WBBL preview: Lanning key as Stars add batting firepower

Meg Lanning has been in red-hot form in the WNCL so far this summer, which bodes well for the Melbourne Stars who were short of runs last summer, with a trio of English draft picks to help

'Watches cricket 24/7': WBBL stars who just can't get enough

Last season: 5-6 win-loss (1 no result). Finished sixth. 

WBBL|09 draft picks: Alice Capsey (England, pick 6), Maia Bouchier (England, pick 13)

Coach: Jonathan Batty

Squad: Meg Lanning (c), Maia Bouchier (England), Alice Capsey (England), Sophie Day, Sophia Dunkley (England), Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Kim Garth, Olivia Henry, Milly Illingworth, Rhys McKenna, Sasha Moloney, Jasmine Nevins, Sophie Reid, Annabel Sutherland

In: Maia Bouchier (draft pick), Sophia Dunkley (direct nomination), Milly Illingworth, Jasmine Nevins

Out: Bess Heath (drafted by Heat), Jemimah Rodrigues, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Lucy Cripps, Hasrat Gill

Possible best XI: Sophia Dunkley, Meg Lanning (c), Alice Capsey, Annabel Sutherland, Maia Bouchier, Tess Flintoff, Nicole Faltum (wk), Kim Garth, Rhys McKenna, Sasha Moloney, Sophie Day

Player availability: England are scheduled to travel to India in early December but the dates of that series are yet to be announced and it’s unclear what, if any, impact it may have on the availability of the English trio.

Inside word with coach Jonathan Batty

The Stars spent the off-season locking away their biggest names on long-term deals, with both Meg Lanning and Annabel Sutherland signing three-year contract extensions.

"We've got the core of the squad back from last year. It's still really young squad, but actually they're getting more and more experienced a year further down the line from last year.

"Some of the players have been playing for six, seven years and are still in their early-to-mid 20s. We're really excited, it's a nice mix of experience and youth."

Meg's return: Meg Lanning missed WBBL|08 as she took a break from the game, then missed the Ashes for unspecified medical reasons. But Lanning is back to captain the Stars and has hit three fifties since making her return to domestic one-day cricket, including an unbeaten 73 in today's match against Queensland.

Lanning's red-hot comeback continues with another fast fifty

"We're delighted to have Meg back captaining the side, it was a huge loss for us last year, from a runs perspective, but also from a leadership perspective as one of the best leaders in the history of the women's game.

"I was really lucky to be able to work with Meg at the WPL, so we've already got that ongoing relationship."

Lanning returns with free-flowing fifty

Draft strategy: At the draft the Stars looked to bolster their batting with English talent, picking up Maia Bouchier and Alice Capsey, while another England star Sophia Dunkley was secured via direct nomination.

"We identified one of our shortcomings last season was the runs element, (so we prioritised drafting) a couple of batters within that group, but also just looking at the best players available.

"We were really keen to get Capsey back after her first year last year with us – she’s one of the most exciting players in world cricket and still only 19 years old.

"Sophia Dunkley has had a couple of great years with England as well so will fit in at the top of the order, and Maia Bouchier played for the Stars few years ago but she's somebody I believe has really kicked on in the last 18 months or so and has been making that England middle-order spot her own over the last summer."

Capsey whirlwind downs Hurricanes with five sixes

Key to improving on last season: "I think last year we showed that we're a super talented group who could mix it with the best of the teams in the WBBL but we were just lacking that little bit of consistency last year.

"Everyone is a year more experienced (now) and welcoming Meg back as well, so (we need) just a little bit more consistency, but we're still looking to play that really dynamic, exciting brand of cricket that we played last year and hopefully set the tournament alight."

Young players to watch: "It was great working with Rhys McKenna last year.

"I'm really excited to see where she goes this year with her game, and hopefully she'll step up and be able to take more of a leading role.

"We saw glimpses last year, but I've been hearing really good things about how she's been going with Cricket Victoria so far this season."

The Melbourne Derby at the MCG: The Stars and Renegades' second derby of the season will see them meet at the MCG on November 25 for the first time since the WBBL moved to a standalone window.

"That's something I'm going to tick off my bucket list: being involved in a game at the MCG.

"I was really lucky I went to the T20 World Cup final last year and watched it, it was my first time at the 'G so I'm really excited to be coaching a team who are going to be playing there.

"It's a great opportunity for the girls to hopefully play in front of a big crowd at the home of cricket in Melbourne."

WBBL|09 Team Guides

Adelaide Strikers | Brisbane Heat | Hobart Hurricanes | Melbourne Renegades | Melbourne Stars | Perth Scorchers | Sydney Sixers | Sydney Thunder

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