WBBL: Team of the tournament (so far)
Star internationals and a few surprises make Isabelle Westbury's team of WBBL|01 so far
Isabelle Westbury is a writer for cricket.com.au. She has worked as a freelance cricket and politics writer for The Telegraph, The Independent, The Age and The Guardian. She is also the captain of Middlesex CCC.
1. Meg Lanning (Stars) (Captain)
The opening two spots were always going to be the toughest to choose. International stars such as Sarah Taylor, Charlotte Edwards, Rachel Priest and Dane van Niekerk are just a few to have opened the batting in the inaugural Rebel Women’s Big Bash League so far.
A tough decision too, to break up the Brisbane Heat’s opening partnership of Beth Mooney and Grace Harris, who have amassed 600 runs between them in just ten games, and at a prolific strike rate too. If there was one name to do it however, Meg Lanning’s would be it.
The Southern Stars’ captain doesn’t understand the words 'pressure' or 'expectation' – as far as she’s concerned she has one job to do at the top of the order, and that's to score runs. With back-to-back scores of 90 and 75 not out in the opening two games, the only time that Lanning was dismissed for less than 50 the Melbourne Stars succumbed to their first and only loss of the tournament.
As for the captaincy, both Heather Knight’s for the unfancied Hobart Hurricanes and Lanning’s have stood out. The level all round has been skilful but when it comes to plugging gaps, deftly rotating bowlers and pipping it at the death, Knight and Lanning are unrivalled. Tough not to give Knight the armband – or a steadfast place in the side - but with Lanning’s prolific form to complement her captaincy, we have here a walking, talking description of 'to lead by example'.
2. Grace Harris (Heat)
There’s probably nothing more terrifying for an opening bowler than having the figure of Grace Harris walking out to the crease, bat swinging and counting up where your boundary fielders – of which there are never seemingly enough – are stationed. Harris has not only scored the WBBL’s first and only century, her strike rate is head and shoulders above the rest. Lanning comes in a healthy second at 127, but Harris’ is a towering 162.
It’s difficult to compare the stats, as Harris’ team, the Brisbane Heat, have played the most number of games so far - 10 - which is twice as many as some of the others. Harris though, rested with a minor hamstring injury for a couple of matches, has dominated the boundary hitting (43) and has scored eight sixes in eight matches, a feat only Meg Lanning is anywhere near on course to reach. Harris can be hit and miss, with a golden duck in the tournament’s first televised game, but for fear-factor alone, Harris opens.
Harris is pretty handy with the ball too; her century was accompanied by figures of 4-15 from her wily off-spin.
3. Beth Mooney (Heat)
Mooney probably didn’t feature on any pre-tournament lists; the Southern Stars’ reserve keeper, although known to strike the ball cleanly, had yet to deliver consistently at this level. If there’s a breakthrough player of the pre-Christmas matches, Mooney is it.
She may have been pushed out of the opening spot by Lanning, but when it comes to consistency combined with strike rate, Mooney is the next best thing and therefore the next one in. In ten matches, she’s got four fifties to her name and in a neat left-hand/right-hand combination with Harris has got the Heat off to many a flier – crucial in T20s. She takes the gloves too.
4. Stafanie Taylor (Thunder)
The West Indian contingent have made a name for themselves so far in the WBBL, but it’s the Sydney Thunder’s Stafanie Taylor who has been the stand-out. She took the game away from the Sydney Sixers in the opening weekend, with an unbeaten 38-ball 59 and her form in four matches since has ensured she remains amongst it in both runs and batting averages. An opener at heart, like Mooney we’re confident she’ll adapt to a new position and her batting is too compelling for her to miss out entirely – her cover drive, after all, is worth coming for alone.
5. Alex Blackwell (Thunder)
With a few big-hitters at the top of the order, someone needs to hold the fort for the tricky middle overs, should there be a need. Both Jess Jonnassen and Alex Blackwell have proved they’re up to the task, with both having performed match-winning duties to guide their sides over the line. They’re both prolific fielders too; Blackwell at extra cover has put an end to many a cleanly struck cover-drive, while Jonassen has pulled off some athletic catches from her position at backward point – a silent assassin if ever there was one.
