After its best tournament to date last spring, the Melbourne Stars will be looking to go one better in WBBL|07 and capture a maiden title.
Captain Meg Lanning returns to go one better this year, but five key members of last year’s campaign, alongside coach Trent Woodhill, have not returned to Team Green this season.
Woodhill has been replaced after one season by Jarrad Loughman, coach of the Victorian women’s side.
With such a large turnover from WBBL|06, will they be able to keep the fire in the belly?
First (eight wins, three losses, net run rate 0.965)
Not only was WBBL|06 the Stars’ first minor premiership, but it was also their first time in the finals in WBBL history.
With Australian captain Meg Lanning back in the fold after three seasons at the Perth Scorchers, alongside Natalie Sciver’s return, and Mignon Du Preez’s best season to date, the Stars rose rapidly to top the table after finishing last in WBBL|05.
After three no results in succession to start the year, the Stars won six matches in succession, and eight of their first nine before dropping their final two games.
Lanning and Sciver were named women of the match three times each and were second for runs and equal second for wickets respectively across the tournament. Both made the team of the tournament, alongside Alana King.
Meg Lanning (c), Annabel Sutherland, Maia Bouchier (England), Kim Garth (Ireland), Linsey Smith (England), Lucy Cripps, Maddy Darke, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Georgia Gall, Anna Lanning, Rhys McKenna, Erin Osborne, Elyse Villani
With Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt not returning this season, the Stars have moved to fill their bowling stocks by signing Irish all-rounder Kim Garth.
Garth is based in Australia and plays for Victoria in the WNCL but due to visa and residency requirements is listed as an international player again for this edition of the WBBL.
At the time of her international debut in 2010, Garth was the youngest Irishwoman to play her first ODI and T20 match at just 14 years of age. Garth has since played 34 ODIs and 51 T20s for Ireland and was named Ireland’s women’s cricketer of the decade last year.
Having previously played for the Sixers and Scorchers in WBBL, Garth has since become Melbourne based, and with 125 Twenty20 games, 116 wickets (bowling average 17.70), and 1,437 runs (batting average 26.12) under her belt, she will bring a wealth of experience to the Stars bowling and batting line-ups.
The Stars push to build on their best season yet has plenty of roadblocks with English overseas marquees Sciver and Brunt both not returning this season, while South African Mignon Du Preez has moved to the Hurricanes.
Of the local girls, Alana King (WBBL|06 team of the tournament leg-spinner) and Holly Ferling have joined the Scorchers and Renegades respectively, leaving the Stars without five key members of last year’s campaign.
A big move for the Stars ahead of the upcoming season was the signing of the overseas marquee, English spin bowler Linsey Smith.
Smith has had a 10-year career in cricket, that has included nine matches at international level after her debut for England in 2018. She has also played 111 T20 games and taken 106 wickets with a bowling average of 18.43.
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More recently, in 2021, Smith took 12 wickets playing for the Northern Diamonds in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, then followed it up with 10 more in the Charlotte Edwards Cup, and then nine wickets in The Hundred for the Northern Superchargers.
Smith arrives at the Stars of the back of strong bowling form in three tournaments and has all the potential to make it a fourth in WBBL|07.
Rookie to Watch:
Coming from rival WBBL club the Sixers, wicketkeeper-batter Maddy Darke will be one to watch this tournament.
After a strong first showing in WBBL|05 for the Sixers, limited opportunities were forthcoming for Darke at the Sixers last season, with just the two games during WBBL|06, one of which came as concussion substitute for Ashleigh Gardner.
With the Stars batting stocks taking a hit with the loss of Du Preez, Darke has an opportunity to showcase her skills with the bat, as well as potential opportunities behind the stumps, having been stuck behind Alyssa Healy at the Sixers.
Darke has previously been selected as a member of the Australia A tour of England in 2019 and hit 596 first grade runs in 2018-19 for her local club.
Having shown plenty of promise already, and with a spot potentially up for grabs in the Stars batting line-up, Darke has an opportunity to cement herself in the Stars Best XI this tournament.
Squad Strengths: Plenty of pace
The signing of Kim Garth will be crucial to an attack full of pace, but still relatively young.
Thankfully for squad cohesion, Garth will be partnering up with Annabel Sutherland and Tess Flintoff, her teammates in the Victorian women’s cricket team.
Sutherland has not only become a key member of the Stars bowling line-up since joining the Stars from the Renegades in WBBL|03 but has also become a key member at international level, taking part in the Women’s T20 World Cup victory in 2020, and debuting in the baggy green this past month in the recent Multi-Format series against India.
Flintoff meanwhile continues to grow in leaps and bounds as a bowler, taking 11 wickets in her second tournament in green, equal third in WBBL|06 for the Stars with Sophie Day.
With another Victorian teammate in the fold, one as experienced as Garth, the young pace attack for the Stars can continue to grow this tournament.
Squad Weaknesses: Loss of firepower
The Stars were dealt a triple blow early when all three of Du Preez, Sciver, and Brunt left the team, as they were among the Stars highest run-scorers for their positions.
Du Preez’s 380 runs for WBBL|06 saw her second behind only Lanning in the Stars batting line-up and her strike-rate of 122.58 was again second to Lanning.
Brunt, although mainly in the side for her bowling, was a handy batter when called upon, scoring 49 runs across the tournament, (including top-scoring in the loss to the Thunder in the final) second for the Stars bowlers in WBBL|06.
But the biggest loss of firepower comes from Nat Sciver, arguably the best female all-rounder in the world at the moment.
With 19 wickets, Sciver was the highest wicket-taker for the Stars, (and equal second for the comp) and 252 runs on top of that put her fourth for runs scored for the Stars.
All three losses leave the Stars with big holes and even bigger shoes to fill going into WBBL|07.
1. Elyse Villani
2. Meg Lanning (c)
3. Maia Bouchier
4. Maddy Darke
5. Anna Lanning
6. Kim Garth
7. Nicole Faltum (wk)
8. Annabel Sutherland
9. Erin Osborne
10. Linsey Smith
11. Tess Flintoff
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