Gun recruit has Strikers well positioned for finals return
Canny off-season moves to strengthen a consistent core and the arrival of a South African star could be just what the Adelaide Strikers need to make them a WBBL|07 contender
8 October 2021, 07:04 PM AEST
With one of the most versatile and exciting bowling attacks in the competition, Adelaide Strikers coach Luke Williams is confident he has the group in place to return to the Weber WBBL finals.
The Strikers narrowly missed out in a close race for the top four last season, finishing in sixth position, but have made several canny moves to strengthen what is one of the competition’s more consistent groups.
"After just missing out on the finals last year, we're really trying to play some good cricket and get to the business end of the season and have an impact on the competition," Williams told cricket.com.au.
"We've had a bit of a change with Suzie withdrawing from the competition, but we were really fortunate that we were able to secure Dane’s services.
"I think that being able to have some stability is a good thing in terms of both our off-field staff and the majority of our playing list, but also we've got a couple of additions, in particular some different spin options that we think will assist us."
After New Zealand star Suzie Bates withdrew from the tournament due to potential issues with obtaining a place in quarantine on return to New Zealand, the Strikers moved quickly to secure free agent Dane van Niekerk, who had parted ways with the Sydney Sixers.
The South Africa skipper, player of the tournament at the Hundred in August, brings her leg-spin as well as the potential to either open the batting alongside countrywoman Laura Wolvaardt, or slot into the middle order.
She joins a spin group headlined by leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington, also coming off a standout campaign in the Hundred, and ambidextrous Jemma Barsby, who has moved from the Scorchers.
Making up the pace attack are Darcie Brown and Tahlia McGrath – who are currently in action in Australia’s series against India – alongside the experience of Megan Schutt, who has signed a new three-year deal, and former international Sarah Coyte.
Meagan Dixon, a standout indoor player who broke into Queensland’s triumphant 50-over XI last domestic season, filled the final spot in their 15-player group on Friday.
"Darcie and Talia are coming off the back of international cricket so we’re certainly looking for them to have important roles, Sarah Coyte’s done the job for us for a number of years and then we’ve got lots of other spin bowling options as well," Williams said.
"We think we've got a really well-balanced bowling attack that’ll match up well against different teams and combinations."
That attack will give the Strikers captain no shortage of options with the ball; although exactly who that captain will be has yet to be confirmed, given regular skipper Bates’ absence.
Schutt stepped into the role when the New Zealander suffered a shoulder injury last season, but has missed Australia’s ongoing series against India following the birth of her first child with wife Jess and her return to play date has not yet been confirmed, while Proteas skipper van Niekerk and South Australia vice-captain Tahlia McGrath are among other options.
Williams was tight-lipped on who would take on the job, with an announcement to come next week.
The other question for the Strikers to answer is their best batting order, with McGrath, van Niekerk and Mack among those vying to open the batting.
Squad: Megan Schutt* Darcie Brown*, Tahlia McGrath*, Dane van Niekerk (SA), Laura Wolvaardt (SA), Jemma Barsby, Nell Bryson-Smith, Sarah Coyte, Meagan Dixon, Katie Mack, Tegan McPharlin, Bridget Patterson, Maddie Penna, Annie O'Neil, Amanda-Jade Wellington
* Australia contracted marquee player
Out: Suzie Bates (NZ), Ellen Falconer (Renegades), Alex Price, Stafanie Taylor (WI)
Possible best XI: Katie Mack, Dane van Niekerk, Laura Wolvaardt, Tahlia McGrath, Bridget Patterson, Maddie Penna, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Sarah Coyte, Tegan McPharlin (wk), Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown
Player to watch: Tahlia McGrath
X-factor: Maddie Penna
Last year's result: Sixth (six wins, seven losses, one no result)
The inside word with Mel Jones: "When Dane joins teams, they do pretty well … so the Adelaide Strikers will be hoping she brings that form to them. Tahlia McGrath and Amanda-Jade Wellington have knocked on the door of being consistent big-name players in the WBBL and I think this season might be (when it happens) for them."
October 16 v Thunder, Blundstone Arena
October 23 v Sixers, UTAS Stadium
October 24 v Scorchers, UTAS Stadium
October 26 v Stars, UTAS Stadium
October 27 v Renegades, UTAS Stadium
October 30 v Stars, UTAS Stadium
October 31 v Hurricanes, UTAS Stadium
November 7 v Heat, Adelaide Oval
November 9 v Strikers, Karen Rolton Oval
November 11 v Scorchers, Karen Rolton Oval
November 14 v Sixers, Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay
November 17 v Renegades, Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay
November 19 v Heat, Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay
November 20 v Hurricanes, Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay
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