Strikers selection squeeze ‘a good problem to have’ ahead of WBBL Final

Tahlia McGrath bowling
Strikers' captain and all-rounder Tahlia McGrath will be part of the bowling unit looking to take down the Heat in the WBBL Final. (Image: Dani Brown)

There is a selection squeeze for the Strikers’ starting XI ahead of tonight’s Eliminator against the Brisbane Heat to kick off WBBL|07 finals.

The two sides have split the regular season points this tournament, with the Heat winning a weather-effected clash in Tasmania and the Strikers dominating in Mackay, and will now meet one more time in a must-win finals contest. 

Speaking to media on Monday, Strikers skipper Tahlia McGrath says while it was a strong win by the team at Great Barrier Reef Arena, the squad is wary of the Heat’s quality line up. 

“Last time we played Brisbane it was a really good team performance and quite a convincing win, but they’re a quality side,” she said.

“We’ve had some good battles over the years so we know it’s going to be a serious contest and hopefully we get over the line.”

Tahlia McGrath and Katie Mack meet in the middle of Karen Rolton Oval in the Strikers win over the Sixers earlier this month. (Image: Dani Brown)

Finding the winning combination is going to be crucial to winning tonight’s final, with both sides set to assess each other’s likely XI, the pitch, and the potential for a rain-effected match. 

The Strikers have experimented with some different combinations throughout WBBL|07 and will need to settle on how they balance the squad for the contest.   

“It’s a good problem to have, when you’ve got selection issues and that’s what you want in good teams,” McGrath said ahead of the clash. 

“That’s something we’ll look at… look at our opposition and look at what worked best for us, and come up with that winning combination. 

“That is going to be a tough one, but like I said, a good problem to have.”

During the Hobart hub portion of the tournament, Adelaide was without pace bowler Megan Schutt. Since her return, the likes of Madeline Penna and Jemma Barsby have been rotated into the side, along with young quick Darcie Brown, who has been rested on occasion. 

As recently as last weekend at Adelaide Oval, the Strikers played two different line ups for their back-to-back matches. 

On Saturday they played Brown against the Sixers, in a game where the bowling unit dominated to bowl the Sixers out for 82.

Then on Sunday they rested her against the Stars, adding extra batting firepower in Penna.

Penna went on to score 56* alongside Katie Mack (89*), as the Strikers put an impressive 175 run total on the board. 

In the Strikers side to start the tournament, Penna was struggling for runs, managing a shoulder niggle and playing in a team that was trying to find balance in its XI. 

The young batter spent time on the sidelines, not batting against the Sydney Sixers or Hobart Hurricanes, and not included in the squad for the following three matches. 

However, her return match at Adelaide Oval certainly justified her selection, making it incredibly difficult to drop her now. The only thing that could interfere is that pesky shoulder niggle. 

McGrath said she pulled up alright and anticipated Penna would be right to play in The Eliminator. 

“[She’s] had a bit of a niggle all tournament, so we’ve been managing her, but the way she batted the other day was phenomenal,” she said. 

“I’m sure she’ll be right to go and play an important role for us.”

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Megan Schutt and Amanda-Jade Wellington celebrate a wicket. (Image: Dani Brown)

Another player who will be right to go is pace bowler Brown – recently named in the WBBL|07 Team of the Season – who is an integral to the balance of the Strikers’ attack.

That is the “best thing” about the Adelaide bowling contingent, McGrath said on Monday – the bowlers each play a role and work for each other. 

“We’ve got Darcie (Brown) with express pace, Shooter (Megan Schutt) swinging the ball and Wello (Amanda-Jade Wellington) spinning the ball.

“So, someone different stands up every time and everyone does their role, so it doesn’t fall on one player, we’ll all play our role and hopefully contain their big hitters.”

Brown is all but certain to return to the squad to face Brisbane Heat tonight and then the question becomes: who misses out?

We will have to wait until the bat flip to find out. 

The Adelaide Strikers will play the Brisbane Heat on Wednesday night at 7:10pm AEDT in The Eliminator, with the winner to progress to The Challenger and face the Melbourne Renegades.

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