Fitter, faster Darlington out to avoid second-year blues
After taking the WBBL by surprise last season, Sydney Thunder quick Hannah Darlington knows the competition will be ready for her this summer
Laura Jolly in Sydney
14 October 2020, 10:55 AM AEST
After a breakout first season in the Rebel WBBL, Sydney Thunder young gun Hannah Darlington is determined to avoid a sophomore slump when this summer’s tournament gets underway later this month.
The 19-year-old pace bowler was her team’s leading wicket taker in WBBL|05, holding her own against vastly more experienced players despite only graduating from high school on the eve of her debut match.
Her 16 wickets at 21.31 and economy rate of 6.82 were enough to see her crowned the tournament’s best young player. Now, with her first full pre-season under her belt, Darlington feels well-equipped to improve on those numbers.
"I think I’m coming into the season as fit as I’ve ever been, it was the best preparation I’ve ever had," Darlington told cricket.com.au.
"It was the perfect year to get a pre-season under the belt because I could really put some work towards thing that needed improvement.
"Bringing that 2km time trial down was something I really focused on and it was nice to see results.
"Naturally in terms of getting a bit fitter and stronger, (my bowling is) getting a bit quicker, so it was nice to add some kays.
"But it’s also about recognising my role is to bowl those change ups as well, so I’m just playing with a couple of new tricks that hopefully I can bring out this season."
Knowing the competition’s batters will have done their homework on her heading into this season, Darlington went into her pre-season determined to add some new facets to her game.
They will be put to the test immediately when the tournament stars on October 25, with the Thunder to meet a Sydney Sixers line-up featuring Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Ashleigh Gardner in the top order.
"I sat down at the start of the pre-season with our head coach and recognised there’s plenty of footage of me out there now, I can’t fly under the radar," Darlington said.
"I can’t turn up and have the exact same plans or change ups, so we recognised quite early it was time to find a few new tricks and stay ahead of the game.
"That’s the biggest thing. Batters can watch as much footage as they want but if I’m bringing out new tricks, it’s going to add another string to my bow."
Darlington revealed she had tapped into the experience and knowledge of NSW and Thunder recruit Sammy-Jo Johnson, with the pair to form a strong pace attack for the Sydney club alongside South Africa speedster Shabnim Ismail this season.
"I’m super excited to have those two on my team," she said.
"You look at our pace line-up, we lost Rene Farrell but bringing someone like Sammy-Jo in is really important and it’s a nice pace line-up to be part of.
"I’ve spoken to (Sammy-Jo) a lot about how she bowls her change ups and working with her about what I could bring in, and other things like the fields she uses."
After spending the winter training with the NSW Breakers program, Darlington and her Thunder teammates started training for WBBL|06 on Monday.
"Everyone was super excited to put the colours on, we’ve got quite a new group and I think everyone is really excited to play some cricket.
"As soon as the Thunder kit came out a new energy came out as well."
Darlington admitted the hub experience in the WBBL Village at Sydney Olympic Park will be a strange one given she lives nearby and spent her pre-season training in the precinct with NSW. However, she is determined to embrace it.
And after the Thunder missed the semi-finals last season, she’s optimistic their mixture of youth and experience – which sees the likes of Australia vice-captain Rachael Haynes, England stars Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont as well as Ismail and Johnson joined by eight players aged 20 or younger – has what it takes to go deep into the tournament.
"It’s going to be a new experience, and not many people are going to be able to say they were in one of the COVID hubs," she said.
"Everyone has come together and recognised this squad is one that should be pushing for finals.
"Last year it was disappointing that with the start we had, we were on top of the ladder for a bit, so to drop down to sixth was disappointing.
"I look at our squad and it’s definitely a squad that has a lot of potential so no one should underestimate us."