Business as usual for workhorse Aley

'Some call me a bottle of red wine' - Aley (3:44)

Sarah Aley talks about her delights at winning the WBBL and her performance in the tournament. (3:44)

Sarah Aley has big hands. They're so big, they've inspired a nickname. "Mitsy", her team-mates call her.

The other reason she has earned the moniker is that those big mits are safe. A reliable fielder, a reliable team player. A big ticker, too.

Aley has rarely been the headline act in a hugely successful New South Wales side bursting at the seams with Australian representatives. Her only national call-up till date came much earlier in her career, in an Under-23s side. She is a reliable workhorse who bowls medium pacers - nothing too fancy, just accurate and consistent. She bowls them in a WBBL competition that boasts the likes of international stars Ellyse Perry, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, Deandra Dottin and Marizanne Kapp.

And yet it's Aley who has finished top of the wicket-taking pile in the second season of the WBBL. It's Aley who has taken the most scalps overall in the competition's young history. And it's Aley who is beaming and holding the Player of the Match trophy after taking four Scorchers wickets in the final, leading the way for the Sixers to claim the title.


Scorchers captain Suzie Bates had captained her side admirably after sending the Sixers in to bat. Clever field placing and accuracy from Anya Shrubsole, in particular, starved the dangerous Alyssa Healy of the strike and stifled the rest. Healy knew they didn't have enough runs on the board and told her players at the break they were going to have to scrap to defend their modest total of 124.

The Scorchers' top three have been tough to remove, they've been the backbone of their batting success. Ellyse Villani had been involved in three of the top six partnerships in the competition with either Nicole Bolton or Bates. She and Bolton set about building and then cruising to 37 in the first five overs before Healy brought Aley into the attack.

Bolton steered the first ball down to third man for a single, giving Aley her shot at Villani. The Scorchers' opener is a player who doesn't like to get tied down and Aley knew if she could pin her down, Villani was like to come down the track and attack. After four accurate dot balls, Villani did just that, picking out long-on. The Scorchers were no long cruising.

After 18 overs the game was very much in the balance; the Scorchers needed 25 runs off the remaining two overs but had the powerful Katherine Brunt at the crease. Healy brought Aley, who had also picked up the wicket of Heather Graham with her trademark slower ball, back into the attack. She repaid her captain with two wickets off the first two balls of the over: Chloe Piparo missing an attempted ramp shot and Shrubsole beaten by a slower full toss. All four of Aley's wickets were slower balls. She bowled 12 in her final three overs, virtually all spot on.

"I think this is the best I've ever bowled," Aley said after the match. "I had a pretty good WNCL season with the [NSW] Breakers so I wanted to translate it into the WBBL.

"It [winning] is absolutely fantastic. Obviously after last year we know how the Scorchers are feeling because we went through it. For us to scrap and fight for the win, we knew 124 probably wasn't enough, but we knew what we had to do, we have done it before, and everyone did their job and dug really deep."


Female players have nearly always retired much earlier than their male counterparts, the amateur nature of the game forcing women to choose between finding a career that pays them a living wage and playing for little or no financial award. In her late 20s and struggling with injury, Aley was facing that choice when Cricket Australia brought in contracts for state players - it was still not enough for her to leave her job finding clinical placements for students at the University of Sydney. But the extra money brought in for the WBBL, and New South Wales' landmark decision to pay all contracted players a living wage, means Aley can now work four days a week instead of five.

"The reason for it was so that we could be the best athletes possible," Aley said. "More funding and pay helps us train more - fitness, skills, things outside that, to make you a better person as well.

"I have a full-time job as well as a full-time cricket career, which is what it has become this year because we have more expectation on us in terms of training and what we need to do outside the playing field. It could extend my career if it means I can work less, so we will see what happens. Next year will be interesting with negotiations with the MOU and stuff like that. We will see what happens but I am enjoying cricket at the moment and hopefully that continues."

Aley finishes the season way out in front: 28 wickets at an average of 11.75 and a strike rate of 12.30. It would seem logical, despite her age - 32 - that she be in contention for Australia's three-match T20 series against New Zealand - whose captain Suzie Bates was warm in her praise of Aley after the match - if not the Women's World Cup in England midway through the year. If the call-up came, it would be a reward for a player who has persevered through injury and meagre financial returns.

"Some might call me a bottle of red wine, getting better with age. I have pretty much been hanging on by a thread for most of my career, having a back injury and things like that," Aley said. "If it came about, I'll see what happens and do what I can but I will just savour this win for now."