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McGrath magic lifts Strikers

09 January 2019

Tahlia McGrath has continued her impressive run of form with the bat to inspire a crucial Adelaide Strikers win against the Hobart Hurricanes in the rebel WBBL|04 clash on Wednesday at Karen Rolton Oval.

Player-of-the-match McGrath blasted 65 from 39 balls as the Strikers claimed a 24-run win to remarkably remain in the race for a semi-final spot.

Adelaide reached 5/165, with in-form Sophie Devine making 40 and skipper Suzie Bates contributing 36, before pace ace Megan Schutt (3/21 from four overs) and off-spinners Alex Price (2/10) and Danielle Hazell (1/17 off four overs) restricted the Hurricanes to 9/141.

The second win in two days against Hobart means Adelaide is still a chance to steal an unlikely semi-final spot for the second successive season. The Strikers have edged up to sixth place on the ladder with four wins - along with an unlucky abandoned game - in 12 clashes and are two wins behind fourth side Melbourne Renegades with two games to go. Next up for the Strikers are Perth Scorchers in Alice Springs on Saturday and Sunday.

“They are still alive … who would have thought?” McGrath said of the Strikers’ finals hopes. “We take on the Scorchers next and, even if we don’t make the finals, two wins (for four in a row) would be a really good way to finish off the season.”

McGrath not surprisingly was “very happy” with her performance and the win - “It’s always nice to come away with two wins and I think the way we went about it, it was a really polished performance”.

Tahlia McGrath cracks another half-century

McGrath admitted earlier in the summer she had “struggled a bit, I was a bit scratchy and got out to some pretty stupid dismissals”. “At the start of the season I was trying to hit everything into next week,” she said. But she has turned her campaign around in dramatic style - by getting back to the basics.

“I decided to give myself a bit more time - 20 overs is still a long time - and not to play any of that funny stuff until I am well in. I am trying to play straight as much as possible early on and trying not to over-hit it - timing is more important. Once I get in I can bat with a bit of freedom and the tricks come out.”

The Strikers’ Smash Sisters Bates and Devine gave their side a strong start with an opening stand of 61 from 45 balls. Devine, fresh from her heroics in Tuesday’s thrilling win against the Hurricanes when she slammed 99 not out and then added 16 from three balls to seal the super-over triumph, continued her bat-breaking form - literally. When the Kiwi champ crunched two huge sixes straight down the ground off Alex Hartley, the second sweet strike shattered her bat.

It looked like the Hurricanes were again in for a long day chasing leather at Devine’s expense as she raced to 40 from 26 balls with five fours and two sixes. But she went for a crashing off-drive from Veronica Pyke that only managed to pick out Corinne Hall.

Devine had taken her remarkable runs tally past 500 for the campaign - including her unbeaten 16 in the super over - with another exhilarating knock. She has now scored 505 runs at an average of 50.5 this summer.

Bates also was looking on target for a big score before she went for a sweep and was trapped leg-before by English international Heather Knight for 36 from 32 balls. What appeared likely to challenge the previous day’s record Adelaide WBBL score of 5/189 was looking decidedly shaky at 2/88 in the 12th over with the Smash Sisters back in the sheds. But the Strikers still had a batting weapon who could swing the game their way - in-form No. 3 McGrath.

It was hard to believe this was the same McGrath who only managed to scrape together 11 runs in a string of five single-digit scores earlier in the campaign. Having twice in three games set her new highest score with 45 against Sydney Sixers, then her stunning 63 from 42 balls in Tuesday’s last-gasp win against the Hurricanes, McGrath was playing with freedom and confidence, making it look easy on a belter of a wicket. Playing mostly classical shots - strong drives, savage cuts, pulls and sweep shots, she also mixed in the odd reverse sweep that was more often than not successful and made it hard for the Hurricanes to successfully set fields, with runs scored over the full 360.

McGrath, who had celebrated her 50th WBBL game for the Strikers on Tuesday with her first half-century in a remarkable win, again set a new personal best as she plundered 65 from 39 balls with 11 fours and a six. She reached her 50 with a fierce pull shot for four from Meg Phillips, then pummeled her for a huge, perfectly-hit six over mid-wicket, then showed her allround game by reverse sweeping a boundary from the same over.

McGrath’s priceless knock lifted the Strikers to a competitive 5/165, with keeper-batter Tegan McPharlin chipping in with an important unbeaten 18 from 19 balls.

Hobart’s hard-hitting Indian left-hander Smriti Mandhana represented a huge danger after a breathtaking record-equalling half-century from just 22 balls on Tuesday. But Hazell made an impressive start with the ball, picking up the key wicket of Mandhana, caught at mid-off by Amanda-Jade Wellington for seven.

Georgia Redmayne, who had lifted Hobart to a tie on Tuesday with an unbeaten 54 from 37 balls, again was proving a problem with 24 from 21 balls. But then Devine came on and the superstar allrounder simply had her caught behind for her 13th wicket of a remarkable season.

Devine takes a one-handed screamer

At 2/90 in the 13th over the game was in the balance but talented Knight looked like she was taking the game away from the Strikers when she thundered off-spinner Price over mid-wicket for a six to reach her half-century from 37 balls. But, again, Devine stepped up. Knight tried to off-drive Price and the ball skewed from the edge of the bat over point where Devine threw herself backwards and to her right to haul in a miraculous one-handed grab.

“That was unreal,” McGrath said. “I think she’s pipped Suzie Bates for her one at Adelaide Oval (against Melbourne Stars).”

Price was on song as she had Veronica Pyke caught by Sam Betts for two.

The Hurricanes kept coming but Bates sealed the deal when she flew at mid-off for another sensational catch running with the flight of the ball to dismiss Ashley Day from Schutt, who snared three wickets in a crucial performance.