With a six-wicket win over the Hobart Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon, the Sydney Thunder secured their place in this year’s WBBL finals, and South African fast bowler Shabnim Ismail can’t wait.
Fans of the Sydney Thunder Women’s Big Bash League team owe captain Rachael Haynes a thank you.
According to new recruit Lauren Smith, it was Haynes that convinced her to join the black and lime green for WBBL06.
“I have been at the Sydney Sixers for five years now and I didn’t really want to leave New South Wales,” said Smith.
“Rach has been in my ear for a while now, so I thought I would finally make the move.”
Smith is part of part of a new-look Thunder line-up for WBBL06. Following some key departures including Alex Blackwell, Naomi Stalenberg, Rene Farrell and Lisa Griffith, the Thunder made some big moves in the signing season, snaring the signatures of English internationals Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont and Sammy Jo Johnson from the Brisbane Heat.
But the Thunder are not the only squad looking different this season. Over the contracting period, there was an unprecedented level of player movement. Some of the biggest names in women’s cricket including Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine and Beth Mooney have all opted to change clubs this season.
For Smith, this willingness to change and embrace a new challenge is exciting for the competition.
“It shows how strong the competition is getting with all these movements and for people to take the opportunity to show what they can do,” said Smith.
“I think it shows the strength in each team and it is going to be a ripper of a year.”
Smith’s former club the Sydney Sixers is riddled with talent including the likes of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Dane van Niekerk, Ashleigh Gardner and Marizanne Kapp.
While this gave Smith the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by some of the most talented female cricketers in the world, it also meant that on occasion she had limited opportunity to bowl.
For Smith, that’s exactly what a move to the Thunder represents – opportunity.
“This was a move to get more overs with the ball and hopefully take on more of a leadership role with some of the young spinners coming through,” said Smith.
“I have worked so hard over the last few years with my bowling and I want to show not just the fans, but perhaps some Australian selectors what I can really do with the ball and with the bat too. Hopefully this will be the year.
“I have also had lots of chats with our head coach and Rachael Haynes too about being that middle mentor for the younger players to talk to. I know my role clearly around this Thunder group and I can’t wait to start playing.”
This is Smith’s sixth season in the WBBL and despite being just 24 years old, she is one of the older members of the Thunder squad which features eight players aged 20 or younger. For Smith, this is an exciting opportunity to develop her leadership skills and mentor some of the younger members in the Thunder squad.
“I am excited to be the buffer between the older women and the younger women,” said Smith.
Amongst that young group of players, Phoebe Litchfield is one to watch following a break out year in her debut year in 2019. Aged just 17, Litchfield impressed in several appearances with a highest score of 52*, scoring 187 runs at an average of 20.77. All this while still juggling school and travelling to and from Sydney from Orange to compete in the competition.
Fortunately, you won’t be able to miss Litchfield given that she has dyed her hair green for the Thunder’s WBBL campaign.
But watch this space. She may not be the only one to experiment with hair colours and style.
“I heard rumours about Sammy Jo. I don’t know if she will be dying her hair green or whether she will just have a really funky hair cut,” said Smith.
At this stage they are rumours, I don’t know if they are ‘tru-mours’.
“People are also saying that Rachael Haynes should do it because she has a couple of grey hairs. She is not happy about that.”
The Thunder being their WBBL06 campaign this Sunday with their first game against cross-city rivals the Sydney Sixers.
Smith is expecting no favours from her old teammates.
“I think I already know that I am going to get some banter out there, not just from Alyssa Healy, I know there will be other people in the field who will be giving it to me,” said Smith.
“But I do love a bit of banter so I will be throwing it back for sure.
“Sarah Aley is also pretty good at the banter, Stella Campbell with ball in hand tends to give me a couple of bouncers but I’m expecting plenty from my housemate Jodie Hicks, too.”