October 17, 2000

Blues win opening double-header over Scorpions

Defending champions, the NSWIS Blues, opened the 2000-01 Women's National Cricket League season with wins in both matches in the weekend double header against the Southern Scorpions.

Despite previous form - the Scorpions finishing last in 1999-2000 with one win out of eight matches, and the Blues holding the Ruth Preddy Cup as national league champions for the last four years running - both games at the Adelaide Oval No.2 were relatively close encounters.

On Saturday the Blues won a rain-shortened match by seven wickets with seven balls to spare. The margin of victory on Sunday for the Blues was 22 runs, however both matches were, for the most part, closer than the final results make them appear.

The player of the weekend was undoubtedly Southern Scorpions captain and all-rounder, and Australian vice-captain, Karen Rolton, who scored 75 and 84 and took three wickets in a losing cause.

Saturday: Blues win by seven wickets

Morning showers on Saturday prevented the start of play until 1pm, the match being reduced to 38 overs a side. New South Wales captain Belinda Clark won the toss and put the South Australians into bat. The Scorpions were off to a bad start when opener Libby Markwick was run out at the non-striker's end on the third ball of the day without having faced a delivery herself. This setback was quickly brushed aside, as Rolton came to the crease joining fellow Australian player Jo Broadbent.

The left-handed Rolton was particularly aggressive against the NSW attack, and brought up her half-century with her ninth boundary of the day, from 63 deliveries. The hundred partnership came up in the 26th over, and was broken only when Clark made an unexpected bowling change - namely, giving herself a bowl.

Off the final bowl of Clark's first over, Rolton holed out to Martha Winch. She made 75 out of a Scorpions total of 107. Clark duly retired from the bowling crease with figures of 1/4.

Broadbent, having taken 91 balls for her half-century, fell to the bowling of Bronwyn Calver when on 60. Run outs of Shelley Nitschke and Heather Marshall on successive deliveries hampered the Scorpions' pursuit of a big target, but their final score after 38 overs of 5/172 was certainly enough to give the Blues a serious challenge. The tightest of the Blues bowlers was off-spinner Lisa Sthalekar, who gave away only 19 runs in her seven overs.

The experienced New South Wales opening pair of Belinda Clark and Lisa Keightley made a steady start, however began to lag well behind the South Australian scoring rate. When Clark brought up both the 100 partnership and her own 50 (72 balls, six fours) in the 24th over, the Blues' asking rate for the rest of the innings was already past 5 per over. Clark was out in the following over with the total on 103, falling victim to right-arm medium pacer Lauren Ebsary. The Blues captain - who ironically, now lives and plays grade cricket in Melbourne, having relocated there in her new job as executive officer for Women's Cricket Australia - made 51.

As the innings wore on, Keightley began to find weaknesses as the pressure from the Scorpions began to ease. Leg-spinner Olivia Magno, who had bowled tightly earlier in the day, gave up thirty runs in the space of her last four overs before being removed from the attack. The match swung in the Blues' favour in the 34th over, when the two Lisa's, Keightley and Sthalekar, took four successive singles off a Broadbent over finished off by Keightley with a boundary.

Entering the final two overs with two runs remaining, Martha Winch sealed the win with a boundary off the bowling of Rolton. Keightley remained unbeaten on 85, scored from 111 deliveries and including nine boundaries. For the Blues, this was a case of making a solid opening and then relying on wickets in hand to get them over the line.

Sunday: Blues win by 22 runs

The second match, on Sunday, started half an hour late due to dampness on the pitch, although no overs were lost. Belinda Clark again won the toss, deciding this time to bat first. However, both she (12) and Lisa Keightley (5) were back in the pavilion with the score on 18. The Blues slumped to 8/119 in the 35th over before Michelle Goszko (65) and Emma Liddell (35*) led a belated recovery which saw the final total after fifty overs at 9/179. Five bowlers shared the wickets, however Jo Broadbent's 1/19 from ten overs was the most economical.

Earlier, Amanda Owens had struck the first six of the national league season off Olivia Magno.

Liddell returned after the break to share the new ball with Bronwyn Calver, and after the first twelve overs, the Scorpions had been contained to just seventeen runs. Libby Markwick was finally dismissed after a 49-ball 9. Broadbent and Rolton were unable to lift the scoring, and at the 25-over mark, the Scorpions were 1/55 needing a rate of 5 per over for victory.

The partnership between the experienced duo of Broadbent and Rolton came to an end when Broadbent fell to the bowling of Julie Hayes when on 41. The 49-run partnership had occupied almost seventeen overs, and seen the required run-rate reach a run-a-ball.

With the target slipping well beyond reach, it was adding insult to injury when Calver delivered a three-wicket maiden in the 45th over. Rolton, whose second fifty of the weekend came from 77 deliveries (six fours), lofted Debbie Nelson for the second six of the day, but when on 84 and in sight of a deserved hundred lost her wicket to Hayes. South Australia finished on 8/157, short by 22 runs. Bronwyn Calver (3/18 from ten overs) was the most economical of the NSW bowlers, and with the help of one devastating over, the most successful.

This was a game that the Scorpions would have felt was almost in the bag when the Blues were 8/119. But from that point onwards, the visitors from the east were let totally off the hook.

The Blues come away from Adelaide with a maximum 12 competition points from their first two games. They travel to Brisbane to face the Queensland Fire in a fortnight. The Scorpions' next encounter will be with the Western Fury at Woodville Oval, also in two weeks time.

The next matches in the national league will be the double-header in Perth this weekend between the Fury and the Victorian Spirit. The matches have been transferred from the WACA because of ground unavailability and will be held at Lilac Hill North (Sat Oct 21) and Melvista Oval (Oct 22).