Sydney Sixers bowler Sarah Aley reckons there’s a bit of luck behind her knack of rising to the occasion in Big Bash play-offs, but she’s hoping it’s a trend that continues when her team take the field against Perth Scorchers for Sunday’s final.
The Sixers on Friday advanced to the Rebel WBBL|03 decider thanks to a stunning spell from Aley, who removed Suzie Bates and Tahlia McGrath in the space of two balls, before dismissing Amanda-Jade Wellington and Tabatha Saville to have 4-1 from her opening two overs.
In last year’s final, the Sixers held off the Scorchers by seven runs at the WACA Ground thanks to Aley’s 4-23.
Now, she’s hoping to repeat that performance against the same opponents on Sunday.
“I don’t know, I think I put it down to a bit of luck,” Aley laughed when asked the secret to clutch performances in finals. “There is a lot of hard work away on the training track and making sure that, as an older athlete, I’m looking after the body and making sure I'm ready to go when game time happens.
“Hopefully I’ll have another good final with the ball.”
Friday’s performance was one Aley put down to “making sure I was sticking to my plans to attack the stumps”, but however simple the formula sounds, it is one she was thrilled to pull off in a must-win game.
In WBBL|02, Aley topped the league wickets table with 28 scalps at 11.75, with an economy rate of 5.68 – and earned an international debut aged 33 as a result.
She hasn’t been quite as pleased with her WBBL|03 campaign – although she still sits second on the wickets tally with 22 at 15.54 and an economy rate of 5.57 – but if the semi-final is anything to go by, it is all coming together for Aley at the right time.
“I think this year, I’m not as happy with my season as I was last season,” she said.
“I’ve been less consistent and gone for more runs, which I think shows the strength of the competition, there’s so much footage out there now and a lot of players are watching it.
“But at the same time I haven’t been as consistent with my lines and lengths and I’ve been giving away too many boundary balls.
“Today I’m happy I really attacked the stumps and I hope I can do the same again on Sunday.”
Another player who found form at the right time was Sixers No.3 Ashleigh Gardner.
The 20-year-old started WBBL|03 with a stunning century at North Sydney Oval but wasn’t able to reach the same heights after missing two games due to concussion in December, scoring 85 runs at 9.4 in nine innings.
But it was Gardner at her best on Friday as she struck six sixes on her way to 72 from just 45 deliveries against an attack featuring Australian and South Australia teammates Megan Schutt and Wellington.
“She always attacks, no matter what the situation is, that’s one of her strengths,” Aley said.
“But she took a bit more time this time to get her eye in, because she knew it was a good batting wicket and she knew she could cash in.
“We always aim to build partnerships when batting and we did that well today, so hopefully we can keep that going in the final on Sunday.”
The WBBL|03 final will begin at Adelaide Oval at 11.50am local time on Sunday (12.20pm AEDT) with coverage live on Channel 10.