Sixers storm into final after ninth straight win
Sydney Sixers Women 0 for 55 (Healy 32*) beat Hobart Hurricanes Women 8 for 86 in 14 overs (Burns 26, Sthalekar 3-9) by 10 wickets (D/L method)
Not even the rain could stop Sydney Sixers. Inspired by the bowling of veteran Lisa Sthalekar, they romped to their ninth consecutive victory to set up a Sydney derby in the inaugural Women's Big Bash League final.
The rain had been forecast and, true to form, it would simply not stay away. Torrential, persistent drizzle in the early part of the day delayed the game's start and reduced it to 14 overs per side. After Hobart Hurricanes won the toss, elected to bat and posted a subpar 8 for 86, the rain returned, with a misty vengeance, forcing ground staff to bring on the full covers.
Hurricanes knew, having finished second in the ladder, that a no-result would see them advance to the final. The second innings of the match had been due to start at 4.37 pm, and could start no later than 5.12 pm, with Sixers set to bat just five overs. Fortunately for the Sixers, however, the showers eased, the covers were peeled back and, at 5pm, with eight overs to be bowled and a target of 55, the players returned to the field.
When they did, the sun even dared to shine. The Sixers had just a two-over Powerplay, and Alyssa Healy was determined to take advantage of it, with a brutal drive off Julie Hunter, and twice pulling Pyke - for four then six - to take Sixers' target below a run a ball. With 20 from the Powerplay and in a small chase with no margin for error for the Hurricanes, Healy was dropped at square-leg by Brooke Hepburn, and spared a stumping when dancing down the track by wicketkeeper Em Smith.
Healy and Ellyse Perry were in no mood to let the Hurricanes off. They ran hard and picked off boundaries with ease, both strong in front and behind square on the legside. Despite Hunter's best efforts - her second over, the sixth, included three dot balls - the Sixers strolled home with 10 balls to spare as Perry drove Knight through the offside. It had taken just 22 minutes.
Earlier, Veronica Pyke looked to guide Marizanne Kapp's second ball of the innings to third man, but only succeeded in edging behind, where Healy took a fine diving catch. Heather Knight found some rhythm, consecutively ramping and swinging Sarah Aley hard to leg for boundaries. With Erin Burns also looking at ease against Kapp, whose second over cost 15, the Hurricanes' four-over Powerplay looked productive, with 30 runs scored for the loss of just Pyke.
Enter Sthalekar. She tossed her first ball up, enticing Knight to drive down the ground, and the bowler dove to her right to take a fine catch. Her first two overs would cost just five runs to put the breaks on the Hurricanes, even if Amy Satterthwaite swiped twice to drive Lauren Smith for boundaries in the over between. Sthalekar was withdrawn from the attack and the batsmen settled again, with Burns late-cutting Perry beautifully. The Hurricanes looked well-placed on 68 for the loss of two wickets.
Perry brought Sthalekar back to bowl her third and final over in the innings' 11th, and the offspinner dismissed both set batsmen in three balls to derail the Hurricanes' charge. First, Burns used her feet but slapped straight to cover. Then, off the last ball of her spell, Sthalekar gave a full ball plenty of flight and trapped Satterthwaite plumb in front.
From there, Hurricanes' innings never recovered, losing four more wickets, with Hayley Matthews inside edging Aley, Corinne Hall playing on to Kapp, and both Sasha Moloney and Julie Hunter run out going for the third in Perry's final over. Indeed Sthalekar, surprisingly, provided the only blot on the Sixers' superb finish, dropping Moloney at cover off Perry.
Otherwise, this was a highly professional performance. Sixers were a team thrown together a matter of days before the tournament. They took time - six defeats - to find their feet. Now, however, they are within touching distance of completing a truly outstanding, unfathomable turnaround.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp