Mack, in her first season with the Strikers, was under huge pressure deep on the long-on boundary as Hobart superstar Nicola Carey launched a sweetly-timed on-drive with the Hurricanes needing five to win off the last two balls from Sophie Devine. The shot would have cleared the rope but Mack judged it perfectly, snaring the ball overhead while keeping her balance to make sure she didn’t touch the rope.
Australian allrounder Carey, who had thumped 39 from 37 balls, looked like being the matchwinner as Hobart seemingly held the upper-hand for the most of an intriguing, low-scoring clash. But instead it was Mack and Devine, who restricted Maisy Gibson to just a single off the last ball, who sparked scenes of celebration among the Strikers more reminiscent of a footy final triumph.
“It’s nice to get over the line when we didn’t play our best cricket,” delighted Strikers skipper Suzie Bates said after the fighting win, the Strikers’ second from three games to start the campaign. “Every point is crucial in this competition.
“We were disappointing with the bat but all the batters talked about the wicket being a bit tough, it was sometimes holding a little bit, so if we bowled in good areas we knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest chase. Not taking our chances early didn’t help but we really dug ourselves out of that one.”
A Strikers win had seemed almost out of the question when Adelaide was lamenting at 7/80 after 17 overs. But some outstanding bowling from Tahlia McGrath (1/12 off four overs), Megan Schutt (1/13 off four) and Amanda-Jade Wellington (2/18 from three) turned the game on its head. By the time medium-pacer McGrath had completed her miserly spell, the Hurricanes were 4/95 after 17 overs and starting to feel a little under the weather, needing 19 off the last three overs.
Medium-pacer Sarah Coyte twice in the 18th over had Corinne Hall skying the ball into the leg-side and getting away with until it was third-time-lucky as her attempted slog to mid-wicket was well held by Mack. That brought dangerous South African hitter Chloe Tryon - who blasted 46 not out from 18 balls in a matchwinning innings against Melbourne Stars the previous week - to the crease. But Schutt, the world’s best Twenty20 bowler, beat her twice in a row in the 19th over and some slick work from keeper Tegan McPharlin had her caught short for just one. Advancing down the wicket, she was yorked by a Schutt inswinger, started to run and turned back only for McPharlin to have thrown down the wicket.
Bates looked to Devine, who had kept the Strikers right in the game with a stunning save on the leg-side boundary from the last ball of the 19th over, to deliver an unlikely win, the Hurricanes 11 runs away from their third straight triumph to start the season. And deliver Devine did.
Adelaide had No. 9 batter Coyte to thank for even reaching 8/113, her whirlwind 24 from 13 balls at least lifting the Strikers to a competitive total. Hobart Hurricanes, who finished bottom last year with just two wins but have recruited impressively, started this campaign with two wins on the opening weekend against the Stars. And it was easy to see why as their miserly bowling, with plenty of change-ups, good field placings and outstanding work in the deep had the Strikers on the ropes before belated resistance from Coyte and McPharlin (10 not out from 14 balls) swung the game’s momentum. Coyte thumped three boundaries in one over from Belinda Vakarewa and even pulled out a scoop for four in the final over from Carey. “I only learned that shot a week ago,” Coyte declared.
Earlier, the Strikers’ “Smash Sisters” Devine and Bates pushed hard for short singles but Devine twice in one over from Carey could have been run out if there had been a direct hit, the openers pushing too hard. The wicket was proving two-paced and hard to play attacking shots on, so Bates (six from 14) was trying to get on with it when she slashed at a full ball from fiery quick Tayla Vlaeminck and was brilliantly caught by England captain Heather Knight in the slips.
No. 3 McGrath looked the goods with three fours in three overs - remarkably they were the only Strikers boundaries in the first 17 overs of the innings - getting off the mark with a slash from Vlaeminck over cover, off-driving Vakarewa, then crunched Vlaeminck over mid-wicket to charge to 13. But she paid the price for her aggression as she tried to hit a short ball from Vlaeminck over the infield and was caught at extra cover.
Devine, who slammed a player-of-the-match 72 from 45 balls, then 48 from 30 balls in the season-openers against Melbourne Renegades, held the key for a big Strikers score. But having not had much of the strike and finding the slow wicket hard to score freely on, she was feeling the pressure as she tried to pull a ball that fizzed and bounced from leggie Gibson and she was caught on the off-side for six (from 11).
The breaks just didn’t seem to be going the Strikers’ way as England batter Lauren Winfield - in her first game, with West Indian Stafanie Taylor away on international duty - run out by a direct hit from the outfield after making 23 from 27 balls. Winfield had dived spectacularly in an attempt to make it home but her bat wasn’t grounded as it bounced up and over the crease. “I thought I was safe,” she lamented.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mack (four) was run out by the smallest margin - her bat on the line but not over it - several replays having to be shown before she was sent packing.
Schutt struck with the third ball of the Hurricanes’ innings, having Stefanie Daffara caught at mid-off by Coyte for a duck. But the Strikers seemed to have let the game slip away when Schutt put down a lobbed return catch from Knight and, in the same over, free-scoring opener Erin Fazackerley was dropped by Coyte at mid-off.
But Wellington turned the game when she beat Fazackerley (20 from 20 balls) with a superbly-flighted leg-spinner to have her stumped by McPharlin. McGrath, who hadn’t bowled in the opening two clashes with the Renegades, bowled a superb line and length and trapped Knight (17) leg-before with an off-cutter. Wellington hit the mark when she fooled Fran Wilson (13 from 17 balls) in flight to hit the top of off-stump and claim her 49th WBBL wicket.
It was game on. And what a game - and win - it was.