Momentum with Sixers in Sydney derby
If there's a sense of brotherhood in the BBL final, then the equivalent fixture in the inaugural Women's Big Bash League has a similar familial feel. It will take place at the MCG, but this is the Sydney derby. The players know each other well and many have enjoyed success together with NSW Breakers and the Southern Stars.
This competition may have heralded a new dawn in Australian women's cricket, but New South Wales' status as the game's powerhouse - despite South Australia winning the Women's National Cricket League to break a ten-year NSW women's streak - has merely been reaffirmed.
Cricket Australia thought long and hard about whether to play the WBBL with six teams or eight. They opted for eight in order to replicate the BBL's brands, which had the strung-on bonus that it created space for teenagers to play alongside seasoned internationals. While the Melbourne teams have struggled for depth - both Stars and Renegades failed to make it to the semi-finals - the Sydney teams have shone.
"The fact that there are two Sydney teams in the final shows the depth in New South Wales," said Thunder captain Alex Blackwell. "It was very disappointing for the Breakers to not get our eleventh consecutive victory [in the WNCL] but ten is pretty good; when you lose one you realise how tough it is to win one, and we won ten in a row. We'll share it around but we've taken both spots in this game and whatever the result it's good for New South Wales, but the Thunder are desperate to win this one."
Blackwell admitted that, having qualified for the final first by beating Perth Scorchers in Adelaide, the Thunder hoped to meet their crosstown rivals, who beat Hobart Hurricanes at the MCG on Friday. "I was hoping we would meet the Sixers," she said. "It makes it a best of three contest. We took first honours in the opening round, them they beat us by about 20 runs at the SCG. Two quality matches and I know tomorrow is going to be no different. We have a lot of friendships between the teams but for the 40 overs it's going to be a real contest out there."
While the Thunder have been consistent throughout the competition, Sixers have veered wildly. Since losing their first six games, they have won nine in a row to make the final, with strong batting from captain Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy, Ashleigh Gardner and Sara McGlashan, and outstanding seam bowling from Marizanne Kapp and Sarah Aley, while Lisa Sthalekar, who came out of retirement for the competition, has 13 wickets, including three in the semi-final victory.
"After having lost six on the trot, it's been really nice to have such a big turnaround and win nine in a row, it's been a lot of fun," said Perry. "Now we've got really tough competition in the Thunder and it's nice to be playing our Sydney counterparts."
Asked what had caused the turnaround, Perry said: "We've been trying to put our finger on that, and I don't think anything too dramatic changed. We got on a losing streak which was a bit of a bummer and something we wanted to rectify pretty quickly, but just winning that first game in Sydney against the Scorchers was the catalyst for a lot of things. We had a couple of weeks off over Christmas and New Year when we worked pretty hard at training. It just worked for us. The four games on the trot in Melbourne just after New Year, we managed to win them and momentum is a big thing and has helped us."
The final brings the curtain down on a highly successful tournament, and will be the latest game to be broadcast on Channel Ten, which is enough proof of how well the competition has been received. Now for a cracking finale.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp