Strikers' reluctant Smash Sisters live up to the hype
Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine are the last people to talk themselves up, but their 'Smash Sisters' partnership is a cricketing force more than a decade in the making
7 November 2019, 08:32 AM AEST
'Smash Sisters' is a moniker Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine only reluctantly accept, but there's little doubting that whether they are wearing Strikers blue or their national colours, this star duo lives up to the name.
Since Rebel WBBL|03, Bates and Devine have brought their big-hitting abilities to the top of the Adelaide Strikers' batting order, but it's a double-act that started long before that.
Bates, who hails from Dunedin, and Wellington-native Devine made their debuts for New Zealand just six months apart back in 2006, both still teenagers when handed their maiden international caps.
They have gone on to forge reputations as two of the greatest cricketers their county has produced, playing a combined total of 417 international games in the years since.
"I feel like my whole career has been either playing with or against Sophie Devine," Bates, who at 32 is two years her teammate's senior, told cricket.com.au.
"I remember from a really young age thinking how impressive she was as an athlete and I always wanted to compete with her and try and beat her.
"That's been case all the way through (when we're) training (but) now I just appreciate having her on my side."
While they've been international teammates for more than a decade – and will be again, on Australian soil, when the T20 World Cup gets underway next February and March – it wasn't until the third edition of the Big Bash that they found themselves on the same team, when Bates jumped ship from the Scorchers to join the Adelaide club.
It didn't take long for Adelaide's new opening pair to be dubbed the 'Smash Sisters' on Big Bash commentary – the Strikers' answer to the Brisbane Heat's Bash Brothers – but it's a tag Bates and Devine are somewhat reluctant to embrace, given their modest natures.
"It's a name that's stuck with us (but) great thing is we complement each other in different ways," Devine told cricket.com.au.
"We can both be aggressive but we can access different areas and we've learnt over the years with our batting partnership, that when one of us is going it's just about feeding that person the strike.
"(It's also) knowing when to chop and change, if one of us is having a better time against a certain bowler.
"That communication is really important and it's something that continues to grow with us."
What they bring to the Strikers batting line-up speaks for itself.
Heading into the first standalone edition of the women's Big Bash, Devine and Bates both ranked inside the top 10 run scorers in WBBL history, while both are among the elite group of eight players who have hit WBBL centuries.
There is no shortage of players able to hit a long ball in the Big Bash – Grace Harris, Lizelle Lee and Ashleigh Gardner all spring to mind – but no one does it as regularly as Devine, who has hit more sixes than anyone else in WBBL history.
"She's got the fastest hands I've ever seen for a female cricketer," Bates said of Devine.
"You think you've bowled a good ball, but she's got such quick hands and hits it so hard.
"That's her strength and she keeps backing herself."
If Devine is sheer power, Bates has proven time and time again she has an ability to churn out runs like few others.
In 111 T20 Internationals she's plundered 3,100 runs, more than any other player on the planet, male or female.
"The thing with Batesy is she's always developing her game," Devine said.
"I don't think she's stood still, especially with T20s, she's a player who keeps developing new skills, new shots.
"I saw her play a shot last year where she was almost off the wicket, just to access somewhere different.
"That's really important as a world-class player, you've got to keep up with the game and she's certainly leading from the front."
The Smash Sisters' talents are not confined to the cricket field, either.
Bates was part of the New Zealand basketball team at the 2008 Olympic Games, while Devine combined cricket with playing for the Black Sticks, New Zealand's hockey team, until 2012.
"(Sophie) is super professional, she does everything that's required to get herself ready for games," Bates said.
"(But) she liked to have a bit a bit of fun as well and she always picks when it's the right time to have a laugh.
"She never takes herself too seriously and she stays pretty consistent with her mood, whether she's going well or the team is going well."
In Devine's eyes, the qualities Bates – current Strikers captain and former New Zealand captain – brings off the field as just as important as her skills and leadership on it.
"Batesy is just an all-round good person," she said.
"She's the first one to be singing on the bus, she usually wants to do a solo.
"She's also the first at training, the last to leave and she's always looking to see if there's something she can do to help her teammates.
"She really does care about the team, but also about the people even more so."
Adelaide will host a WBBL Festival Weekend across Saturday and Sunday with three matches to be played at Karen Rolton Oval.
On Saturday, the Strikers take on the Perth Scorchers at 1.40pm local time (2.10pm AEDT), while on Sunday, the Scorchers play the Sydney Thunder at 10am (10.30am AEDT) before the Strikers play the Melbourne Stars at 1.40pm (2.10pm AEDT).