Sydney Sixers Women 6 for 172 (Gardner 55, McGlashan 49*) beat Sydney Thunder Women 9 for 151 (Carey 53, Kapp 4-18, Sthalekar 3-34) by 21 runs
Sydney Sixers are on the charge. After losing their first six games in the WBBL, they now have seven wins on the spin and a win in their last game tomorrow will take them to the Finals. In front of an impressive crowd, and live on TV, they veritably thrashed their cross-town rivals Thunder, who are limping into the Finals having been the tournament's pacesetters. This was compelling cricket, with the Thunder fighting back themselves after finishing their Powerplay 31 for four.
As the fortunes of these two teams show, with every team playing each other twice, the WBBL is a more complete competition than its more condensed brother, the BBL. There is greater scope for recovery, with time to bed in, to breathe and reassess plans, as the Sixers evidently have done, but also the possibility of a nosedive in fortunes.
Mistakes made in the women's game are often dwelled on for longer; unfairly treated as periodic rather than an isolated abomination. Sure, there were glaring errors here. Thunder dropped three makeable catches in three overs; both teams were guilty of overthrows, full tosses and half-trackers, and even the brilliant Ellyse Perry let a ball through her legs in the covers.
But these aspects might stick out, as those who made the effort to tune in or turn up early will attest, they do not tell anything close to a complete story. They do not tell of the excellence of the Sixers' batting, first Alyssa Healy's booming cover drives, then the aggression of 18-year-old Ashleigh Gardner's 32-ball half-century and Sara McGlashan's hitting masterclass at the death. It does not tell of the brilliant fielding of Lauren Cheatle running round from long-off to save two, or Healy's dreamy legside stumping to dismiss Naomi Stalenberg, or Lauren Smith's wonderful diving catch, running in from cover, to send Rachael Haynes on her way. No tournament has done more than the WBBL to acquaint fans with all this excellence. Equally, those (ever rarer) mistakes have never been tolerated less. It says every thing about the success of this tournament that a crowd of 12,220 might be considered a disappointment because it was not a record.
The Sixers' fightback has been built around captain Ellyse Perry's form with the bat - she recently went on a run of four consecutive scores between 47 and 67, but here they had to make do with a scratchy contribution of one run from 13 balls before she was bowled through a wildly unlatched gate by Nicola Carey. Not that it mattered, as Healy and Gardner shared 76. Healy had already taken three boundaries from Erin Osborne's opening over, including two fine cover drives, but Gardner played the more eye-catching innings, hitting a pair of beautiful straight sixes, including one to bring up her 50. The spin of Osborne and Maisy Gibson - who continued flighting the ball fearlessly - was particularly targeted.
When Healy miscued to mid-off trying to accelerate the score and Gardner skied to Alex Blackwell in the first over from 15-year-old Belinda Vakarewa - who bowls with an unorthodox, extremely leapy action - McGlashan picked up the mantle, boshing 49 in only 22 deliveries as partners fell around her, particularly to run outs, with a fine direct hit from Rene Farrell seeing off Marizanne Kapp while backing up. McGlashan's innigns was characterised by strong cutting and a clever array of ramps and sweeps, and she sent the last ball of the innings, from Farrell, for six having hit a pair of fours earlier in the over.
Thunder required the WBBL's highest chase ever, but their hopes were as good as over by the time Kapp had taken three wickets in her first three overs, with Smith's brilliant diving catch followed by Alex Blackwell plumb LBW next ball, and Stafanie Taylor miscuing to mid-off. Carey survived the hat-trick ball and shared 77 with Osborne in a mini-fightback, with the former sweeping and ramping superbly. But the return of Lisa Sthalekar sealed the deal for Sixers, as she bowled Carey and added to that the wickets of Osborne and Vakarewa.
Sixers' extraordinary escape is just a win away from completion.