Nicola Carey is in career best form for Tasmania in this seasons WNCL. Image: cricket.com.au

The Women's National Cricket League is underway in Australia, with some stellar 50-over games being played. Who has been leading the way, and who is on target for an expanding role in the Southern Stars line up?

It may have been delayed, but the return of the Women’s National Cricket League one-day competition has sparked Australia’s best women’s cricketers into action.

State sides have kitted up once again. Nail-biting finishes have ensured the standard of Australian women’s cricket remains consistently high.

The first half of the round-robin clashes have produced some telling headlines and talking points.

Nicola Carey is in career-best form

The Tasmanian all-rounder has always shown plenty of promise. Her tight bowling, destructive left-hand batting, and neat fielding skills give her the perfect package for a dominant Australian all-rounder.

For the past few seasons, Carey has cemented herself amongst the Australian Womens cricket team squad, receiving regular game time after being apart of the T20 World Cup-winning XI. This year’s installment of the WNCL has seen the Tasmanian go to another level with both bat and ball, further cementing her spot in the team.

Carey is currently second on the bowling tally with 11 wickets at an average of 14.73. She has consistently been a factor in the middle and closing overs, with her nifty seamers wreaking havoc in tight finishes.

Her batting has matched her bowling efforts.

258 runs at an average of 51.6 sees Carey sitting in third spot in the runs tally. It’s a fine start to the WNCL for an all-rounder in scintillating touch It’s no surprise with Carey finding such sparkling form that her Tasmanian, playing a pivotal in Tassie’s strong start to the competition thus far.

A big return ensures Australia’s stocks remain strong

Australia has always been known for its fine array of bowlers. From Megan Schutt to Jess Jonassen, the Southern Stars have consistently relied upon and been backed up by their bowling unit to defend totals on the national stage.

While Australia’s batting remains their strongpoint, their bowling stocks continue to develop in the WNCL.

The return of 2020 Betty Wilson Young Cricketer of the Year Tayla Vlaeminck from a nasty cluster of foot injuries has boosted the nation’s fast bowling talent pools.

Vlaeminck’s return was an immediate and nasty one for the ACT Meteors – figures of 4-16 off eight overs blew the competition away.

The young speedster is building some form ahead of the ODI series away in New Zealand and is knocking the door down for a shot on the big stage.

But Vlaeminck isn’t the only performing pacer. Nicola Carey and Tahlia McGrath have both been brilliant for their respective states and pushing their respective cases for the starting XI in New Zealand.

McGrath’s highlight included a stunning four-wicket haul against the stacked Victorian top order. Tasmania’s Belinda Vakarewa has also impressed with eight wickets to her name so far and was rewarded with selection in the Southern Stars touring squad. Victorian tweakers Georgia Wareham (9 wickets), Molly Strano (12), and Sophie Molineux (8) headline the performing spinners in the tournament.

Familiar faces pile on the runs

While the bowling aggregates may be up in the air, the usual contributors with the stick are doing their thing in the WNCL.

Victorian pair Elyse Villani (420 runs at 140) and Meg Lanning (253 runs at 63.25) have fired Victoria into a dominant position at the top of the table, while Carey’s brilliant batting sees her in third spot. A whirlwind 163 off 139 balls from Beth Mooney against WA saw her rise to second spot with 297 runs.

Plenty of important tons have been made by big Southern Stars’ names. Rachael Haynes, Heather Graham, Katie Mack, and Bridget Patterson have all reached the milestone, while Ashleigh Gardner and Ellyse Perry have consistently produced fast-paced innings for the NSW Breakers and Victorian sides respectively.

Southern Stars regular Alyssa Healy will be looking to get on the board in the coming games to ensure Australia will be content with their stars scoring heavily. But as it already sits, the popular names in Australian women’s cricket are proving their worth in the 50-over domestic competition.

Lucky Tasmania and Victoria set the pace

The WNCL may only be halfway done, but Victoria and Tasmania have already opened up a big gap between themselves and their opponents. Victoria is sitting pretty atop the ladder, while Tasmania have four wins, a tie and a loss to kickstart their tournament.

But they have been fortunate; a tight 20 run win over the ACT in their opening match was only secured through a superb 105 and three-wicket effort from Nicola Carey, while their second win was a nervy four-wicket chase against South Australia. A one-run win over WA and a DLS-influenced tie with NSW has headlined Tasmania’s latest two matches and has shown just how fine a line there is in the WNCL.

On the other hand, Victoria has cruised to five big wins to sit ominously in second place, including a victory over Tasmania. Consecutive eight-wicket wins in two days against a strong NSW side highlighted their prowess early before a 155-run win over the ACT was followed by a tight two-wicket win against SA.

Victoria has excelled in the WNCL courtesy of a heap of runs from skipper Meg Lanning (Cricket Victoria)

The Victorians are firing off the back of their international stars Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani both in the top five for runs made in the competition so far, while tweaker Molly Strano leads the bowling aggregates.

The WNCL has a long way to go, but halfway through it sits as a two-horse race.

The reigning champions are in a world of hurt

Many expected Western Australia to continue their strong record in the WNCL.

Having won the tournament in 2019-20 off the back of a superb player-of-the-tournament effort from Nicole Bolton, WA has flopped so far in the 2021 edition of the league.

Their bowlers have struggled – Nicole Bolton and Emma King lead the way with a low four wickets apiece, while Alana King has struggled to replicate her starring role in the WBBL for the Melbourne Stars.

WA’s run-scoring has also been bleak – new skipper Chloe Piparo leads the way at the top of the order, while Bolton has been down on her usual contributions.

The positive is WA has only played half of their games in the tournament – all of which have been painful losses. They’ll have four more games to turn their form around and resurrect their poor start before they lose the opportunity to defend their title.

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