Beams bags three as Stars saunter home
Melbourne Stars Women 96 for 4 (Mack 31*, Inglis 25, Schutt 2-14) beat Adelaide Strikers Women 94 for 9 (Beams 3-12) by six wickets
Meg who? The Melbourne Stars ended their run of four straight defeats by beating the Adelaide Strikers in a low-quality game at the MCG, despite losing their captain Meg Lanning to injury shortly before the game began.
Lanning was replaced in the team by her sister, Anna (who hit the winning runs by smashing four down the ground) and as captain by Kristen Beams. Beams enjoyed a fine day, winning the toss, inserting the Strikers, then taking three for 12 - including two wickets in two balls - as the visitors were limited to 94 for nine.
With their powerful top order failing badly, the Strikers only made it to 94 thanks to some lower-order hitting from Bridget Patterson and Megan Schutt, who then dismissed Jess Cameron with the first ball of Stars' chase to give Strikers hope of an unlikely win.
In the end, the Stars got home by six wickets with 19 balls to spare, and defeat left the Strikers' strong squad's hopes of making the finals hanging by a thread. The Stars moved to third, with 10 points from 10 games.
Stars fumble, Strikers tumble
A measure of quite how poorly the Strikers' top order batted was that the Stars were able to let them off three times and still have them nine down. Charlotte Edwards, returning to the side, was dropped at point on 10, but then played all around Natalie Sciver's first ball and was lbw. Sophie Devine, so important to Strikers' batting, was dropped twice by Gemma Triscari (off her own bowling on eight and at short third man on 10, the latter a criminally simple chance) in her painstaking innings of 13 from 22 balls. Eventually, she was taken in the deep.
The Strikers were just 36 for three at halfway. Thanks to Patterson - who ramped neatly and played intelligently - they limped past the competition's lowest score of the season (which was their own 82, against Perth Scorchers on New Year's Eve), and raiding 36 from the final four overs. Still, it never looked enough.
Natalie Sciver looks more influential in a Stars jersey with every passing game, and the England allrounder had a fine match. She dismissed Edwards with her first ball, then Tahlia McGrath in her second over, both lbw playing across the line. She remained difficult to hit, and her four overs ended up costing just 21.
Sciver also combined with Anna Lanning to pull off a brilliant run-out of the dangerous Sarah Coyte. Patterson flicked into the legside and immediately called for two, but Lanning sprinted in from deep midwicket and threw to the bowler's end, where Sciver had backed up from cover, and she smartly flicked the bails off to complete the run out. With the bat, Sciver looked in fine form - driving well through cover and flicking powerfully to leg - before being deceived in the flight by Amanda Wellington.
Stars cruise home
Strikers' star bowler Schutt bowled her four overs straight up and gave her team cause for optimism with the wicket of Cameron first ball, while the penultimate ball of her final over bowled Emma Inglis, just as she had looked set to put the outcome beyond doubt, having smashed three fours in one over from Devine. Strikers' spinners Shelley Nitschke and Wellington also stalled Stars, but they simply did not have the runs to defend. Lanning and Katie Mack proved that, putting on an unbroken 40 to secure the win.
Shortly after Hayley Jensen became the third wicket to fall, run out in farcical fashion, ending up at the same end as Inglis, with Devine at cover and keeper Tegan McPharlin pulling off some sharp work, Mel Jones, commentating on cricket.com.au's live stream, said: "If you're a first time watcher of the WBBL… this is not what the standard is always like." Thankfully, she was telling the truth.
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp