Strikers hero poised for home-town return
Alice Springs-raised Strikers young gun Tabatha Saville is eagerly anticipating a chance to play in the first Traeger Park WBBL game
11 January 2018, 03:54 PM AEST
Strikers match-winner Tabatha Saville sealed a final-ball victory at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday, but it’s the chance to play in front of her home crowd in Alice Springs this weekend that she says will be her “most special game”.
Adelaide have arrived in the Northern Territory, where they’ll play two games in two days against Perth Scorchers at Traeger Park.
It’s an opportunity Fijian-born and Alice Springs-raised rising star can’t wait for and Saville will head in with plenty of confidence after what’s been a breakout Rebel WBBL season to date.
"I’m pretty excited, it’s my home town," Saville said.
"Sunny Adelaide can be a bit hot but it’s nothing compared to the NT so it’ll be really good to see how everyone goes.
"It’s a little bit special, it’ll probably the most special game I’ll play aside from my debuts in my career."
Having played just three matches in her debut season, Saville has been quick to cement her spot as a regular in an improved Strikers line-up this summer, making 90 runs in the middle order for the Strikers in six innings – finishing not out on four occasions – and impressing with her athleticism in the field.
The 19-year-old has only been dismissed twice this season and has played some pivotal roles at the death for the Strikers.
Her unbeaten 28 runs against Melbourne Stars on Tuesday, including the winning boundary on the final ball of the day, was her latest accomplishment.
Saville rose to the occasion in the final over, with the Strikers needing 10 runs to win.
She hit a single off the first ball of the Kristen Beams over, snuck a bye and was facing on the final ball of the day with the Strikers needing four runs to win.
Beams’ first attempt at the delivery was ruled a no-ball for an over-waist-height full-toss, and Saville didn’t waste her second chance, sending the ball down past deep backward point to the boundary.
The batting performance belied her age, but Saville said she had been able to draw confidence from more experienced teammates, such as Bridget Patterson, when she stepped out to the crease.
"Bridget is one of the senior members of the squad now, both in (W)BBL and WNCL," Saville said.
"She’s been in my position: she’s been the younger player coming through and had all the potential. So batting with her, it helps me so much – she’s got so much experience. It does give me a bit of confidence, chasing a big score like that.”
Tuesday’s game was a double-header with the KFC BBL and a large crowd had gathered by the end of the women’s match to watch the thrilling finale.
A huge roar went up when Saville struck the winning runs, delighting the 19-year-old.
"I’m used to playing in front of 20 people, parents, but that was different, it was surreal," she said.
She also made an unbeaten 31 against Brisbane Heat as she and Patterson (32) combined for a 64-run partnership to give the Strikers something to defend, although the team was ultimately unsuccessful as Heat opener Beth Mooney found form spectacularly.
Saville credits a focus on improving her maturity for her breakout WBBL season.
"I’ve been working probably the last 12 months on my maturity both as a player and as a human,” Saville said in her post-match interview on the cricket.com.au live stream.
"And I think just learning how to grind it out when you’re not going well, and putting the team before your ego is probably how I look at it and how I stay out there.
"I’ve got a lot of good people around me to keep me grounded … (they) keep me humble."
The Strikers, who finished seventh in WBBL|01 and eighth in WBBL|02, have taken great strides this summer to be a real contender for finals.
They won their first three games of the season and, after a temporary slump saw them lose their next three, they have recovered to win their past two outings, both against the Stars.
New captain Suzie Bates has been excellent with bat and ball, and is ranked seventh in the league for runs scored with 265 to her credit.
Fellow New Zealander and Striker Sophie Devine is equal-second in the league for wickets taken with 11.
As a team, the Strikers have scored the most runs this season to date, with 1159 at an average of 145 a game.