It was a disappointing finish for Sydney Thunder in their WBBL|07 opener, losing six wickets for 17 runs on their way to a 30 run loss to the Adelaide Strikers.
In the absence of Rachael Haynes this season, Hannah Darlington has been named skipper of the Thunder – the youngest WBBL captain by four years – and she led her team out onto the field for the first time this evening, as they got their title defence underway.
Immediately, the 19-year-old was in the thick of the action.
Sam Bates struck first with the ball and then it was Sammy-Jo Johnson’s turn, taking the wicket of Dané van Nierkerk. Johnson also took a brilliant low catch to remove South African Laura Wolvaardt for a golden duck.
With the Strikers 3/26, the Thunder were in a strong position and even more so when Bridget Patterson was bowled by Darlington for 11 runs.
Just as Adelaide started to threaten, putting together a 69 run partnership, Lauren Smith continued with the ball in hand and broke through.
In her second over, Smith first took the wicket of the in-form and newly minted Strikers captain Tahlia McGrath (42 from 34), who was caught in the outfield by Phoebe Litchfield and then followed up with the wicket of Madeline Penna (35 from 37).
The Thunder restricted the Strikers to 140, an achievable total if they started well with the bat.
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Sydney’s Powerplay was much like Adelaide’s in that there were early wickets, which put pressure on the middle order. Johnson fell for four runs, as did new addition, Indian batter Smriti Mandhana.
After starring on the microphone and contributing in the field with her first-ever WBBL catch, Litchfield was timing her shots beautifully when she came to the crease at first drop.
Her move up the order was a step she was keen to make with more spots available this season.
“I sort of, you know, wanted to come up the order, as every batter does,” Litchfield discussed with the commentary on the Channel 7 broadcast.
“But I haven’t worried too much of where I’ve been put in the order because we’ve had such a strong order.
“With our top four being totally new this year, there are spaces, and I put my hand up for that. I’m excited.”
The powerful young batter certainly looked comfortable in her new position, timing the ball nicely and finding the rope three times throughout her innings.
“She’s still only 18, and still learning her game… From our perspective, it’s just encouraging her to play her game and have that belief and back herself,” Thunder head coach Trevor Griffin also commented during the broadcast.
Litchfield’s innings came to a frustrating end when she edged the ball through to the keeper and had to depart after a positive start (16 from 16).
Like the Strikers, the Thunder lost three wickets in the Powerplay before the pairing of Corinne Hall and Anika Learoyd steadied the chase. After a partnership last 59 runs, Hall fell (38 from 35), and then the very next ball, Learoyd (23 from 31) attempted to slog it through the on-side and was also caught, like Hall, at midwicket by Bridget Patterson.
After her strong start as captain in the field, Darlington got a bit excited in the moment and continued the collapse for her team. She was caught coming down the wicket to attack the spin of Amanda-Jade Wellington and missed the ball, stumped by Tegan McPharlin.
With the run rate increasing, Deepti Sharma was forced to go after the ball and ended up caught by McGrath off the bowling of Sarah Coyte. Things only got worse with no communication between Issy Wong and Lauren Smith resulting in a run-out.
The final six wickets for the Thunder fell for just 17 runs, as the defending champions were bowled out for 110.
The new-look side will have a bit to work on before they are next in action on October 23, in the Sydney Smash with the Sydney Sixers at 3:40 pm AEDT.
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