Either player could take up this mantle, with both players having a knack for remaining unbeaten and unflustered at times of need. Blackwell just pips it with her stats however, with a healthy average of 61.5 behind only Meg Lanning. An experienced leader, Blackwell would also team up seamlessly as vice-captain to the Southern Stars skipper.
6. Suzie Bates (Scorchers)
The Perth Scorchers, filled to the brim with international superstars, haven’t quite lived up to expectations, winning only half the matches they’ve contested, and becoming the Sydney Sixers’ only victims (at their seventh attempt) in the process. Bates however, has offered a rallying fight back after many top-order collapses and her batting average reflects that. She’s handy with the ball too, her right-arm medium outswingers integral to the Scorchers’ wins.
7. Katherine Brunt (Scorchers)
Like Harris it’s the thought of Brunt that’s the real killer – you’ll never meet a cricketer more ferocious nor passionate for the game and her bowling reflects that. She’s probably still the fastest out there and has had to endure some road-like decks along the way, but her figures of 4-17 in the Scorcher’s opening game is the best of any seamer so far. Undoubtedly a big game player.
8. Marizanne Kapp (Sixers)
The South African seamer has had the misfortune of being part of a team which has performed dismally with the bat, so her performances are even more impressive considering the circumstances in which she’s delivered. In five of the Sixers first matches her captain won the toss and chose to bat, leaving Kapp and co. bowling to defend below-parr totals. While wickets were harder to come by, her economy rate was phenomenal. When Kapp was given the opportunity to bowl with freedom, she picked up 3-9 against a world-class Scorchers line up.
9. Kristen Beams (Stars)
Spinners, especially of the leg-spinning variety, tend to be hit or miss in T20s, piling up either runs-against or wickets-for in this variable format. Beams is one-of-a-kind as she has both ploughed through batting line-ups and kept her economy down along the way, her bowling average of 8.33 the best of anyone who has bowled more than 20 overs.
10. Julie Hunter (Hurricanes)
The Hobart Hurricanes come into the Christmas break as unexpected table-toppers. On paper a mismatch side of players from across the country and the world, their ability to gel seamlessly into a tight-knit purple outfit has seen them reap the awards as a result.
It’ll be a tough ask to maintain this form going into the New Year but integral to their chances will be Hunter. Left out of the Southern Stars Ashes squad in favour of seamers of the young and exciting variety, Hunter has led the Hurricanes’ bowling attack like the experienced campaigner she is. Holly Ferling is close on her tail with some outstanding performances at times. However for Hunter’s control, her ability to set the tone for the Hurricane’s bowling innings and her versatility in being able to bowl at the death too, Hunter takes it.
11. Lauren Cheatle (Thunder)
Cheatle is the face of the next generation. A fast left-arm seamer with a tall action that’s easy on the eye, she’s the next in line in Australian’s long tradition of left-arm quicks, albeit of the female variety. The 17-year-old came into the WBBL with a couple of good performances in the WNCL, and was unlucky not to get Player of the Match in her first T20 at this level, her 4-20 pipped only by Stafanie Taylor’s knock of 59 against the Sixers. She’s picked up a wicket in every match she’s played and finally won the plaudits for her 3-28 against the Renegades later in the tournament. At such a young age, she’s handling the responsibility of leading a bowling attack with composure and maturity far beyond her years.
The fielding in the WBBL has been outstanding and some of the catches have been showstoppers on and off the screen. Corinne Hall became one of the few players to win a Player of the Match for her fielding alone in the Hurricanes’ first match, and with a 50 to her name with bat in hand, she’s a useful addition to any team in the tournament.
Jess Jonassen is also unlucky to miss out with a very accomplished all-round game on hand. Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight are an English trio which again wouldn’t look out of place in any World XI and while Knight’s captaincy and results are the most deserving of a place, someone’s got to miss out. Taylor and Edwards have shown flashes of brilliance but they’ll be striving for improved consistency come the second half of the tournament.