Strikers in safe hands as Patterson seizes opportunity

After eight years as a backup wicketkeeper, Bridget Patterson finally got an opportunity in WBBL|09 – and has taken it with both hands

When veteran Adelaide Strikers wicketkeeper Tegan McPharlin hung up the gloves at the end of last season, the freshly crowned Weber WBBL champions had a major call to make about who would take her place.

With the country’s strongest wicketkeeping talent already signed to rival clubs, they were seemingly faced with a choice: contract a young, green player with potential, or look to the overseas player draft.

Instead, they surprised many WBBL pundits and fans by looking inward, and handing the gloves to Bridget Patterson.

"The Strikers offered me a new contract and throughout that conversation, (coach) Luke Williams brings up, 'We've got an idea, we want you to be the wicketkeeper, are you interested?' Patterson told this week.

"Before he called ... it never crossed my mind.

"I took some time to think a little bit more about that and how that would look for us as the Strikers, but also for me personally going forward.

"I guess I could be sitting here and saying I don't know if I'm happy with the decision, but to be in (this) position, it's obviously credit to our bowlers as well and I'm pretty glad that I did make that decision to stay here and be the wicketkeeper as well."

Bridget Patterson's 21 dismissals in WBBL|09 is the second most ever in a WBBL season // Getty

While the call raised some eyebrows outside the Strikers’ camp – although the 29-year-old has long been Adelaide’s back-up ‘keeper – Patterson has more than proved the doubters wrong with a standout rookie season behind the stumps.

She finished the regular season with 21 dismissals, including 12 stumpings and nine catches – the most in a single season since the Thunder’s Claire Koski executed 28 dismissals in WBBL|01.

"Even late on in the contracting period, people were saying, 'Who are the Strikers going to get as a wicketkeeper, what are they doing?' and thinking that we had no one," she said.

"But for the last eight seasons, I've been the backup 'keeper the whole time.

"I've always had the ability to do it, and all throughout my junior cricket and underage cricket, I was the wicketkeeper, but I guess my opportunity just never arose.

"So we've got our wicketkeeping coach here for South Australia and we started training maybe about 10 weeks out, and purely just touching up some skills and getting volume back in.

"With T20 cricket you're obviously up to the stumps a hell of a lot, so just fine tuning those things.

"Here at the Strikers, we knew what we were doing and we knew that we were making a good call and a call that probably no one else would have ever thought of.

"And it's turned out to be a great decision."

Patterson’s cause in the dismissals column is aided by the fact the Strikers have the best attack in the competition, including Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown and Amanda-Jade Wellington.

Of course, Schutt’s swing, Wellington’s spin and Brown’s pace also add a significant degree of difficulty to Patterson’s job.

But she has proved up to the task.

"Coming into the season, I had no real expectation on what was going to happen, basically I was just going to be happy if I took one, let alone 21," she said.

"But I guess you could say it's been successful and I've really enjoyed my time behind there.

"To be in the game as much as I have been is quite rare, actually, and I never would have thought it would happen but I mean, it's been cool."

Patterson’s willingness to embrace a new role gave the Strikers more flexibility at the overseas player draft.

Patterson shares a laugh with Strikers skipper Tahlia McGrath earlier this season // Getty

Rather than having to contract a wicketkeeper, they were able to look to a couple of allrounders in Dani Gibson and Georgia Adams alongside Proteas captain Laura Wolvaardt.

"She's been so good," Strikers captain Tahlia McGrath said earlier this week.

"When she said she would take the gloves we were stoked because it gave us a bit more freedom that we didn't have to pick a ‘keeper.

"We all had belief in her ... I saw her all pre-season working on her skills so it's really no surprise to me how well she's gone.

"We had a lot of doubters at the start of the season with her taking the gloves, thinking we might have missed a trick, but she's certainly proved them wrong."

WBBL|09 Finals

The Eliminator: Brisbane Heat defeated Sydney Thunder by 44 runs 

The Challenger: Brisbane Heat defeated Perth Scorchers by 67 runs

The Final: Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat | Adelaide Oval | December 2 at 7.10pm AEDT (6.40pm local)

Grab your tickets or tune in on the Seven Network, Fox Cricket, Kayo or ABC radio