Unequal over-rate penalties only get half the point
This time of the season you tend to look at the top of the ladder, but down the bottom things are getting funky. Two points for a win, one for a no-result, so how do the Melbourne Renegades have four wins and 7.5 points?
The Adelaide Strikers have three wins and two washouts for eight points, same as the Sydney Thunder after four wins and a washout. Meaning the Strikers are ahead of and level with two teams that have won more games.
The answer lies in low over rates, which in the WBBL costs points. The Renegades lost half a point for one late over against the Perth Scorchers on December 29, then the Sydney Thunder lost a whole point for two overs against the Brisbane Heat on January 2.
While half a point may not sound stiff, in this structure it's as good as being stripped of a whole win. Even with a vastly superior net run rate, the 0.5 penalty will drop a team behind any other with the same points. There is effectively no difference between a one-over penalty and a four-over penalty.
And in an even competition like the WBBL, where as many as half-a-dozen teams could end on the same number of points, that apparent slap on the wrist could see a team drop from hosting a final to missing out altogether.
The law-and-order enthusiasts among us will say, "Easy, just don't break the rules." But the other key point here is the double standard between the two Big Bashes.
No points are docked in the men's competition. Players are fined and captains suspended. Obviously fines aren't appropriate in the WBBL given its cricketers are paid a relatively paltry sum for their season's work, so another mechanism was sought. But a points penalty deeply distorts the integrity of the competition for a minor offence, something the men's BBL is not subject to.
This is on top of the fact that men's games go far longer - bigger run-ups, more runners, and often a Versailles Treaty between captain, bowler, and five fielders between deliveries. As in international cricket, a penalty involving points or runs may be the most effective way to ensure compliance. But as well as Big Bash authorities coming up with a method to enforce their rules, they have to make it consistent between competitions.
Sixers plan a million ways to win
Depth. It may not be everything in T20 cricket, but it is almost. Those who have cultivated enough ways to win can do it when their biggest guns misfire. This is the story of the Sydney Sixers, now two games clear with seven wins after doing the double over both the Strikers and the Scorchers.
Sure enough Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy did what they do best at different stages, especially when laying the base to chase down the Scorchers at the SCG. But more significant was the other fixture when they both failed. It wasn't the first time Ashleigh Gardner has got the Sixers out of strife, clobbering 40 in 23 balls in a brisk stand of 69 with New Zealand's Sara McGlashan (36) for what proved a winning score of 136.
Gardner moved to fourth on the WBBL runs list, after being named the inaugural Women's Emerging Player of the Year by the Australian Cricket Media Association.
Meanwhile Sarah Aley continued to bowl consistently, and the orthodox spin of Lauren Smith was crucial in both encounters against the Scorchers, nabbing a couple of wickets first time, then wonderful figures of 4 for 13 in their SCG win.
This versatility will be tested in the final four group games, with key seamer Marizanne Kapp and allrounder Dane van Niekerk lost to South African international commitments.
I see a Beth Mooney rising
I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin'. I see those bad times today.
At least that's what Beth Mooney might have sung about her last 12 months, if indeed she's any good on the karaoke stick. A stellar first WBBL vaulted the Brisbane Heat wicketkeeper into the national squad for the World T20, but she floated around the order, was slotted below senior teammates with poorer records, and played as an outfielder with Alyssa Healy taking the gloves.
This confusion led into a Kia Super League season that started with a duck, then yielded scores of 9, 17, 18, and 56. A sequence progressing in the right order, granted, but not one that flattered an overseas professional. That run continued into this season, starting WBBL with scores of 0, 4 and 6.
Then abruptly it clicked. Within six innings she had 67* against the Scorchers, 55 against the Stars, a double of 34 and then 75* against the Thunder, finishing with 78* to post a score well beyond the Hurricanes.
All of that has vaulted the Heat's stopper to second on the run-scorers list, only behind Meg Lanning. Healy will monopolise the Australia women's gig for some time to come, but Mooney is firmly established as the next in line.
Apple Isle gives Hobart a fresh start
The Hobart Hurricanes are an underdog favourite given their lack of Australian representatives, but their season risked grinding to a halt over a winless holiday period.
But they bounced back in style on returning home - their 171 against the Thunder was highest score in this year's tournament. England captain Heather Knight was in front of the queue, slamming 47 in 29 balls. Significant too was the return of Amy Satterthwaite from New Zealand with an unbeaten 32 from 23 balls at the death, and then a couple of wickets.
In Hobart, they knew the importance of removing the red-hot Mooney. Julie Hunter won her edge for one, before Bajan wunderkind Hayley Matthews claimed the season's first five-wicket haul to leave 123 for victory. Keeper Georgia Redmayne knocked that off with ease to end on 64 not out, after being plucked from Sydney club cricket earlier this season.
40 down, 15 to go
In the regular season, that is. Western Australia's picturesque Lilac Hill is where the Strikers and the Stars will visit the Scorchers, while the Heat host the Renegades in Brisbane, the Sixers face the Hurricanes in Sydney, before the Hurricanes host the Thunder in Hobart.
At no stage this season have defending champions the Sydney Thunder stitched together two wins on the bounce. They'll have to now, or they'll miss the post-season altogether.