In its 20th season, the Women’s National Cricket League had one of its tightest seasons since its inception. The change in structure meant that teams played each other once throughout a mini three-weekend competition, with the first two teams on the ladder progressing into the final.
Sunday’s final at Hurstville Oval indicated just how fierce the competition had been over the last couple of months. The SA BreezeAir Scorpions were able to break the unbreakable NSW Lend Lease Breakers for the first time in a decade. While it ended one of Australia’s great sporting streaks of 10 consecutive titles, it did create history as well, with the Scorpions winning their first WNCL trophy and their first open title since the 1994-95 season.
Given how tight the competition was throughout season, the task of nominating my WNCL Team of the Tournament wasn't the easiest of exercises..
As a selector, you have to take into consideration selecting a balanced team that complements each other well. Of course they have needed to perform well within the competiton, but sometimes it may not necessarily mean scoring a lot of runs or taking a lot of wickets.
Based on the above criteria here is my WNCL Team of the Tournament.
Nicole Bolton, captain of Western Fury, will open up for my side. Having scored 383 runs, the second highest run-scorer in WNCL, it seems an automatic selection. To join her at the top of the order, Alyssa Healy (NSW) will get the nod, just edging out fellow Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars teammate, Elyse Villani (WA).
Healy’s courage to bat against Victoria after being struck in the head and go on to make an unbeaten 65 showed the strength and determination that you want from your openers. Healy will also take the gloves despite ACT Meteors' Rebecca Maher affecting more dismissals. As you will see below it will allow me to strengthen the batting and bowling departments.
Now this is where it gets a little tricky. At my disposal, I have the leading run scorer Ellyse Perry (NSW), the Southern Stars and VicSpirit captain, Meg Lanning, and the hero of the final for the Scorpions, Sarah Taylor.
All three will be selected in my team, but in what order?
At No.3, I am going to go with Lanning. Her strike rate is slightly lower than Taylor's, who also bats at first-drop, but Lanning's consistency with an impressive average of 76 means she slots in there.
Then at No.4, I can’t take away that position from Perry, who was the leading run-scorer of the competition, peeling off three half-centuries and the one century against ACT.
Finally, Taylor, who is known as one of the most dangerous players in women’s cricket, is my No.5. She certainly showed her worth this, scoring her two centuries both against NSW.
With Perry already in the side, that certainly frees up another spot in my team. Grace Harris (QLD) is a flexible player who scored more than 200 runs at an impressive strike rate of 101, plus she picked up seven wickets.
Joining Harris is her state teammate, Jessica Jonassen. Although her statistics aren't as impressive as other allrounders such as Dani Wyatt (VIC) and Delissa Kimmince (QLD), her uniqueness of being a left-hand batter and left-arm orthodox spinner provides the variety in both departments that I am looking for. Jonassen certainly was no mug with the bat or ball, scoring 165 runs at an average of 33 and picking up seven wickets with the miserly economy rate of 3.27.
The leading wicket-taker of the WNCL season was Megan Schutt (SA), who collected 14 wickets throughout the season. Schutt and Perry will lead my pace attack with Rene Farrell (NSW) joining them.
Farrell had a successful season picking up 12 wickets at an average of 21.
Variety is the key and I have gone with Sarah Coyte from the Scorpions. Her bowling performance in the WNCL final last Sunday was exceptional, going for only one run per over in her first seven overs and picking up the key wicket of Healy.
Whie I have already selected two spinners in my allrounder category, I do have the luxury of selecting one more and I have decided to go with leg-spinner Amanda Jane Wellington (SA). Wellington pushes out her teammate Alex Price due to being the only leg-spinner in my team, plus she had an excellent WNCL claiming 13 wickets to finish second on leading wicket-takers ladder.
Lisa Sthalekar's WNCL Team of the Tournament
1. Nicole Bolton (WA)
2. Alyssa Healy (NSW)
3. Meg Lanning (VIC)
4. Ellyse Perry (NSW)
5. Sarah Taylor (SA)
6. Jessica Jonassen (QLD)
7. Grace Harris (QLD)
8. Sarah Coyte (SA)
9. Rene Farrell (NSW)
10. Megan Schutt (SA)
11. Amanda Jane Wellington (SA)