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Nerves of steel as Wello, Sophie seal finals spot

24 November 2019

Amanda-Jade Wellington stood tall and Sophie Devine was, well Sophie Devine, as Adelaide Strikers grabbed an incredible, nail-biting super-over win on Sunday against Sydney Thunder.

And Sarah Coyte, whose heroic final over gave Adelaide a heart-stopping win against Hobart Hurricanes less than 24 hours earlier, had kept the Strikers in the game with a wicket from the final ball of the Thunder’s 20th over, forcing the extra over.

The end result of all the twists and turns in a frenetic, chaotic contest was the Strikers had made certain of their place in the rebel WBBL|05 finals. They claimed their fifth win in a row, improving their season record to nine wins and three losses, the same as reigning champion Brisbane Heat, which holds top spot just by net run-rate.

In the super over it was in-form leg-spinner Wellington and superstar allrounder Devine who ripped the contest away from the Thunder, the Sydney side fighting hard to keep its finals hopes alive having made a stunning charge towards victory with an outstanding run chase.

Strikers stand tall in super over

Strikers skipper Suzie Bates took the punt on Wellington bowling the super over after she had snared 3/17 from a brilliant four overs - and 3/23 the previous evening against the Hurricanes - and she showed just how much she has improved this campaign as she restricted the Thunder to just six runs in its extra over.

There was plenty of drama in the six balls - a run out of dangerous hitter Rachel Priest, possible stumping and caught-and-bowled chances - but Wellington held her nerves through all of it, even producing a dot ball.

Then Super Sophie, who had continued her stunning season by belting 88, came back out to slash pace ace Shabnim Ismail for four over point from the first ball of Adelaide’s super over. Devine flicked Ismail’s second ball to mid-wicket for two, then pushed to point for the matchwinning single. All done with a minimum of fuss.

Devine picked up another player of the match award - but she did not agree with it.

“I think Amanda Wellington deserved this more than I did,” selfless Sophie said. “She bowled so well throughout the game, then in the super over she had nerves of steel.”

Wellington, pushing towards a recall to Australia’s international side, moved to third on the WBBL wicket-taking table this season with 16 at 15.9, behind only Belinda Vakarewa (Hurricanes, 19) and Jess Jonassen (Brisbane Heat, 17). Wellington, bowling with accuracy, flight, spin and with a greatly improved wrong’un, is now 10th on the all-time WBBL list with 63 scalps.

The Strikers now set their sights on Sydney Sixers, their nemesis, as they chase their first win against a side that has made the grand final in each of the four completed WBBL seasons, winning two championships. But a shoulder injury to superstar Ellyse Perry has suddenly made the Sixers vulnerable and the Strikers are in stunning form.

You could have been excused for thinking the game was already pretty safe when the Strikers reached an impressive 6/161 on the back of Devine’s thunderous 88, the Kiwi superstar making her highest score of a ridiculously successful campaign.

Sophie Devine goes big yet again

She was finally dismissed in the final over of Adelaide’s innings, stumped off medium-pacer Hannah Darlington as her bat - rather than the ball - went flying as she finally lost her grip after a remarkable run of seven innings that had netted 466 runs at an average of 116.5.

Devine is the leading WBBL|05  runscorer with a staggering 593 at 74 per innings. Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney is second with 536.

The Strikers allrounder brought back memories of her stunning five successive sixes against Melbourne Stars when she took to Thunder spinner Samantha Bates, crunching her for four, six, six, four from the last four balls of her final over, the last boundary barely short of another straight six. She finished her stunning knock with 10 fours and four sixes, taking her career sixes tally to a clear record 81 as she closed within two runs of her 2000th in the WBBL - only Perry and Mooney have topped that mark.

Bates had celebrated her 300th Twenty20 match with a crucial 64 in the Strikers’ two-run win against the Hurricanes on Saturday. And she was quickly out of the blocks against the Thunder, sweeping left-arm spinner Bates for four, then thumping Ismail through the covers to the boundary. But it was the Thunder’s Bates who had the final say, having the Strikers’ Bates caught at point as she tried to drive over the top but skied an outside edge.

Ismail has some pace and her short ball is deceptive and one rushed through to Tahlia McGrath, who tried to pull but was hit on the helmet. The Strikers’ No. 3 batted on and showed her class as she hit Lisa Griffith over mid-on for four.

WBBL Highlights: Strikers v Thunder

Speaking of class, Devine was getting on with it, hitting Griffith straight and hard for four then using her feet and crunching spinner Nida Dar for a huge, signature six. But Devine and McGrath had been building cautiously to 1/52 after nine overs before young leg-spinner Rachel Trenaman was introduced. She was greeted with a McGrath boundary and Devine savagely pulled a four and a six in a 17-run over.

McGrath was looking dangerous as she hit medium-pacer Hannah Darlington over long-off for four, then used her feet to drive Dar for successive boundaries over cover and mid-off. But Dar speared one in and McGrath was given out leg-before for 32 from 28 balls.

Devine kept on keeping on and when she pulled Griffith over mid-wicket for four she had reached her half-century from 41 balls. She was upping the ante as she smashed Darlington over mid-wicket for four and pulled her for another boundary.

Devine has always been a destructive, match-turning batter but this campaign she has taken her game to another level by building innings, making the most of her starts, batting through innings and consistently making runs. Very consistently. This was Devine’s sixth half-century in seven innings, following scores of 65, 58, 85 not out, 77 not out, 62 not out and 31.

Griffith flashed into the game to catch Bridget Patterson (six) at square-leg then trap Lauren Winfield right in front first ball with a yorker. But Devine, who had guided the Strikers to a six-wicket win against the Thunder with an unbeaten 62 in Wollongong the previous week, wasn’t finished with her Sydney rivals yet, the Strikers striking 59 off the last five overs.

It was just as well Adelaide finished off so strongly because Kiwi wicketkeeper Priest got the Thunder off to a flyer. It was Devine crashing back to earth in the opening over as Priest cut and cover drove the first two balls of the innings for fours, then crunched her compatriot over mid-on for another boundary.

Priest was on fire as she crunched Megan Schutt for six over mid-on, then, with slashing cuts and ferocious square drives hit five fours from the next two overs from Coyte and Schutt. After four overs the Thunder was 0/49 - with Priest on 44.

Bates looked to Wellington but Priest hit her first ball - a full-toss - for four to move to 48 off 19 balls. But next ball in-form Wellington produced an edge, Priest trying to hammer the ball over mid-wicket but skying it over square-leg. Fielding there was none other than Devine and she ran back with the flight of the ball, then flew herself forward to pull off a stunning catch. “Again it was Amanda who put the pressure on,” Devine said, deflecting attention from her great catch. “She forced her into that shot … I was happy to hold on to it - I thought I had stuffed it up, the first couple of steps.”

Big wicket for Wello as Sophie shows safe hands

Coyte also grabbed a ripper when she caught experienced Alex Blackwell (six) low down at long-off from a well-flighted Wellington leggie. But the Thunder wasn’t going to go down without an almighty fight, Naomi Stalenberg keeping it in the fight with a run-a-ball 37 and skipper Rachael Haynes making 29 from 27 balls before she was brilliantly caught on the boundary by Bridget Patterson. Then it was Trenaman who stood up and almost snatched a win for her side. She hammered an unbeaten 20 from just nine balls, clubbing two fours in the final over from Coyte. Thunder tied the scores off the second-last ball but Trenaman was at the bowler’s end for the final ball. And didn’t Coyte deliver. Also with nerves of steel, the medium-pacer speared a yorker in and trapped Dar right in front.

There was great celebration after that ball - but there was even more to come when Wellington and Devine stood up in the super over.