International batting prodigy Shafali Verma showed just what she can do for the Sixers with her competition maiden half-century.
Chasing a fairly minimal 125 total from the Hobart Hurricanes, the Sixers looked set to go slow and steady. Take the singles safely, and head for the boundary when possible. It was a strategy that worked soundly for the Melbourne Renegades on Saturday, and looked to go similarly today.
When Alyssa Healy was dismissed after facing just six balls however, the plan began to change pretty quick. The same happened to Ash Gardner, leaving Verma alongside Ellyse Perry.
Verma took advantage of the partnership, hitting six fours on her way to 57 (50) to lead the Sixers to victory in what was otherwise a difficult day for batters.
The teenager made it through with a bit of luck, breaking through slip towards the boundary with just a touch of misplacement from the Hurricanes fielders.
Teammate Nicole Bolton recognised the huge achievement from the youngster in her second WBBL game. A little bit of a superstition seemed to help, just quietly.
“[Shafali] rocked up to the game with a fresh lid, so I think the new haircut was a bit of an omen for her,” she joked to media post-game.
“We all know what she’s capable of, and I think today she batted really smart. She hit some really good areas, and I think she took a little bit of control when we lost a couple of wickets there.
“Hopefully that sets her up for a big Big Bash.”
Stepping up after Healy’s exit and owning the top of the order, Bolton has seen her improve rapidly in both confidence and skills in a short time.
She believes that the two will make for one of the most dangerous opening pairs in this year’s tournament.
“I think with our line up – having Heals and Shafali up the top – if they both come off it’s going to be an outstanding thing to watch from the sidelines,” Bolton said.
“Shafali took a little bit of that heat out, and was able to consolidate us a lot. Having that one big over, it was great to see that she backs herself against Tay [Tayla Vlaeminck]. I think she’ll happy to have put that performance on.
“She’s only 17, but she’s quite confident in her ability and she already knows her game. I think [we told] her just to keep it really simple.
“She loves to be able to hit the ball, so [we] just keep encouraging her to play to her strengths. When I went out there batting with her, she was really sure of herself and took ownership of that partnership.
“That’s years beyond. Hopefully now she’s got a bit of confidence that she’s stepped up and won that game off her own bat.”
Verma has already made the highlights reel with her fielding, so it was only a matter of time before her batting took centre stage too.
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While Bolton speaks highly of her teammate, her own game both bowling and in the field was similarly a marvel to watch.
Though she went at an economy of 7.25, she took the wickets of both Nicola Carey and Tayla Vlaeminck, while also making a clinical catch off Radha Yadav’s bowling to dismiss Sasha Moloney.
Bolton was even robbed of a stumping by milliseconds with a pinpoint throw from distance.
“I didn’t really know I had it in me,” Bolton laughed.
“I thought it was the short boundary, so I might get it somewhere around ‘Midge’ [Alyssa Healy] and it hit the stumps. It was more to get it in her general sort of area than clean up!”
Other highlights for the Sixers included an incredible 17th over from Yadav, who cleaned up both Moloney and Richa Ghosh to finish 2/31 from her four bowling overs.
Maitlan Brown enjoyed a strong presence on the field as well, also taking two wickets when she was on bowl at a 5.75 economy.
The Sixers are sitting pretty after going two wins from two, and watching crosstown rivals the Sydney Thunder collapse early in their batting innings against the Adelaide Strikers last night.
They’ll head back into a brief lockdown before taking on the Melbourne Stars on Wednesday evening.
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