Adelaide Strikers made it four wins in a row to all but wrap up a spot in the rebel WBBL|05 finals with a gripping, heartstopping two-run win against Hobart Hurricanes on Saturday in Hobart.
The Strikers strengthened their grip on second spot on the ladder but only after they nearly had a hard-fought win snatched from their grasp by some stunning last-gasp power hitting from Chloe Tryon. The South African pummeled an unbeaten 44 from 22 balls and if it wasn’t for some cool Strikers heads and an outstanding final over from medium-pacer Sarah Coyte a win would have slipped through their fingers.
Adelaide also had an outstanding spell from leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington - who snared 3/23 from her four overs - to thank for banking the two crucial points for the victory.
The Strikers have eight wins and just three losses, to only trail reigning champion Brisbane Heat, which has won seven games in a row for a 9-3 win-loss record. Perth Scorchers are third on 7-4, with Sydney Sixers 6-5 and Melbourne Renegades are a win outside the top four on 5-6 after losing to bottom side Melbourne Stars in Saturday’s hard-fought derby clash.
There is a quick turnaround for the Strikers, who have to tackle Sydney Thunder (sixth, with four wins, six losses and one no-result) in Hobart on Sunday morning from 9.30am (SA time). But there will be plenty of enthusiasm for the clash after the nail-biting, crucially important win against Hobart.
For most of the Hurricanes’ run chase the Strikers seemed in control. Even with seven balls left in the contest, Hobart needed 17. But Tryon hammered Wellington over mid-wicket for a huge six.
Coyte had the ball for the final over, the Hurricanes needing 11. Maisy Gibson did it perfectly, getting a single off the first ball to give Tryon the strike. And strike it she did, thumping the next ball over cover for a four. With Hurricane Tryon seeming almost unstoppable, the Hurricanes needed just six off four balls. But Coyte kept her head, bowling some impressive yorkers and producing a couple of dot balls. Gibson was run out and in the panic and confusion of the helter-skelter finish Tryon was at the bowler’s end for the last ball, No. 9 Tayla Vlaeminck on strike and Adelaide still four runs ahead. Vlaeminck tried to heave a matchwinner to mid-wicket but it was another spot-on ball from Coyte, who kept her rival to two, sparking scenes of celebration more than befitting what was skipper Suzie Bates’ 300th Twenty20 match.
Bates won the player-of-the-match award for her crucial 64 as the Strikers reached 3/143. But they would probably have liked another 15 or 20 - and it certainly seemed that way as Tryon led the Hurricanes’ late charge, the home side finishing on 7/141.
“That’s a really good win for us,” Bates said. “I thought we were a little bit below-par with the bat and it’s nice to get a win without Sophie (Devine) being in it everywhere. In the last over Coytey was great under pressure … hopefully that’s going to have us in a good place come finals if we make it.”
Swing bowler Belinda Vakarewa and quicksilver Vlaeminck gave Bates and Devine a torrid testing in the first couple of overs with some pace, fire and inswing. But Bates took up the attack in the third over when she crunched Vakarewa through and over cover for boundaries.
Bates was making a celebration of her 300th Twenty20 match world-wide - she became the first woman to achieve the remarkable feat. But she admitted: “I had no idea about that but it probably makes sense - I have been playing for a while.”
There’s nothing wrong with her eye. There was a cracking sound from the bat as she welcomed Nicola Carey’s first ball by charging down the wicket and despatching her over mid-on for a big six. And she played what looked like a tennis smash as she swatted a short ball over mid-off for four, ending up on the pitch as she swung so hard she slipped over.
Devine got in on the act as she played a crashing cut over point for four from Vlaeminck and the dynamic Kiwi duo brought up their 50 stand at the start of the seventh over.
Bates showed how she continues to keep up with the changing game by moving outside off-stump to Carey and paddling her to vacant fine-leg for four, then reverse sweeping leg-spinner Gibson. She continued moving about the crease and gave herself room to pull Gibson over square-leg for four.
Bates and Devine took the score to 85 in the 12th over before the unthinkable happened. Devine, who had not been dismissed for the past four games and had made 255 runs since she was last out - against Perth Scorchers on November 9 - fell victim to WBBL’s leading wicket-taker Vakarewa, who has 19 this season. Devine, finding runs harder to find than usual with 31 from 35 balls, backed away to Vakarewa to try to drive her over the off-side but was bowled. After 207 balls in four matches without being dismissed finally her run was over - but in the meantime she had brought up 500 runs for the season. Her previous five knocks had produced scores of 65, 58, 85 not out, 77 not out and 62 not out and she now has 505 at an average of 72 this campaign to be second on the WBBL list, 31 behind Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney.
Bates pulled spinner Heather Knight for a boundary to reach her second half-century of the campaign, from 39 balls. But the Hurricanes had put the brakes on the Strikers’ runscoring, as they added just 19 in four overs between the 14th and 17th overs. Bates tried to force the issue and was caught by Vakarewa at deep mid-wicket off England captain Knight, who claimed 1/22 from four economical overs. Bates had made 64 from 54 balls with seven fours and a six.
Tahlia McGrath used her feet to get to a flighted ball from Gibson and off-drove her superbly for a six and she cleared the boundary again - over mid-on - in the last over from Vakarewa to finish unbeaten on 22 from 21 balls. But the Strikers would have felt a little light-on at 3/143 considering they were 0/76 at the halfway mark.
Devine made things happen again as her slower ball fooled Fran Wilson, who drove too early and hit a return catch the Kiwi superstar was relieved to grab. Free-scoring opener Erin Fazackerley, who crunched 35 off 21 balls against the Heat on Friday, edged economical Megan Schutt’s leg-cutter to be caught behind for five.
Carey kicked off her innings with back-to-back boundaries and she and Knight (22 from 26 balls) were looking dangerous. But a well-flighted, big-spinning leggie from Wellington found the edge of Knight, well caught by a diving Katie Mack in the gully. Carey (22 from 28 balls) was brilliantly caught on the long-on boundary by Devine, who had to make sure she wasn’t going to step on the rope as she caught the ball - that was going for a six - behind her.
And then came Tryon, who hammered 29 not out off 12 balls as the Hurricanes snatched a shock win against Sydney Sixers on Wednesday. She announced her arrival by hitting three fours off the first three balls she faced as she and Corinne Hall stepped up the tempo.
But Wellington picked up the key scalp of Hall (25 from 20 balls), reverse seeping to be well caught by a diving Alex Price, then had Sasha Moloney (four) caught in the outfield.
Tryon hits the ball as hard as anyone in the women’s game and she showed what a game-changer she can be as she thumped Bates over long-off for a huge six, then thumped her next ball over cover for a four. But it was Bates who ended the game with a smile on her face. And, after 300 great games, it was well deserved.