Shorter WBBL season makes early wins crucial: Bolton

Adelaide Strikers assistant believes dropping games early could make for a hard road back in WBBL's milestone 10th season

The blockbuster WBBL|10 opener between last summer's finalists Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat takes on even greater significance in a reduced season according to Strikers assistant coach Nicole Bolton.

Under the more compact 43-game schedule released by Cricket Australia today, each club will play 10 regular season matches instead of the previous 14, which will increase the urgency for teams to hit the ground running.

Bolton, who alongside head coach Luke Williams will play a key role in the reigning champions' push to complete an unprecedented hat-trick of WBBL titles, believes the abbreviated window will make it harder for outfits that drop games early in the season.

And it all-but eliminates the prospect of any club emulating the effort of Sydney Sixers in WBBL|01 when they suffered defeats in their first six games before embarking on a nine-game winning streak that ended at the hands of Sydney Thunder in the inaugural final.

"Ten games really means you've got to be at the top of your game and play some really competitive cricket across the entire season," Bolton told today.

"When we had 14 games plus finals you've probably been able to let slip a couple of games here and there and still build momentum at different times.

"So I think the challenge for all the teams is finding that consistent DNA that's going to set you up for the back end of the season.

"If you start dropping games early, with a reduced number of matches in the season, you could feel the pressure pretty early."

The Strikers and Heat return to Adelaide Oval for the season opener on October 27, less than a year after the staunch rivals drew more than 12,000 fans to the same venue where the home team triumphed by three runs to lift the trophy.

Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat | Final | WBBL|09

The game begins a triple-header to launch WBBL|10, to be followed by Melbourne Renegades against the Sixers (also at Adelaide) and then Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars at the WACA Ground in Perth to round out super Sunday.

Strikers allrounder Jemma Barsby confirmed the prospect of an historic 'three-peat' has been discussed by members of the experienced squad since they began pre-season training earlier this year.

And Barsby believes there is not greater challenge nor opportunity than to ignite their title defence against avowed foes the Heat, the latest bout in an enduring rivalry between the outfits who make no secret of their burning motivation to defeat the other.

"To play the Brisbane Heat out here on a Sunday afternoon, hopefully we can pack it out and beat that crowd number we got for the final," Barsby said.

"It's how we want to start the campaign, to hopefully do the three-peat.

"You've got to embrace it, we've made a few jokes in the gym already that we're going for the three-peat.

"We're not going to shy away that we're going for it, we want to be the first club to do that."

Having begun her WBBL career with the Heat where she was part of their championship-winning team in WBBL|04, Barsby has a keener insight than most as to why such enmity exists between the current competition heavyweights.

"They are just both immensely proud of the team they're able to build, and I know there's definitely some big personalities in both teams that like to put their voice out there," she said.

"It creates a really good rivalry, and you know that from previous years' (verbal jousting) in the media.

"It builds hype around it, and I know that some of us girls thrive off that opportunity."

The decision to kick off the 10th anniversary season with a meeting between the previous summer's finalists was pushed by the Strikers, who were keen to capitalise on the wave of hometown support that has carried them to the past two crowns.

Big Bash Leagues general manager Alistair Dobson confirmed Cricket Australia was happy to accommodate the Strikers' request, and indicated a clash between the previous season's grand finalists might become a permanent addition to future opening-round WBBL schedules.

"The Strikers came to us really early and said they wanted this game, they wanted to play the Brisbane Heat again," Dobson said today.

"There's a rivalry there that's been growing for a little while and it was a great final.

"We'll see how it goes, I think there's an interesting tradition or a future model there around a grand final re-match and this is the right place to start it."

All teams are expected to be boosted by the availability of their Australia representatives when WBBL|10 begins given the preceding T20 World Cup in Bangladesh finishes a week before the domestic competition gets underway.

Wolvaardt fine tunes for WBBL final with another big knock

But the Strikers are still unsure about the availability of star South Africa batter Laura Wolvaardt who has played a vital role in their past two championship triumphs.

As captain of the Proteas women's team, Wolvaardt will be required for South Africa's multi-format home bilateral series against England that is currently scheduled from November 24-December 8.

That would likely rule her out of the first five Strikers games, including the return bout against Brisbane Heat at the Gabba on the evening of November 9.

Bolton said Wolvaardt – who scored a Test and ODI century during South Africa's recent tour of India – remained a contracting priority for the Strikers ahead of this year's player draft where the club is able to exercise a retention pick.

"Any way we can get Laura back in the fold, we'll try and have a look at all the avenues," Bolton said.

"I know she's really keen, and it's the same for a lot of the South Africans and a lot of the other international players, this becomes quite an important tournament to be involved in for their own development.

"So I'm sure Laura will work pretty hard in the background to make sure she's available, but first and foremost we need to make sure we secure her signing.

"She's number one priority for us, she's such an outstanding player but more importantly a great person to have around."