Ismail, Johnson hand Haynes-led Sydney Thunder second WBBL title
The pace-bowling pair's opening spells restricted Lanning's Stars to 86, before Haynes and Knight took Thunder home
Sydney Thunder 3 for 87 beat Melbourne Stars 9 for 86 (Johnson 2-11, Ismail 2-12) by seven wickets
A searing opening spell from Shabnim Ismail and menacing seam by Sammy-Jo Johnson set up the Sydney Thunder for title glory in overwhelming fashion against the tournament pace-setters Melbourne Stars, who crumbled for the lowest total in a WBBL final. Ismail, named Player of the Match, took 2 for 12 from her four overs, and could easily have more, claiming the vital scalps of Meg Lanning alongside Elyse Villani. The entire Thunder attack played their part, with all six bowlers taking at least a wicket, and such was their dominance that five dropped catches (one of them off Lanning) did not come back to bite them.
The Stars limped through their 20 overs with Katherine Brunt top scoring with 22, but for such a power-packed batting order the innings included just three fours and two sixes. It was fitting that the Thunder's attack was so central to their success: if you take it back to the semi-final, when they fought back against defending champions Brisbane Heat where the game seemed lost, they had taken 15 for 98.
The chase wasn't without its occasional moment of unease, but the target was reached in a rush through a collection of crisp boundaries of by captain Rachael Haynes, who led the side superbly in the biggest match, and Heather Knight, who secured the title with a straight six.
Ismail vs Lanning
It was a contest for the ages. One of the best batters in the world versus one of the best and fastest bowlers in the world. For the seven balls it lasted, it was gripping. Ismail should have claimed Lanning second ball but Tammy Beaumont could not hold the chance at point: spilling Lanning in a final felt like a big moment. In her next over, Ismail came close to getting her again when an upper cut fell just out of the reach of Johnson at third man. Would it be Lanning's day? After brief respite from Ismail with a slog sweep for six against left-arm spinner Sam Bates, Lanning pinged two sweetly-struck drives but earned just one run. And then the great captaincy call: sensing the moment, Haynes opted to bowl Ismail through, as she has done before. With the first ball of her fourth over the edge was found and safely held by Tahlia Wilson. The Stars were 3 for 20.
Vital to the pressure Ismail built was the fact it was sustained at the other end. Johnson's opening two-over spell was just as good as she consistency moved in the ball late off the seam. She beat Villani with three consecutive deliveries before Villani's awkward stay ended when she drove Ismail to cover for 1 off 11 balls. Johnson returned to bowl the final over of the powerplay and beat Lanning twice in three deliveries either side of a big appeal for lbw. Then, off the last ball of the over, she trapped Mignon du Preez with a full delivery that straighten late. Johnson's powerplay figures were 2-0-2-1.
No way back
The Stars have formidable depth, but this was too much to recover from. The Thunder could even afford to be far from faultless in the field: Annabel Sutherland was dropped before scoring at slip by Knight, which would have given Ismail a third wicket, then at long-on by Ismail herself. However, the ball after Sutherland's second life Natalie Sciver got a leading edge into the off side against Bates and, in the next over, Alana King picked out deep midwicket to leave the score 5 for 37. Sutherland's departure, the ball after successive blows for four and a mighty six, removed the Stars' last hope of anything resembling a fightback.
Chase to the title
All the Thunder had to do was to avoid an awful start to their innings and they achieved that through an opening stand of 24 before Beaumont was removed lbw by England team-mate Brunt. Rachel Trenaman played some strong off-side shots before driving to cover point, but the Stars could not conjure a miracle having reached finals for the first time. Fittingly, Haynes, up against her national captain Lanning, was there at the end and as the six from Knight sailed into the stands raised her arms in triumph.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo