The Melbourne Stars ended their WBBL|07 campaign on a high, beating the finals-qualified Adelaide Strikers after an opening partnership laid a foundation for a grandstand finish.
A high-scoring run chase was ahead of the Stars after the Strikers ended the first innings 3/175, setting the target of 176 for victory.
Last season’s runners-up, the Stars needed to start strong to match the might of the Strikers’ batting effort, and did so through the opening partnership of Elyse Villani (100* off 65) and Meg Lanning (50 off 39).
The two veterans of Australian cricket combined for an 119-run first-wicket stand before the Stars’ captain Lanning fell in the 15th over.
From the very first couple of overs, it appeared that the duo wanted to perform well to end their side’s season, especially if they also wanted to see the required run rate creep down as the innings wore on.
Lanning shot a four through the gap between gully and point for the first boundary of the Stars innings, and continued that hard-hitting in the second over with another four and a six, off the bowling of Tahlia McGrath.
The next two overs of the innings saw the Strikers regain control with only a handful of singles being added to the total before Villani finally got into the game with consecutive fours to begin the fifth over – a lofted shot behind straight fine leg and a drive through cover.
That over went for 11 runs, as did the next – which also included a boundary to each batter – before 17 runs were conceded by Amanda-Jade Wellington in the over following the end of the powerplay. Villani again got the ball rolling through consecutive fours before Lanning lofted a six down towards long on.
Villani had found her groove and contributed a few more fours both to hers and the Stars total.
In between, the pair did well to rotate the strike, or find the capacity to run quickly between the wickets and add more than just singles onto the score.
Villani brought up her half century off 32 balls in the 11th over, cutting through point for four and one over later, the Melbourne Stars brought up their 100 runs with a four, Lanning sweeping a ball to rope at deep fine leg.
The partnership continued with the rotational strike that had been present in the innings so far already as Lanning brought up her half century with a single. However, the next ball she faced saw Megan Schutt break the deadlock when she forced Lanning to hole out to mid on where Wellington took the catch.
However, that would be the only wicket of Melbourne’s innings as first-drop Annabel Sutherland (27* off 13) held her nerve coming in late, blasting her way to a score that ensured the team would get over the line.
Following Lanning’s wicket, the scoring dried up ever-so-slightly and with four overs to go, the run rate was above 12 an over. Sutherland was up to the challenge, targeting McGrath with back-to-back fours to begin the 17th over before launching a six that just caught the rope straight down the ground.
Villani cashed in on the barrage of runs as the finish line was within sight, hitting Wellington for a four and a six within the 18th over as the Stars run rate was now above the required run rate, needing 17 runs off the final two overs.
Villani and Sutherland were scurrying towards the wickets towards the end, looking to punch the ball into the gaps and run two on multiple occasions throughout the penultimate over before a Villani straight drive for four made the equation more favoured in the Stars favour – needing five off the final over.
South African international Dane van Niekerk was tasked with the ball in hand, but a first-ball four from Villani through mid-wicket had the scores tied. A dot ball on the second ball of the over didn’t deter Villani from launching a six over deep cover to finish the game, and bring up her maiden WBBL century in the process.
Adding to the records, it was the Stars’ highest-ever run chase in their WBBL franchise history, as they broke a three-game losing streak to end the WBBL|07 season.
More Cricket News
The match didn’t just signal the end of the WBBL|07 regular season, nor the Melbourne Stars, but the career of Erin Osborne.
An 87-game WBBL veteran who’d also put on national colours, Obsorne has represented Australia in two Tests, 55 One Day Internationals and 61 T20 Internationals in a career that spanned 13 years.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum following today’s result, Osborne was reveling in the moment – both the win, and the display of hitting from Villani to end the season on a high.
“That was an unbelievable run chase… I reckon that’s probably our best,” Osborne said.
“Elyse Villani has been really good all season for us and she’s still a devastating batter and it’s great to see the rewards pay off today cause she’s extremely hard working and to chase down that and score 100, there’s no better.
“She’s a leader and she continues to do it, she’s been a leader of our team for a while now up the top of the order and hopefully higher honours come from it. I think she’s batted exceptionally well and has just shown her class again today.”
Osborne made sure to mention the opening partnership of Villani and Lanning and how that shaped the ensuing run chase, and set up the victory, but laid plenty of praise on Sutherland too to be come in and be there at the end, playing an important role.
“I think having that partnership up the top, Meg [Lanning] and Elyse [Villani] showed their class and I think the only thing that was really gonna knock us out early [in] the game was early wickets,” she said.
“I thought they handled that really well, the pressure of it, going out and needing nine an over from ball one, I thought they did really well to keep that in check for the whole way of the innings. Then Annabel [Sutherland], to come out and take the game on as well, that’s never easy and for her to go ball one, I thought she did a fantastic job.”
In reflecting upon her time at the Melbourne Stars, a team she’s called home in the WBBL for five years, Osborne said she’d never feel too far away from the club and the memories she’s made, noting that the squad that’s been assembled over the years, which has a mixture of talent, shows the team is capable of anything.
“It’s been a rollercoaster to be honest with you, I’ve been [here] five years with [the] Melbourne Stars and the first three years were really hard, we were sort of finding our identity and going through a bit of a change,” she remembered.
“We sort of lost Meg during that time and Kristen Beams came on and did a fantastic job as captain and set our values and the standards and really, we found our identity through that period.
“Last year was disappointing not to win the final and then this year, we just never got going unfortunately but that’s T20 cricket.
“It’s a game of momentum and we couldn’t hold onto it for long enough so credit to the top four teams, they’ve been consistent for the tournament and they thoroughly deserve their place in the finals.
“[This group has] a real mixture of some real babies in there and some oldies – I won’t name them – but it’s a great group and it’s probably one thing that I will miss, is the people that are involved with cricket.
“I’ll be a supporter for life for the Melbourne Stars and hopefully I won’t be too far away in the cricketing world.”
Subscribe to our newsletter!