Ashleigh Gardner was a beacon of optimism amongst the experienced line-up as the Sydney Sixers were dealt their first loss of WBBL|07 – to the previously winless Melbourne Stars.
Heading into today’s contest against the Stars undefeated after a six-wicket win against the same team, and a five-wicket win against the Hurricanes, batting second for the third game in a row, the Sixers would’ve been in the box seat based on previous form.
However, after surrendering their largest total of the season when the Stars finished on 3/139, it would take a mighty effort from the Sixers, though achievable due to their star-studded firepower, capable with the bat.
The Sixers got off to the worst start possible when Indian opener Shafali Verma got out for a duck three balls into the innings, which brought Gardner to the crease earlier than anticipated.
Gardner, along with Alyssa Healy combined in the middle for a 29-run stand, Healy contributing 14 before falling to Stars quick Annabel Sutherland.
Not deterred by the wicket of the experienced Healy, Gardner held her own at the crease too, especially when another Australian veteran Elyse Perry was next to come in.
Gardner and Perry combined for a 32 runs partnership before Gardner herself was next to go, holing out to the outstretched hands of Linsey Smith off the bowling of Sophie Day.
She scored 31 off 33 including four boundaries, having targeted the offside with multiple drives to the deep extra cover region and cuts towards third man and deep extra point, marking the gaps in the field with ease as her scored climbed.
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Before Gardner’s trying knock to give her side a chance at chasing the total set by the Stars, she proved pivotal with the ball in the first innings, netting two of the three wickets claimed throughout the opposition’s first use with the bat.
Damaging with the ball with her very first delivery of the day in the fourth over, Gardner got the big scalp of Elyse Villani, the batter playing in front of the ball, looking to sweep but missing the connection. The ball’s trajectory allowed for it to crash into middle and off stump, bowling Villani for 10 off 6.
The remainder of Gardner’s first over would see her concede two runs with the same amount of runs scored against her in her second over (the sixth) too.
With Melbourne cruising at 1/60 when it was time for the drinks break, Sydney needed to find wickets to limit the scoring potential of their opposition and that’s where Gardner entered yet again to make a difference.
On the first ball bowled after the break, Gardner got the breakthrough yet again, sending Meg Lanning (10 off 19) back to the sheds, removing a dangerous threat with the bat.
The off-spinner would end with figures of 2/16, the 4.00 economy rate the best of the six Sixers bowlers that were utilised throughout the afternoon.
So far this season, Gardner has failed to get going with the bat until now, previously posting scores of 7 off 12 against the Stars the first time around, and 3 off 3 against the Hurricanes.
With the ball, she wasn’t given an over in the first match of the tournament however had similar figures to tonight’s game against Hobart, posting 1/16 from four overs, keeping a tidy 4.00 economy to lead her Sydney teammates.
However, a damaging presence when she can get on a roll with the bat, Gardner has proved useful in the past and will look to carry this evidenced form into the remainder of the tournament and show her capabilities as an attacking all-rounder.
The Sydney Sixers will be looking to get back onto the winners list when they face cross-town rivals, the Sydney Thunder at UTAS Stadium in Launceston from 3:40pm on October 23.
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