Who will adapt? Ex-teammates Sophie Devine and Tahlia McGrath agree that’s the key to tonight’s WBBL Final between the Perth Scorchers and the Adelaide Strikers.
After playing alongside each other at the Strikers through the first five seasons of the WBBL competition, the pair are now captains of their respective sides who will face off in the Final at Optus Stadium.
The Scorchers and Strikers have already had two close clashes this season, both won by the first placed Scorchers, and are ready for one more this evening.
In their first match, the Strikers took the Scorchers to a Super Over after they could not be split. It took Devine just two shots to finish the match, making the Super Over target with two sixes.
Devine and her opening batting partner Beth Mooney dominated the first innings of the second game. While Katie Mack pushed hard with the bat (84* from 61), it was unfortunately all left to her and the Strikers finished 12 runs short.
Perth has won both contests, but they have been tight finishes, and with Adelaide up and about after two finals wins, it’ll make for an interesting match up.
Adding to the match-up is another link between the two teams, with Dané van Niekerk set to face wife Marizanne Kapp in the middle. Kapp has dismissed van Niekerk twice already this season.
Devine hoped that at their final training on Friday evening, Kapp might “dish out some secrets” to help with the Scorchers’ planning for van Niekerk on Saturday.
“Dané (van Niekerk) obviously went really well [Thursday] with the bat, so again it’s going to be another clash,” Devine said.
“I think there’s some match ups throughout both sides, which is going to make for some pretty interesting viewing.”
Scorchers recognise ‘threat’ of Strikers’ bowling unit
The Adelaide Strikers are flying into this Final in Perth, off the back of two dominant finals wins in The Eliminator and The Challenger to knockout the Brisbane Heat and Melbourne Renegades, respectively.
While it’s been a big week, that momentum will be important heading into tonight’s match, with a special focus on breaking the Scorchers opening partnership.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum behind us. Darcie Brown and Megan Schutt started us off unreal in the Powerplay, so hopefully more of the same,” McGrath said to media on Friday.
“For us, it’s about breaking the partnership of Soph [Devine] and Moons [Beth Mooney] really early. That’s going to be a crucial decider in the game.”
The Strikers’ bowling unit has found its perfect balance at the right time, with every player in their side performing their role – meaning it’s not just the opening bowlers in Megan Schutt and Darcie Brown that the Scorchers need to be wary of.
“I think the Strikers have been fantastic the last couple of games, they’ve obviously cleaned up the Renegades and the Heat and we know the threat that they possess and it’s not just with the new ball,” Devine said.
“We obviously saw Amanda-Jade Wellington as well rip through the middle order too.
“So they’ve got threats throughout, but we know as well we have to back our strengths.
“As soon as we start to give too much energy and focus onto what they’re capable of doing, we almost lose a bit of our own power.
There’s more to the Scorchers’ batting than Devine and Mooney
The equal highest-scoring opening partnership in WBBL history is between Devine and Mooney, who have scored 776 runs so far this tournament.
While Devine has been incredible, the current leader of the ‘Golden Bat’ is Mooney with 528 runs on the board through the regular season.
She also stands up even taller in the big games, named Player of the Match in every WBBL Final she has played in – 65 and 56* in the WBBL|04 and 05 Finals.
“She’s an absolute machine,” Devine said when asked about Mooney’s fitness heading into the Final with a hot, sunny day predicted.
“She probably hasn’t looked it in the past – I think I was watching replays of her in the Heat colours and she was crawling, pretty much, between overs.
“I’ve got no doubt about her preparation, she’s the ultimate professional and she knows what she needs to do, so look fingers crossed and if I have to carry off, then so be it – I’ll take that.”
While a lot has been said about the openers, it was the middle order who last weekend secured the top spot and direct path to the final for the Scorchers.
That extra time in the middle for Heather Graham, Chloe Piparo, Mathilda Carmichael and Kapp was valuable ahead of the final match, should something go wrong at the top of the order.
“We gained a lot of confidence with the way our middle order has [fired], and we’ve always known that they’ve been capable of it,” Devine said.
“So it’s really nice to see them spend a bit of time out in the middle the last couple of games and it’s going to hold us in really good stead.”
How do the Strikers’ break through this?
They have to continue bowling at their best, strike in the Powerplay and run on the confidence and adrenaline they’ve generated from the two extra games they’ve played.
And that won’t be hard when they’re having fun and enjoying this finals series.
“There’s a lot of confidence in our side at the moment, it’s been a very busy couple of days, but everyone’s up and about,” McGrath said.
“We’ve enjoyed it, playing some home cricket on Adelaide Oval, and we’ve played some really good cricket.
“From our point of view, everyone’s enjoying each other’s company, everyone’s enjoying the ride we’ve been on at the moment… one game to go!”
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The Final will heat up, and not just in the contest
With the Final set for a 4:10pm start in Perth, it won’t just be the contest that’s red hot, as the conditions in the middle of Optus Stadium will be boiling under the Perth sunshine.
Aware of the 36 degree temperatures predicted, Devine said the side had been “hounded” by their physio and trainer to focus on hydration ahead of the match.
“I guess we’ve had the luxury of being here since Monday and it’s been hot all week, so we’re certainly well accustomed to the heat here,” she said.
“It’s certainly going to be something different down there [at Optus]. I went down there just before actually and they reckon it’s 10 degrees hotter down in the middle than it is outside, so absolutely people are going to have to adapt, but that’s why we play the game.
“You’ve got to be able to adjust to conditions, whether that’s on the pitch or with the weather overhead.”
Many players will also be adapting to the ground, as they play at Optus Stadium for the first time.
Previous matches in Western Australia this year have been at the WACA and Lilac Hill, however, the biggest match of the tournament will be held at the biggest cricket ground in the state with more than 17,000 tickets sold by Friday.
It is expected to have some of the bounce you could expect from the WACA, but the drop in pitch is always a bit different and the size of the field will be different again from the other venues this WBBL season.
Not to mention, there is the added factor of the large crowd expected at ‘The Furnace’, who will all be cheering for the home side.
“It’s just about adapting quickly, really, reading conditions early and going from there,” McGrath said.
“There hasn’t been a lot of women’s cricket played on here as well, so I think it’ll be fairly similar for both sides and it’s just whoever adapts.”
Either way, Saturday will see a new Big Bash club crowned WBBL Champion and the trophy leave the eastern states for the first time.
“That’s the great thing about this competition, is that every team is so strong and anyone can beat anyone on their day,” McGrath said.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise that there is going to be a new title winner and hopefully it’s the team in blue.”
The WBBL|07 Final will be played tonight between the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers at Optus Stadium, with the first ball scheduled for 7:10pm AEDT (4:10pm AWST).
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