Women's Big Bash League 2015-16 December 11, 2015

Lanning, Barty star in WBBL's first week

Geoff Lemon and Adam Collins
ESPNcricinfo's wrap of the opening week of the Women's Big Bash League

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Brisbane Heat suffer surprise setbacks

Lanning the star of Stars in series opener

They call it "Meg's Hill"; Lanning's club in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill where the Australia captain plunders tons for fun when she's home from higher honours. You can run out of superlatives for the best player in the world, so naming things after her seems about right.

Lanning puts on clinics for school kids to encourage them to take up the game. On the opening day of the inaugural WBBL she opened up the exhibition to 1500 witnesses at a sunny Junction Oval; more than attended a day of Test cricket in Brisbane a month ago.

Lanning's Melbourne Stars clocked nearly eight an over in their opening rubber against the visiting Brisbane Heat, tallying 7 for 156. Making 90 from 58 balls, the captain came within two balls of seeing the innings through. She drove the spin of national team-mate Jess Jonassen. She pulled the pace of England's Kate Cross. She populated her wagon wheel in every direction.

Then she did it again - ten boundaries in an unbeaten 75 in the second match of the double-header. The first of her 56 balls was hooked for four, with nine more reaching the rope on her way to a 4 for 147 total.

The Heat came within 20 the first time around, 10 the second. Grace Harris reinforced why she'll be a permanent fixture within Lanning's national side, with 42 in 21 balls before 37 from 18. No Australian woman hits it harder or longer, especially over long-on where she deposited it twice, so to fall to a full toss from leggie Kristen Beams was a missed opportunity.

Beams was the Stars' most potent with the ball, claiming five wickets across the day, while England international Nat Sciver highlighted her all-round value, a pair of wickets in both spells and second top score (33 and 29) behind Lanning with the bat. Any team Lanning leads is ominous. With the side she has around her, we have our tournament favourite.

Come on Barty, let's go party

It's not easy for career cricketers to match up to Lanning, the baby GOAT of women's cricket. It's a whole lot harder when you took up the sport a few months ago. But former tennis player Ashleigh Barty did just that, with the second-most eye-catching performance of the opening weekend.

Only last year she was at Melbourne Park playing Serena Williams in the Australian Open. Lining up for Brisbane Heat at the Junction Oval was just down the road but a million miles away. Barty was out for 1 in the first match and didn't bowl, but after playing doubles finals at three of the four tennis majors, she knows about staying composed in front of a crowd.

In the second run-chase she didn't face a ball until the 13th over, saw Lauren Winfield and Sammy-Jo Johnson fall soon afterwards, and had to keep calm while accumulating 9 from 15 balls. Then she started working twos, before branching out into boundaries and finishing with a six down the ground. Her 39 from 27 balls was nearly top score of the innings - a 30 to love.

Former tennis star Ashleigh Barty showed her composure with the bat © Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Six Taylors stitching

2015 has been a big year for Taylors in international cricket. James Taylor established himself as an England player for all formats. Brendan Taylor had an incredible World Cup carrying a struggling Zimbabwe. Ross Taylor made the highest Test score by a visiting batsman in Australia. Sarah Taylor broke New South Wales' decade-long hold on Australia's 50-over domestic comp. Jerome Taylor took 6 for 47 to demolish Australia's Test top order in Jamaica.

This week came Stafanie Taylor's turn. The West Indies captain is one of the best women's players in the world, and took no time to settle in to her new WBBL team. Her 59 from 38 balls ensured that a Sydney Thunder team beat the Sixers for the first time ever.

Taylor brought all her presence at the crease, and had all her shots on display: drives from cover to midwicket, sweeps, cuts and pulls. Ellyse Perry's bowling was dispatched, Kara Sutherland was belted for a straight six. The only downside was that the boundaries limited the running between the wickets, so we didn't get to find out if Stafanie is Taylor swift.

On either sides of the country, a big weekend to come

The second weekend of the comp has a feast in store as we get a look at four teams for the first time, with everyone in action apart from the Stars in nine fixtures. On Friday afternoon the weekend's games started, and we go through to Sunday dusk.

Creative scheduling has all of these fixtures in two cities - four in Launceston, five in Perth. It's disappointing that Tasmanian cricket fans are being forced to compete between the WBBL in the north of the island and the men's Test in the south, when so many other weekends were available.

England internationals will generate the bulk of the interest in the Apple Isle. The Hobart Hurricanes are led by Heather Knight, the Melbourne Renegades have pocket-rocket Dani Wyatt, and the Adelaide Strikers have star keeper-batsman Sarah Taylor.

Across the Nullarbor, the Perth Scorchers will be joined by the Heat and the Sixers in a carnival between the sides across three days. The locals are led by Australian openers Nicole Bolton and Elyse Villani, complemented by England captain Charlotte Edwards, rapid opening bowler Katherine Brunt, and the West Indies' Deandra Dottin, who once belted a 38-ball international ton.

If they can get it right against the vanquished teams from the opening weekend, the West Australian franchise could be off to a flyer.

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