A slow start to the run chase proved the death knell for the Melbourne Renegades in their first Rebel Women's Big Bash League outing, succumbing to 86 all out in their attempt to chase down the Hobart Hurricanes’ first innings target of 122.
Like the WBBL game that preceded it in Perth, the ball proved mightier than the bat as wickets at regular intervals for both teams prevented any great totals being set. Add to that some tidy efforts in the field, notably by the Hurricanes’ Corinne Hall, who appeared unable to stay out of the action and was rightly named player of the match for her fielding efforts, and the home side were able to cap off the perfect start to their inaugural WBBL campaign.
Meg Lanning’s anomalous innings (plural) aside in the season’s openers last week (90 and 75* respectively), it’s fast becoming a hallmark of women’s T20 cricket that the balance between bat and ball is closer to equilibrium than the men.
And so it proved today; be it through lesser batting strength or more canny bowling, here’s hoping this dynamic leads to a closely fought and unpredictable competition in the coming weeks.
Women can hit sixes though, and the Hurricanes’ captain Heather Knight proved just as much in the game’s fifth over. Just as compatriot Natalie Sciver holds the honour of hitting the WBBL’s first ever six, Heather Knight was out to show that England’s six-hitting drought was a thing of the past, as she crunched a Strano delivery for a maximum over long off early in the game.
Knight was on song early // Getty Images
It’s well documented that the Renegades have a lot of spinners – nine in fact – and that’s how they tried to repel the threatening partnership that formed between the Hurricanes’ Knight and New Zealand import Amy Satterthwaite.
Wave after wave of spin came to the crease for the visitors in the game’s first innings. Strano’s off-spin was followed by Wyatt’s, which was in turn followed by Molineaux’s, and then that of captain Sarah Elliott too. It was refreshing to see as Elliott, clearly finding it easy to trust her bowlers, proved unafraid to rotate them through short stints of one-over spells.
Molly Strano celebrates a wicket // Getty Images
Innovative as it was however, the tactic failed to remove Knight, that task falling to the rarest of species to don the Renegades’ red, seamer Nic Hancock, who proved the pick of the Renegades’ bowlers in returning figures of 1-13.
A tricky target of 122 was there for the Renegades to chase at the innings break as, on a good deck, it looked like there was all to play for.
While spin may be the Melbourne side’s preferred trademark, the other would be the concern over the depth of their batting line-up. Some high profile international imports in the form of Rachel Priest (New Zealand), Danni Wyatt (England) and Dane van Niekerk (South Africa) were drafted in to shore up this department, but none managed to really get things going as they each fell for 12, 18 and 8 respectively.
All credit however to the Hurricanes’ effort in the field, whose consistent energy and accuracy piled the pressure on the Renegades batsmen. Rumours of an intensive fitness program for the Tasmanian-based squad appear to have been justified as, alongside clinical bowling, they restricted the Renegades to just one for 19 off their first five overs of the chase.
The first breakthrough came at the hands of Corinne Hall who, tipped by many of the WBBL contingent to be the one to "take an outrageous catch", delivered the goods with a screamer of a dive at deep backward point to give Julie Hunter a deserved wicket, and the Hurricanes their first.
Hall reacts after her stunning catch // Getty Images
Four run-outs ensued, including two to Hall, and combined with some nifty glovework behind the stumps by Emily Smith ensured that not a single Renegades batsman outside the top three reached double figures.
The Hurricanes have it all to do again tomorrow however, as they take on the Renegades in a rematch of today’s events at 1.30pm in Launceston.