Final balls, and how to manage them
As much as spectators love it, no cricketer ever really wants the game to go to the last ball. When it does happen, the key is composure. Which is not always as easy to come by as you might hope. Three last-gasp finishes within the last 14 WBBL matches demonstrated exactly how to handle, and how to fumble, the closing moment.
When Sydney Sixers needed three runs from one ball in the Melbourne suburb of Camberwell, Melbourne Renegades thought the win was banked after Sarah Aley squirted a single straight to backward square leg. The throw was returned, the Renegades keeper Emma Inglis threw the ball up in celebration and while that celebration ball rolled away, Aley darted back from the non-striker's end for a second run to tie the game.
> INSANE! It doesn't get much crazier than this!— Sydney Sixers WBBL (@SixersWBBL) January 3, 2018
Incredibly intelligent cricket from Sarah Aley on the final ball of our innings forces a SUPER OVER against @RenegadesWBBL! #smashemsixers pic.twitter.com/WG5ofYAMWF
The Renegades captain Amy Satterthwaite, who had bowled the delivery, was the only Melbournian alive to the threat, as her team-mates were distracted by premature embraces. But she couldn't get there in time, and as much as she and Inglis argued that the ball was dead, the umpires ruled that the wicketkeeper had not done anything to close the passage of play - like remove the bails - before discarding the ball. Luckily Inglis was spared some embarrassment when the Renegades won the resulting Super Over.
Melbourne Stars captain Kristen Beams rivalled this in terms of Things You Don't Want To Do From The Last Ball, when she bowled a no-ball for height. It didn't affect the equation too much, given three runs to win will most often still require a boundary, but it meant that Adelaide Striker Tabatha Saville now couldn't be dismissed as she was facing a free-hit. Saville duly pumped the extra delivery over backward point for four.
It was the Sydney Thunder that held their nerve from the last ball, against Perth at Lilac Hill. Again the equation was three to win, two for a Super Over. But while non-striker Mikayla Hinkley was up and back in a flash, the Thunder were clinical in running out striker Mathilda Carmichael as she threatened to complete the second. With veteran New Zealand keeper Rachael Priest behind the sticks, no one forgot to take the bails off there.
Cream rises to the top
The best in the business tend to demonstrate their superiority over the long term. So it has transpired in the WBBL, after Ellyse Perry knocked off 45, 64 and 37 to move to the top of this season's run-scoring list, while Beth Mooney jumped to third with a brilliant match-winning run of 86, 82, and 62 on either side of New Year's Eve, all three of those innings unbeaten.
That pair was joined by Alex Blackwell in the last few days in having made 1000 WBBL runs across all three seasons. Elyse Villani got there earlier this season, while Meg Lanning, of course, did it a year ahead of everybody else. The big five, unsurprisingly, is populated by some of the biggest names.
Also a note for Lizelle Lee, who has set a new season record with 14 sixes. The big-hitting South African opener still has six regular season games remaining with the Stars, plus finals if they make it. Bring your tin hats.
A ringing going for Australia's favourite legspinner
It feels like yesterday we were watching teenager Amanda-Jade Wellington for the first time on television, earning the wicket of none other than Charlotte Edwards, England's greatest-ever player, with a perfect legbreak.
It was New Year's Eve in 2015, the WBBL was in its infancy, but in that moment we found our first young gem. Adam Gilchrist, commentating the BBL on television that night having watched the earlier game, saw it too and couldn't stop talking about it.
Two weeks later - still 18-years-old - she bowled Meg Lanning, the best player in the world, for a duck. Positively Warne-like. That moment, her ascent to national colours was ordained. When it came around last summer, she took a wicket with her first ball.
Last week she was announced as the Australian Cricket Media Association's Emerging Player of the Year, granted during the New Years' Test Match at the annual ACMA dinner.
Meanwhile, Wellington is doing her thing in the WBBL, where it all began. She has the joint third-most wickets - 10 victims at under 19. A joy to watch. Congratulations.
What's next in 2018
With six games left for each team, every moment now matters. In an important development, the final stretch begins with the WBBL hitting new venues in the north of Australia for the first time.
But it's in Australia's biggest city where the feature game of the round will be played: the nationally televised Sydney Smash between the Thunder and Sixers at the SCG. Better still, the rivals currently sit first and second place on the ladder. A legitimate blockbuster.
The Heat and Stars begin their double-header on Friday in the Queensland coastal city of Mackay, some 1000 kilometres north of the state capital. After winning four in a row, the Heat have the chance to consolidate a top-four spot against the patchy Melbourne outfit.
To Alice Springs in Australia's Red Centre will the Strikers and Scorchers travel for their mid-table stoush. No team battles more with consistency than the Strikers, and the Scorchers are outside the four despite a list as good as any. Either team could not only shore up their own spot, but see off a competitor.
Less competitive on paper are the clashes in Hobart between the hapless Hurricanes and the Renegades. It's great timing for the Renegades, who can leap back into the final four - and improve their net run rate - with two wins over a Tasmanian team that has not yet troubled anybody.