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REBEL WBBL|03

Saville's last-gasp heroics

09 January 2018

Tabatha Saville has blasted the Adelaide Strikers to a stunning last-ball win against Melbourne Stars in Tuesday’s crucial rebel WBBL|03 clash at Adelaide Oval.

Saville thumped a boundary over point from the final ball of the 20th over as the Strikers snatched a heartstopping one-wicket win that launched them into third place on the WBBL ladder, giving them a huge crack at playing finals for the first time.

Adelaide looked in all sorts of trouble at 6/78 after 14 overs in reply to Melbourne Stars’ 5/132. With three overs left, the Strikers still needed 29 runs. And, after 18 overs, they were 8/114, a seemingly insurmountable 19 runs short.

But 19-year-old Saville remained focussed through the carnage, scoring a matchwinning unbeaten 28 from 27 balls, with cameo support from lower-order batters Megan Schutt (18 from 13 balls) and Alex Price, who played a stunning reverse sweep for a crucial boundary in her 11 from six balls.

It all came down to the last ball from Stars skipper Kristen Beams’ final over, the Strikers still needing four for victory and Saville on strike. Beams’ full-toss above Saville’s waist was called no-ball because of its height, giving her a free hit. And that was all she needed, crunching a four that could prove the turning point of the Strikers’ season.

The WBBL table could hardly be tighter. Sydney Thunder leads a ladder logjam on six wins and two losses, from Sydney Sixers, Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all on 5-3, with Melbourne Renegades 4-4 and Melbourne Stars now 2-6. There are a couple of massive games coming up against Perth Scorchers at Traeger Park in Alice Springs on Saturday and Sunday.

And the timing of those clashes could not be more perfect. It is where Saville grew up. “I’m pretty excited. It’s my home town,” Saville declared after her last-gasp heroics. Fiji-born Saville moved with her family to Alice Springs as an eight-year-old, so she will be hoping for some sort of home ground advantage. “Sunny Adelaide, I’ll give it some credit, it’s a bit hot, but it’s nothing compared to the NT,” she said.

She described the prospect of playing in the Alice as “a bit special”. “It’s probably the most special games I’m going to play apart from my debuts in my career,” Saville said. “To play there is really good for myself but it’s also good for the NT, trying to spread the promotion of female cricket.”

Saville did a great job of that at Adelaide Oval, as a fever-pitch crowd that had grown to 3500 roared its approval at her winning shot, giving her a standing ovation as she charged from the ground. “I’m used to playing in front of 20 people … parents,” she said.

A “pretty excited” Saville admitted her heartrate was “up at 160 or 180” in the thrilling finish. But she never lost hope.

“I was still very positive,” said Saville, who went to the crease with the Strikers 4/71 in the 12th over. Saville pointed to the Strikers’ team culture giving all the players the opportunity and confidence to go out there and do whatever is needed. “No matter who came out I was always confident,” she said.

Before the last ball, she continued to believe. “I took a deep breath and noticed the off-side was up and I kind of just went and backed myself,” she said. “Every message that came off the bench was to tell me to back my abilities, just bat how I bat in the nets and that’s what I did.”

Saville was ecstatic the Adelaide Oval “curse is broken” after a couple of losses at the hands of Brisbane Heat late last month. “This win really puts us in good stead to push for the top four.”

England World Cup star Tammy Beaumont had made a cautious start to the Strikers’ run chase before launching an attack in the fourth over, square driving Emma Kearney for two boundaries, then next over straight driving Erin Osborne for four and lofting her over mid-wicket for six. Having managed just 0/8 from the first three overs the Strikers had stormed to 0/33 after five.

But then skipper Suzie Bates (10) was bowled by one that fizzed through from leg-spinner Beams. Beaumont had raced to 27 from 23 balls when she was adjudged lbw sweeping at leggie Alana King.

Then 16-year-old pace bowler Annabel Sutherland made such a sudden impact she looked to have bowled the Stars to a crucial victory. Sutherland, the daughter of Cricket Australia chief James, snared 4/20 from four overs, picking up the scalps of Tahlia McGrath (13), Sophie Devine (17), Bridget Patterson (one) and Tegan McPharlin (one). Throw in the disastrous run out of Amanda-Jade Wellington before she had faced a ball and the Strikers were 8/110 in the 18th over. “She bowled very well – she is one to watch,” Saville said.

For the second game in a row the Strikers struggled to break the Stars’ opening partnership. Power-hitting South African Lizelle Lee and Anna Lanning put on 73 for the first wicket in the Strikers’ 22-run win at Casey Fields on Friday. It took the Strikers until the 12th over to break through and this time Katie Mack and Lee batted through to the 11th over, lifting the Stars into a strong position at 1/69.

Mack made the most of some early luck with some play-and-misses and a difficult missed chance to Beaumont but swung lustily with some impressive drives, hitting six boundaries in her 42 from 34 balls. Beaumont ended her innings with a stunning diving catch in the covers as Devine, fresh from her superb allround performance in the win at Casey Fields, provided the long-awaited breakthrough.

Off-spinner Price, the player of the match from the Strikers’ first win against the Stars, again helped turn the game, South African batter Mignon du Preez (nine) deceived into hitting a return catch. Price, who conceded just 19 from her four overs, then had a confident appeal for lbw against Lee turned down.

Lee, who made 44 on Friday and had showed some aggression in driving Test leg-spinner Wellington for two long sixes, was winding up for a late assault in the 17th over. She thumped Devine straight for six, then crunched her over the square-leg boundary to bring up her half-century. But it was third-time lucky for the Strikers’ superstar New Zealander when she had Lee well caught at deep mid-off by McGrath. Lee had made 52 off 52 balls with four sixes and just one four.

Devine snared 2/28 from her four overs and provided a late highlight when she displayed her golden touch in deflecting a stinging drive from Kearney onto the stumps at the bowler’s end to run out Osborne for 10.