Perth Scorchers’ WBBL triumph is thrilling but final format does not kick in | Women’s Big Bash League
Ahen the Women’s Big Bash League final took place in the city of Perth, there was no shortage of stories. There was 26-year-old Adelaide Strikers freshman captain in Tahlia McGrath versus 32-year-old Perth Scorchers seasoned captain in Sophie Devine. The momentum of the Strikers, who had won back-to-back games during the week to advance to the final, against the well-rested Scorchers who completely skipped the semi-finals. The dynamics of South African internationals and married couple Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk ready to go head-to-head. Two teams that had never taken out the WBBL before, both prepped and ready to seal their first prime ministerial post.
After one of the most intriguing seasons in the WBBL so far, the first two final matches had fallen a bit flat. The Strikers came through with incredible bowling performances and simple chases. There were a lot of skills in the spotlight – most notably Amanda-Jade Wellington’s sensational bowling spell of 5-8 in Thursday’s challenger final. But in terms of memorable finishes, neither game has ranked with the biting semi-finals of the 2018-19 season. It only added to the anticipation as we felt we owed a big game.
The Scorchers’ intimidating opening partnership between Beth Mooney and Sophie Devine seemed ready for anything and it seemed like the even game everyone was waiting for had arrived. When Mooney (19 of 25) and Devine (33 of 35) left, the Strikers seemed to have the upper hand – exhibiting a middle order that didn’t face many balls due to their openers’ dominance. But they rallied and posted a solid 146-5 thanks to Kapp’s steady hand and Alana King’s late strikes. And there it was, a game that had the potential to go all the way, something to spark conversations in Monday morning’s Zoom meetings.
Still, when the Strikers came out to strike, it seemed neither team had read the script. The Scorchers were as fiery as the name suggests and dismissed Strikers key hitter Katie Mack early on, before sending her opening partner van Nierkerk back to the dugout soon after. But once again the momentum shifted, a partnership between Strikers captain Tahlia McGrath and South African international Laura Wolvaardt kept their finger on the crumbling foundations of their potential prime minister.
In the end, the momentum of the match overtook the Strikers and it was the Scorchers who won by 12 points in front of their home crowd. Strikers No 6 Maddie Penna’s best efforts pushed the game to the final, but with 22 points required and budget bowling Taneale Peschel, there was too much to do.
It was the exciting ending the season deserved, but the more prosaic games that came before it raised questions about the format of the Finals. It was believed that the previous system did not provide enough benefit to the team that finished first after the regular season. With such balanced competition, just playing against the fourth-ranked team was not considered sufficient reward for the top-ranked team. But this new setup may have gone too far the other way around – sending a team straight to the Grand Final without playing any other final game raised some eyebrows, especially given how close the top four are. teams. By adding an additional final game and adopting Page’s playoff system, used by the Indian Premier League and Suncorp Super Netball, it is possible to create more excitement throughout the final series in the years to come. to come.
And then there was the pandemic, which has once again cast its shadow over this season, with teams on the road for most of the campaign and the Melbourne Renegades in second in the unenviable position of playing their final. to challenge “at home” against the Adelaide Strikers at Adelaide Oval. As the competition continues to grow and gain momentum, home games will become increasingly necessary for teams to build their fan bases. The home crowds in Adelaide and Perth in the three final matches proved the importance of enthusiastic spectators in creating a high-energy atmosphere on the pitch.
But while players and teams will no doubt continue to push the WBBL forward on the pitch, there remains an important milestone that Cricket Australia could take, a milestone that would demonstrate their faith in the world’s first national women’s competition. This involves positioning its two flagship competitions as its national teams, and naming the two leagues Women’s Big Bash League and Men’s Big Bash League. Although the WBBL was launched four years later, there is now no reason why the men’s competition should be considered the default competition. The skill and enthusiasm displayed during the 2021 season and the international stars the competition attracts – even in the face of so much adversity – have shown that now is the time to make the change.