to picture a tally in the region of 180.
Villani and Bolton both showed confidence to strike the new ball down the ground, clearing the heads of mid-on and mid-off, while the broader square boundaries offered plenty of opportunity to work singles and twos. Farrell's first over struggle for control - she also conceded five wides to follow up the first ball - perhaps illustrated some nerves for the Thunder, who were playing away despite having finished above the Scorchers on the table, but they were to improve their work with the ball and in the field as the innings went on.
Taylor's holding role
Most successful in pulling back the Scorchers' rapid-fire beginning was the West Indian Taylor, who twirled down her offbreaks with increasing economy after Bolton had managed to despatch a pair of boundaries in her first over. From that point, Taylor conceded only one more boundary in her remaining three overs, and critically claimed the wicket of Bolton when the left-hander tried to clear the in-field and managed only to slice a skied catch to backward point, two overs after Villani had been pinned lbw by Nicola Carey.
These wickets played a key role in stopping the Scorchers from being able to break free of the Thunder's bowlers through the middle of the innings or even at the end. Having blasted out of the blocks in the first five overs, the Scorchers could only add another 103 from the final 15 overs of the innings despite losing only two wickets. This was not only a reflection on the Thunder's improved bowling, but also the sizeable dimensions of the stadium itself.
Thunder reel from Bolton's blow
Having been out in the middle from the very start, Bolton was aware of the need to prevent the Thunder from making similarly swift progress against the new ball. After Katherine Brunt's first over went for 10, there seemed every chance of the visitors doing so, but Bolton was to strike a pivotal blow with her second ball of slow left-arm spin. Slightly quicker and flatter than her usual trajectory, it struck fellow left-hander Rachael Haynes in front of the stumps for a straightforward lbw verdict, and was followed up impressively in an over that cost only one run.
Though Rachel Priest would offer a firm riposte by hammering a trio of boundaries from Bolton's second over, the rest of the Thunder line-up would find her difficult to get away. Both the captain Blackwell and Naomi Stalenberg would record sluggish strike rates in their brief stays, leaving the Thunder increasingly behind the required rate as overs ticked by, and allowing King to take advantage by plucking both their wickets. Bolton, meanwhile, finished with 1 for 22 from four overs, a performance more influential than its mere figures might otherwise suggest.
King's party time
Across 15 matches this tournament, King had been second only to Brunt for economy rate among the Scorchers' attack, but had not taken more than two wickets in an innings while playing a serviceable role in the team's ensemble. But the scoreboard pressure on the Thunder chase presented King with an ideal opportunity to send down her offbreaks, and she would offer unrelenting accuracy to force the visitors into repeated error.
Having defeated Blackwell and Stalenberg, the latter via a slick stumping by the specialist Scorchers wicketkeeper Emily Smith (listed to bat at No. 11), King returned to end the Wilson and Carey partnership that had become the Thunder's only faint hope of edging back into the contest. Carey was bowled while trying for a desperately-needed boundary, meaning King at that stage had figures of 3 for 4 from 3.4 overs. The Thunder collected 13 from King's final eight deliveries, but with a required rate now pushing beyond the 20-mark, the bowler did not mind. The stadium DJ's choice of Let's Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas upon the fall of Carey's wicket rather summed up her mood, and that of the victorious Scorchers.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig