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REBEL WBBL|05

Sophie, Strikers soar again

20 November 2019

A stunning fifth successive half-century from Sophie Devine guided Adelaide Strikers to a six-wicket rebel WBBL|05 win against Sydney Thunder in Wollongong on Wednesday.

A Katie Mack ramp shot for a single off the first ball of the final over from Rene Farrell gave the Strikers a crucial win that consolidated second position on the ladder and has them firmly on track for a finals berth.

Devine scored an unbeaten 62 from 58 balls on a wicket that was hard to score freely on but she still hit six fours and two sixes as the Strikers reached 4/113 in reply to the Thunder’s 4/112.

It is four games since Devine has been dismissed, the superstar Kiwi allrounder having scored 65, 58, 85 not out, 77 not out and 62 not out in her past five innings. Five in a row has become a bit of a thing for the supremely-talented Devine, who hammered an incredible record five sixes from five balls as the Strikers beat Melbourne Stars at Karen Rolton Oval 10 days earlier.

Four half-centuries in a row already was a WBBL record for Devine - but she just keeps raising the bar. She has now scored a staggering 475 runs this campaign - at a remarkable average of 79 in 10 matches - behind just Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney (532 in 11 matches), having overtaken injured Sydney Sixers superstar Ellyse Perry (469).

The No.2-ranked T20 allrounder in the world - behind only Perry - also picked up 1/21 against the Thunder, jumping to fourth on this season’s WBBL wicket-taking list, with 14 at 15.8.

As usual, she was only concerned about the important win for her team. “It was a great win today - we certainly targeted this game and hopefully it puts us in a good position moving forward,” Devine said. “But we know there are still four massive group games left for us.”

Adelaide has won three games in a row for the second time this season to have a 7-3 win-loss record, behind reigning champion Brisbane Heat (8-3). The Strikers face Hobart Hurricanes and the Thunder in Hobart this weekend before tackling Sydney Sixers in Sydney in back-to-back games the following weekend.

Sophie Devine smashes another 50

The Strikers were at the top of their game in restricting the Thunder to 4/112. Swing bowler Megan Schutt was slap-bang on target from the first ball, her first over costing just one - from a no-ball. Thunder opener Rachel Priest swatted her free hit straight to Strikers skipper Suzie Bates at mid-on to be caught without cost.

Schutt, the long-time world No. 1-ranked T20 bowler, has maintained an exceptional economy rate this campaign, incredibly of less than five per over (4.95), which is even more impressive considering she does the majority of her bowling in the power play. Her first ball of the day was an lbw appeal against Priest but, because she swings the ball in so sharply, the umpire’s response was the ball may have been slipping down leg-side.

Schutt and opening partner Devine had Priest and experienced Alex Blackwell playing and missing a few times on a green-tinged wicket. After five overs the Thunder openers had only reached 15, just nine runs coming from Schutt’s first three overs. She was unlucky not to take a wicket but again finished with stunning figures - 0/15 from her four overs. Her 12 overs in the past three games have cost just 46.

Medium-pacer Sarah Coyte burst into the limelight when her first ball brought the prized breakthrough of Blackwell, chopping on for nine.

Priest finally broke the shackles when she thumped Coyte over the mid-wicket boundary, then next ball swept a fine four.

But the Strikers were on top, their bowlers executing their plans well, employing hard-to-read change-ups and backed up by well-placed fields and outstanding fielding that kept the pressure on for the full 20 overs. With the score 1/52 in the 12th over, danger player Priest was becoming frustrated. The Kiwi keeper tried to force the pace against leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington and was bowled around her legs for 31 off 40 balls.

Wello puts Priest in a spin

Tahlia Wilson (26 from 31 balls) was starting to lift the tempo, striking a couple of nice boundaries before a spot-on off-cutter from Tahlia McGrath trapped her right in front.

Precocious batting talent Phoebe Litchfield, having completed her Year 10 exams, was off the mark from the first ball she faced. The 16-year-old left-hander who leapt into the limelight with a matchwinning unbeaten 52 from 48 balls against Brisbane Heat, missed out this time, reaching three before Devine had her caught at deep gully, fending off an accurate short ball.

Thunder skipper Rachael Haynes top-scored with an unbeaten 33 from 27 balls and it was enough to make a game of it.

Devine was kept quiet in the first three overs - the Strikers were 0/6 - but then she unleashed with three crashing boundaries from four balls from medium-pacer Rene Farrell, with square drives and cuts. Then Bates thundered a cut through cover from Thunder pace ace Shabnim Ismail for four, followed by a punch through the same area for another boundary.

The Smash Sisters brought up their 50 partnership in the ninth over, seemingly in complete control, but S. Bates was dismissed by S. Bates the next over. The Striker skipper was caught behind by Priest attempting to slash left-arm spinner Samantha Bates, having made 22 from 25 balls.

WBBL highlights: Thunder v Strikers

Off-spinner Nida Dar, the first Pakistani to earn a WBBL contract, hauled the Thunder back into the fight when she bowled McGrath (eight from 14) and Bridget Patterson (five from 10). But while Devine was there, the Strikers always looked likely to get home and she made the most of a couple of loose balls from Dar, pulling her for a six and a boundary behind square-leg.

Devine reached her half-century from 52 balls, the momentum firmly with her as she cut Bates for four, then unleashed a huge pulled six off Hannah Darlington. She hadn’t found the going as easy as she often seems to but she was there right to the end for the third innings in a row.

And now the Strikers have the momentum, finals firmly in their sights.