Indigenous theme highlighted in Northern Territory fixture
It had a sense of occasion, the first Big Bash game played in the Top End, as the Adelaide Strikers and Perth Scorchers played off in Alice Springs for the Faith Thomas Trophy, recognising Australia's first indigenous cricketer. Uniforms designed for the occasion connected with the Territory's Aboriginal roots.
An overnight downpour created a streamy atmosphere and reduced the match to 16 overs a side, reflecting the high-stakes nature of the contest. The Strikers made use of a juicy pitch and a hooping new ball, adding some ferocious fielding to suffocate the Scorchers innings to 9 for 87.
But for a while it looked like it was going to be enough, as the Scorchers also made good use of the bowler-friendly conditions. It was down to the captain Suzie Bates to assemble a match-winning 49 not out, so hard-fought in the humidity that she couldn't attend to her post-match media commitments.
The theme was similar in the return leg, four Strikers bowlers claiming two wickets each in comfortably defending 107 in 20 overs. For the side stacked with international talent, the Scorchers now sit sixth with the danger of missing finals for the second time in three years.
The Strikers, though, went top of the league, for a couple of hours at least. The side that this column has backed time and again has finally come good.
One Sydney starts to slide…
Another team that should be smashing it on paper is the magenta mob from Sydney. The Sixers did so on the field in the first few weeks, but crashed from first to fourth after losing three of their last four.
The last-gasp loss to the Melbourne Renegades covered earlier wasn't the biggest concern, but a weak showing against the Sydney Thunder in their marquee SCG clash was more of one.
Pink Sydney couldn't make an impact with bat or ball, captain Ellyse Perry's 25 their top score in a very below-par total of 113. It gave their bowlers nothing to work with, despite some early wickets in the chase. The Sixers have a game in hand, against the Melbourne Stars in Melbourne in a few days. They'll have to make the most of it.
… As another rises to the top
Young quick Belinda Vakarewa hasn't had much influence since making her ODI debut during last year's World Cup, but was important for the Thunder in getting rid of Ashleigh Gardner and Erin Burns while conceding only 10 runs in her three overs.
Then another of the green team's exciting talents shook off her own recent dormancy to make an impression. Naomi Stalenberg has barely been required to bat this season, so well have the Thunder been going, but she was bumped up to No. 5 for the derby and slammed 48 from 41 balls to nail the chase after a couple of early ducks from Rachel Priest and Alex Blackwell.
Both young players turned in a couple of good performances in the first edition of the WBBL, as the Thunder won the title, then dropped off in the competition's second year. Third time round, this could be an ignition switch. Their team is already top of the table, and still have a game in hand like the Sixers.
Six must go into four, as the final frantic games begin
The Strikers have absolutely earned their chance for a blockbuster double-header on the penultimate weekend, travelling to Wagga Wagga in rural New South Wales to take on the ladder-leaders, before the Thunder's spare game against the Renegades.
Brisbane Heat blew their chance to consolidate in the top bracket last weekend against the Stars, but could leave a big dent in the fancied Sixers if they can take the points in both fixtures in Sydney later this week. The defending champions, meanwhile, are nearing must-win territory themselves.
The Renegades blew a chance to lock down third spot with a clanger against the previously winless Hobart Hurricanes, but can leap back into the finals mix if they knock off their cross-town rivals on the mighty MCG.
In a lifeline after their dreadful away trip, the Scorchers get their chance to tuck into the cellar-dwelling Hurricanes a couple of times at home. You wouldn't think the side in purple have many more wins in them, but the Scorchers can't afford to waste the chance.