Athapaththu exit poses Perth problems as finals loom
As Chamari Athapaththu heads to Zimbabwe to help Sri Lanka's bid to qualify for the World Cup, the Perth Scorchers have a big hole to fill in their middle order as they eye a home final
16 November 2021, 02:17 PM AEST
Perth Scorchers coach Shelley Nitschke says her side can cover the loss of Sri Lanka star Chamari Athapaththu in the middle-order as they set their sights on gaining an unprecedented finals advantage.
Athapaththu played her final Weber WBBL|07 innings last Thursday, hitting a Big Bash career best of 70 not out from 42 deliveries, but has now departed for the ODI World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe.
The dates for that tournament – which was delayed from July to late November – were released after the club has signed the Sri Lanka skipper, and given the difficulty around international arrivals in Australia, the club decided to stick with their existing list for the business end of the tournament.
Nitschke was giving nothing away when quizzed on who may step into the middle-order in Athapaththu's place for Wednesday's clash with the in-form Adelaide Strikers.
But the role will be crucial; openers Beth Mooney and Sophie Devine both sit in the top three run scorers for WBBL|07 but either of them failing in a must-win match could expose the middle-order, something that played out in Perth's seven-wicket semi-final defeat to the Melbourne Stars last summer.
"It's obviously been a significant loss for us, considering how she played in the final game … she really showed what she's capable of," Nitschke said on Monday.
"But we've got some good batters around the middle-order and we're looking forward to them getting more opportunity.
"We haven't sat down and selected the side yet, but we've got a few batters that haven't had an opportunity, we've got Ash Day and Amy Edgar … we've also got some depth there that people can play that roll up the order as well, Heather Graham has been going really well at No.5 Marizanne Kapp can come up as well.
"We're confident that we've got the padding to cover that middle-order role that Chamari was filling."
While the top four has been all-but locked in, a shake-up to the WBBL finals this season means the Scorchers still have a significant advantage to play for.
They only need to win one of their last three games to lock in their finals berth, but if they win all three matches and the top-ranked Renegades lose one of theirs, the Scorchers can claim top spot, and advance directly to the final which they would host.
The team finishing second will host the Challenger final on November 25 – a clash against the winner of the November 24 Eliminator final, to be played between the sides finishing third and fourth.
"(Finishing top two) is a huge advantage," Nitschke said. "This year, the way it's set up is fantastic.
"There's a big incentive to make sure we finish off well, and it's pretty tight as it always is.
"We know we've got three really important games ahead of us."
The Scorchers enjoyed a five-day break between matches, taking downtime in Adelaide to reset ahead of their final push for a maiden WBBL title.
"It was much needed," Nitschke said. "Everyone's really looking forward to getting out there for our final three games and there was a fair bit of energy at trying today.
"I think the break has served them well."