Indian recruit Smriti Mandhana may have been given a tough assignment leading the Sydney Thunder batting unit forward in WBBL|07, but the opener has continued to play class knocks under pressure.
None were better than the star batter’s game-winning knock of 45 off 39 balls against cross-town rivals the Sydney Sixers on the weekend. With her top order crumbling around her while the Sixers desperately tried to defend a sub-par total of 94, Mandhana stepped up to the plate when it mattered to strike a dagger into the Sixers’ finals hopes.
Finals action for the Thunder may not be on the cards in this year’s WBBL after winning last season’s title, as the absence of many star players like captain Rachael Haynes has left the Sydney side devoid of depth and talent. But Mandhana has been a shining light, continuing on her brilliant form from the Multi-Format series against Australia earlier in the summer with some more crucial runs for the Thunder.
Sunday’s win was extra sweet for Mandhana’s side, giving them a golden chance to spoil the Sixers’ finals chances.
“It felt nice to get a win for the team and I think our bowlers did an amazing job in the first innings in restricting them to 94,” Mandhana said.
“Then to go out there and get those runs was good, but I thought the way we bowled and fielded was good.”
The Thunder have struggled all season, with the consistency of many teams proving too strong for a side that lost some of their best talent. Although the title defence may not have gone to plan for the Sydney team, international recruit Mandhana has thoroughly enjoyed playing for the franchise.
“I’ve been enjoying it a lot, they’re a good group of young and experienced players, it’s been a really nice opportunity,” she said.
The Sydney Derby win over the Sixers will go down as a highlight for the Thunder’s WBBL|07 campaign. Bowling first at Mackay’s sunny Great Barrier Reef Arena, the Thunder put the pressure on the Sixers immediately, removing the majority of their vaunted top order and tying their run rate down.
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Despite a solid knock by Ellyse Perry (who struck 40 not out) to anchor the innings, the Thunder’s consistency with ball in hand gave them their best chance yet at securing a much-needed win.
Yet the form of bowler Lauren Cheatle (3-15) proved early issues in the short run chase, as Mandhana was called upon to guide her side home after her top order crumbled around her. With the rivalry between the Sydney sides only growing, the Indian opener was thankful she was new to the scene so that she could ignore the distractions and bat without fear.
“Every cricket match is the same for me, wherever you play, what’s most important is getting the win,” Mandhana said.
“If it’s against the Sixers and it’s a rivalry then it’s good to get a win, but it’s my first year with the Thunder and I’m not into rivalries yet.”
Looking forward, Mandhana hopes to finish off her campaign with a bang, saying her Thunder side is intent on winning all of their final three games to complete a tricky tournament on a high note. From there, it’s time to return home to family after a long stint away from India.
But that doesn’t mean she is keen to leave quickly, as the growing standard of the WBBL has left Mandhana raring to face the challenges the competition offers for all players.
“The standard has been amazing in this tournament, it’s grown over seven years,” she said.
“It’s just grown, seeing the bowlers, every team has two or three strike bowlers now, which was something that wasn’t there in women’s cricket prior to two or three years ago.”
“I’m really happy with the standard and the pace with which the bowlers are coming at me with.”
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