Thunder claim inaugural WBBL title in tense finish
Sydney Thunder Women 7 for 116 (Haynes 37, Blackwell 30, Aley 2-19) beat Sydney Sixers Women 7 for 115 (Reakes 23*, Osborne 3-21) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sydney Thunder beat their crosstown rivals Sydney Sixers by three wickets to win the inaugural WBBL title, in a tense and scrappy game which came down to the last over.
Sixers' innings was messy. Thunder fielded poorly, missing a plethora of run outs and catches, with each of the top four let off. The bowlers continued to create chances, and no mistake was horribly costly, but while seven wickets were taken and the total was underpar, Thunder could have been more clinical.
Fortunately for them, Sixers were in merciful mood. Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy have scored 346 runs in each other's company this season, and are not players to be missing chances off. So when Claire Koski failed to gather Alex Blackwell's throw to complete a simple run out of a desperately diving Perry, Thunder would have been kicking themselves. But, after adding just one more run, Perry was gone, slicing the superb Rene Farrell - who finished as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 26 - to point. Likewise, Thunder had reasons to rue when Maisy Gibson dropped a tough caught and bowled chance off Healy on 15. Five runs later, 19-year-old Gibson, one of the finds of the tournament, had Healy leg before.
The most costly drop was of Ashleigh Gardner, who made a breezy 20. The ball after Perry departed, Gardner sent the ball to point too, where the same fielder, Rachael Haynes, dropped a dipping chance. Gardner was away with a beautiful straight drive and found the boundary on three other occasions, before Koski sharply stumped her off Erin Osborne. Osborne used all her experience to dismiss Marizanne Kapp, who had threaded a beautiful cover drive between two fielders only to hit it straight back to the bowler next ball, and Sarah Aley cheaply. Between the two, Lisa Sthalekar had slapped Gibson straight to point.
With Sara McGlashan at the crease, Sixers still harboured hopes of an imposing score. She leaned into a beautiful straight drive off Nicola Carey, but before long was involved in the second horrid - yet unpunished - mix-up between the wickets. McGlashan pushed past backward point, and ran one with Angela Reakes. McGlashan turned, making it all the way back for a second, only to slip. Stafanie Taylor had thrown to the keeper's end, and with both batsmen on the ground, Koski just had to gather and throw to the bowler. She could not, as McGlashan got up, turned, and made her ground. She had run three lengths but had just one to show for her efforts. Most importantly, she was still in.
Farrell returned at the death, and trapped McGlashan leg before, before conceding just six runs from the final over. Reakes picked up McGlashan's mantle, twice driving boundaries - in front then behind point - off Carey, and scampering singles hard in the company of Kara Sutherland.
Defending 115 was a tough ask. Kapp found a maiden first up, and every fielder ran in to praise her. Runs were scored off the bat just twice in the first 20 deliveries. But the Thunder grew into the innings and the introduction of spin saw them push the score. At the halfway stage, no wickets had been lost, and just 62 was required from 60.
The game returned to life in the 11th, however. Taylor found long-on off Aley, who then dropped a return catch from Haynes, only to bowl Naomi Stalenberg two balls later. Blackwell and Haynes remained calm, sharing a busy 44, only for Aley's next over - the 18th - to throw the game open again. Haynes pulled to Perry to midwicket, who dropped a diving catch, only to get up and run out Haynes on the second. After Blackwell drove a boundary down the ground, her ramp saw Carey run out on the third.
Nine was required from 12 balls when Blackwell charged down, swung and missed Kapp's full delivery. Osborne was run out with some brilliant work from Healy again. Koski then scampered three after more farcical fielding. Kapp's spell had cost just 11, and Thunder needed four from the last. Perry had Farrell caught at mid-off, before the batsmen sprinted through for a bye off a wide to seal a remarkable win with three balls to spare.
Given this was the highest-profile women's domestic match ever, broadcast not only in Australia, but also in England, India, South Africa, and Bangladesh - it did not necessarily flatter the sport's standard. Nevertheless, a thrilling contest emerged and a fine competition - that has exceeded all expectations - had an exhilarating conclusion. All that was missing, for most of the match, was the Benny Hill soundtrack.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp