Top-placed WBBL team straight into final under new play-off structure

There is now greater incentive for teams to top the regular-season table

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
The Sydney Thunder players celebrate with the trophy, Melbourne Stars vs Sydney Thunder, WBBL 2020 final, Sydney, November 28, 2020

Sydney Thunder are the defending WBBL champions  •  Getty Images

A new finals series has been introduced for the WBBL, which will reward the team finishing top of the group stage with direct entry into the final while the teams in second to fourth will battle to join them in two play-off matches.
The new conclusion to the competition is a trimmed-down version of the five-match finals series that was introduced into the BBL two years ago with the tight time frame between the end of the group matches and the final on November 27 not allowing for such a long run of play-off matches.
The first-placed team will earn hosting rights for the final - providing the Covid-19 situation and border restrictions allow - with third and fourth playing the Eliminator on November 24 followed by the second-placed team facing the winner of the Eliminator in the Challenger final on November 25.
Both play-off matches will be hosted at the home ground of the team that finishes second in the regular season if restrictions permit.
The tournament will also have a new title sponsor with Weber Barbecues taking over from sports brand Rebel.
The previous structure saw two traditional semi-finals with first playing fourth and second taking on third to decide the finalists. Last season, Melbourne Stars topped the group stage and won their semi-final before being toppled by Sydney Thunder, who finished third in the table, in the final.
"The new Weber WBBL|07 Finals format adds more incentive than ever to finishing on top of the table after the 56-game regular season," Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia's general manager of Big Bash Leagues said.
"Not only will teams have a guaranteed path to the Final, they'll also have the backing of a strong home crowd, with fans given more time to secure their ticket to the Final. The league views the Final as a marquee moment in the summer of Big Bash and we look forward to creating an unmissable event to cap the season."
There remains uncertainty around the start of the tournament which is currently scheduled for October 14 in Sydney. The ongoing lockdown in New South Wales and related border closures means that it will likely be moved.
"We are committed to ensuring cricket remains a leading sport for women and girls by holding a full, safe and successful Weber WBBL|07 season," Dobson said. "We learnt many lessons from staging full WBBL and BBL seasons last summer and are confident of another safe and successful summer ahead.
"We'll continue to work with our clubs, state and territory governments, health authorities and broadcasters in the lead up to the season, which remains on track to begin on October 14."
The international series between Australia and India which precedes the WBBL has been relocated entirely to Queensland with matches to be played on the Gold Coast and in Mackay. The state may now be the favoured starting point for the WBBL given some players will already be located there.
Wherever the competition starts, it is likely that players from New South Wales and Victoria will need to quarantine before it begins. Last season, the tournament was played entirely in a Sydney-based hub.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo