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WBBL semi-finals: Stars, Scorchers, Heat and Thunder have eyes on the prize

How the teams reached the knockouts, the leading performers and injury news

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Meg Lanning raced to a 23-ball half-century, Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat, WBBL, North Sydney Oval, November 8, 2020

Meg Lanning has continued her spectacular form  •  Getty Images

The 56-game WBBL regular season is finished and we know the four semi-finalists, including defending champions Brisbane Heat, aiming for a hat-trick of titles, and the Melbourne Stars having reached the knockouts for the first time. Here's a look at how the two matches shape up

Melbourne Stars (1st) v Perth Scorchers (4th)

How the group stage went
It took the Stars three matches before they could complete a game as rain ruined the first week of the tournament, but once the sun came out (mostly) so did the Stars' class. A run of seven wins on the bounce did most of the qualifying work before a brief hiccup in a Super Over defeat against the Renegades. The Stars followed that up with two more victories, but lost their last two group matches - against the Heat and Sixers - and the way they did not respond too well to Alyssa Healy's onslaught (albeit there was nothing riding on the innings) and briefly Laura Kimmince the game before was perhaps a template for others. You can't sit back against them.
The Scorchers' opening pair of Sophie Devine, who was named Player of the Tournament for the second consecutive year, and Beth Mooney are certainly in the form to apply that sort of pressure, although their group campaign was less consistent. But four wins in a row in the middle of the competition was where things came together, before just one win in the last four - two of the defeats coming when Devine was injured - left things a little tighter than they would have liked.
When they met in the group
Melbourne Stars won by eight wickets - Devine and Mooney were dismissed in the Powerplay and it was rarely a contest from there
Melbourne Stars won by six runs - At 1 for 82 in the 11th over chase 150, the Scorchers were well place despite the absence of Devine but Sophie Day and Alana King took 5 for 31 between them.
Most runs:
Beth Mooney (524)
Meg Lanning (458)
Sophie Devine (448)
Most wickets:
Nat Sciver (18)
Sarah Glenn (16)
Taneale Peschel (13)
Elyse Villani tweaked her hamstring against the Sydney Sixers and Annabel Sutherland suffered a knock to a finger, but both trained on Tuesday with the Stars hopeful they will be available. Erin Osborne also missed the end of the group stage with a hamstring niggle. For the Scorchers, Heather Graham picked up a knee injury over the weekend but scans have cleared of a major injury and she is in the squad.
Where the game could be decided
An awful lot appears to rest on the shoulders of Devine and Mooney for the Scorchers. They are capable of doing it on their own, but the Stars feel like the team with more bases covered and more routes to victory. Mignon du Preez has been the glue below their powerful opening pair while Alana King's form has answered added depth with bat and ball.
What they said
"I love knockout cricket because everyone starts from scratch and it's game on. It's the best type of cricket to play, puts you under pressure and everything is on the line."
Sophie Devine
"They [Devine and Mooney] have been pretty crucial during the season, but they have other girls in the line-up - including my team-mate Amy Jones - so it's not only about the opening pair but they are crucial wickets."
Nat Sciver

Brisbane Heat (2nd) v Sydney Thunder (3rd)

How the group stage went
A story of two halves for the Heat, who looked a long way short of challenging at the midway mark of the tournament with one win in seven matches. "If we get on the board next game, look out, because we could be on from there," Grace Harris said. And she has been proved spot on. Seven wins on the bounce and they were safely into the knockouts before the last match. Laura Kimmince has become the ace in the pack when it comes to closing out innings and the spinners have come to the fore.
The Thunder laid down an early marker with three strong wins after the rain had cleared, but that was followed by four defeats in five which left them in the tight mid-table. Despite a defeat in the derby against the Sixers they pulled it together in the hectic final week with three wins, the last spearheaded by the outstanding spell from Shabnim Ismail.
When they met in the group
Sydney Thunder won by 14 runs (DLS) - The chase was reduced to five overs and the Heat were 7 for 30 in pursuit of 45. Sam Bates bowled a double-wicket maiden in the second over
Brisbane Heat won by eight wickets - The win that started the run for the Heat, set up by Amelia Kerr's 4 for 20.
Most runs:
Heather Knight (403)
Georgia Redmayne (332)
Rachael Haynes (268)
Most wickets:
Sammy-Jo Johnson (18)
Amelia Kerr (16)
Jess Jonassen (16)
Sam Bates left the field at the end of her third over against the Hobart Hurricanes in the last group match after landing awkwardly as she dived from her follow through. However, she trained fully on Tuesday so there is no concern about her availability.
Where the game could be decided
The Heat know how to win, but they will have to be careful in the batting Powerplay where they will face the excellent Ismail and Bates. How the Thunder deal with Kerr is likely to be a key part of the match. Laura Kimmince is the x-factor, a player who can swing the match in just a few deliveries.
What they said
"We knew we were still playing pretty good cricket, we just weren't winning the one or two overs within the game that in T20 can win you those games. We knew our plans were right, we just had to keep backing ourselves. We've fought hard the last seven games but really tried to enjoy our cricket at the same time."
Delissa Kimmince
"It turned into a bit of tournament play for us, having to keep on winning to get to finals, and now we've got the opportunity to play in finals it's another really good experience for this group to play in big games, under pressure, it's the reason you play and train."
Rachael Haynes

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo