Former Australian coach Darren Lehmann has been announced as the new Brisbane Heat mentor, in what will be his first coaching appointment since the ball tampering scandal in South Africa last year.
This weekend is the third of the WBBL Opening Weekend carnivals and will see most teams headed south to Blundstone Arena in Hobart for their next two matches in the competition.
With each team now having played three matches, the ladder is looking a little different to how many fans predicted it would. The Sydney Sixers, Sydney Thunder, Melbourne Stars and Adelaide Strikers round out the top four, whilst the Perth Scorchers (who many predicted would feature in the final) are sitting at the bottom with just one win.
This unpredictability is the best thing about the WBBL, with each team being able to beat any other team on their day. We’ve seen the Melbourne Stars upset the Sydney Sixers, the Brisbane Heat upset the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Renegades beat the Adelaide Strikers.
With the breadth of talent spread across this competition, the only thing that is guaranteed is some tremendous individual performances and plenty of games coming down to the final over.
Here are some of the key matches for this weekend.
Perth Scorchers vs Melbourne Stars
These two teams will play each other twice over the weekend.
The Melbourne Stars have certainly been surprise packets this summer winning two out of their first three games, and sitting in third place on the ladder purely on net run rate.
But when you look at their squad, it is perhaps less unsurprising that the squad is doing well. The talent has certainly been there for several summers, but some key members of that squad have not performed as well as the Stars might have hoped in previous years. For the Scorchers on the other hand, after three games very few would have predicted that they would be sitting at the bottom of the ladder.
Meg Lanning being out injured for the last two games certainly didn’t help, but neither have the middle order collapses which have taken place.
I’m looking forward to this match because I’m predicting large totals with the bat. Lizelle Lee from the Stars has already scored a century this summer, in her first game against the Sydney Sixers and she has also been well supported by fellow South African team mate Mignon du Preez.
If these two women fire, then the Stars should easily be aiming for a score of at least 180.
To return serve, the Scorchers certainly have some very handy batters in their line up including Elyse Villani, Nicole Bolton and Lanning. Amy Jones will also need to step up as she did in the Scorchers game against the Sixers where she scored 57 from 29 balls in her first appearance for Perth.
And whilst it is certainly not too late for the Scorchers to begin their surge to play in the Finals come February, at least one win this weekend will be key.
Prediction: Each team to win one game.
Hobart Hurricanes vs Sydney Sixers
If we had been predicting the results of these two games last year, I would have said that the Sixers would easily win both.
Now I’m not so sure, particularly with the form the Hobart Hurricanes are in.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Sydney Sixers are the in form team in the competition given their position at the top of the ladder. But I wonder just how dominant they have been given that it has been the batting of Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy (Ellyse in particular) that has ensured the Sixers were victorious in the games that they have won.
Ellyse in particular has been in exceptional form already scoring her maiden WBBL century in the Sixers win against the Scorchers, hitting 14 fours and 2 sixes in her innings. She backed it up with 74 off 66 deliveries the next day in the Sixers win over the Thunder.
Truth be told, the rest of their middle order has been disappointing, except for Dane van Niekerk who has supported Ellyse brilliantly in the Sixers’ last two games. But with players like Ashleigh Gardner, Erin Burns and Sara McGlashan, the Sixers could fire at any time.
Then there are the Hurricanes who have been bolstered in the last week by the addition of Smriti Mandhana to the squad. In her second game for the Hurricanes she scored 69 runs and pushed the Hurricanes to 6-196 which is not only their highest total as a team, but also the highest total for WBBL04 so far.
Heather Knight has also been in exceptional form since her arrival (with bat and with ball in hand, with her best figures being 3-10) as has Erin Fazackerley who has been relishing her position at the top of the order.
Given that both games are being played in Hobart this weekend, I’m going to tip the upset.
Prediction: Hobart Hurricanes to win both games.
In other matches, the Adelaide Strikers will take on the Sydney Thunder (twice) and the Melbourne Renegades will play the Brisbane Heat.