The Sydney Thunder enter the WBBL|07 season looking to go back to back and add a record-setting third title to their collection.
The defending champions will be forced to play without their home fans this season as the WBBL|07 season moves around the country.
The Thunder convincingly defeated the Melbourne Stars in last year’s grand final by seven wickets to claim their second WBBL title.
Thunder coach Trevor Griffin has had a busy off-season, adding some international depth to his side. However, in a late blow, captain Rachael Haynes will miss the upcoming WBBL season due to family and quarantine reasons.
The Thunder managed to take out third-place in a massively competitive WBBL|06, finishing with 7 wins and 5 losses.
They left their best form to the latter stages of the season, putting the competition on notice with their impressive bowling displays.
Heading into the finals the Thunder were on the heels of a three-game winning streak and took their red-hot form into the finals series.
They knocked out the second-placed Brisbane Heat in the semi before rolling over the Stars in a dominant display in the Final to be crowned champions.
Sammy-Jo Johnson led the competition with 22 wickets taken, whilst teammate Hannah Darlington finished with 19 wickets, tied for 2nd in the WBBL|06 season.
Rachael Haynes (C), Samantha Bates, Hannah Darlington, Corinne Hall, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Smriti Mandhana (India), Kate Peterson, Olivia Porter, Deepti Sharma (India), Lauren Smith, Tahlia Wilson, Issy Wong (England), Jess Davidson
The biggest inclusion is split between the three international signings the Thunder have announced thus far.
Issy Wong is one-to-watch this season as the 19-year-old has her hands full with the task of replacing key fast bowler Shabnim Ismail – who will miss the season after suffering a knee injury.
Wong, who is recognised for her elite bowling game, has also shown flashes of a respectable batting game when given the chance.
The 19-year-old could be a huge X-Factor for the Thunder and could become a force to reckon with for many WBBL seasons to come.
Joining Wong at the Thunder this season is the Indian duo of Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma, the pair recently finished touring with the Indian squad and will remain in Australia along with several of their countrywoman for the upcoming WBBL season.
Both women have been impressive during the tour, notably Mandhana who hit an impressive 86 off 94 balls with 11 boundaries in the 2nd ODI game and her stylish century (127) in the Test match.
Sharma displayed her all-round game with a batting average of 21, whilst picking up two wickets in limited-overs throughout the series.
All three are set to add some much needed depth to the Thunder squad as they begin to round out their squads for 2021.
The key missing piece for the Thunder is South African quick Shabnim Ismail will not feature in the Thunder’s WBBL campaign after being ruled out with a knee injury.
Ismail has earned the reputation as one the best fast bowlers in the world and was instrumental for the Thunder last season, winning player of the match in last year’s grand final taking 2-12, dismissing Meg Lanning on the way to winning the title.
The 32-year-old’s injury was confirmed late last month, occurring during South Africa’s tour of the West Indies.
The fast bowler will undoubtedly be the biggest loss for the Thunder and will force her teammates and importantly new recruits to pick up where she left off from in 2020.
Another key story to watch will be if captain Rachael Haynes will suit up for the Thunder this season, Haynes’ partner recently gave birth and the Thunder captain made herself unavailable for the first couple of rounds of the season due to maternity leave
Although she was listed as available for the upcoming season, she has since come out and made herself unavailable for the whole WBBL|07 campaign.
“However, the fact it means Sydney Thunder will be on the road for the entire duration of the WBBL – along with the mandatory 14 days in quarantine – left me with no alternative but to make myself unavailable,” Haynes said in a statement
“However, as I told the squad, I will be back if there’s changes to the current border restrictions of the tournament structure.”
Thunder junior Jess Davidson has signed on for the upcoming season and has had plenty of praise thrown her way by coach Trevor Griffin. After joining the Thunder pathways as a 14-year-old, the Thunder staff kept a close eye on her and knew it was her time to show the WBBL what she is capable of.
“I’m excited to welcome her to Thunder Nation, and I look forward to spending time with her and seeing how her career progresses with Thunder,” Griffin said. “I have no doubt she’ll be challenging to get the new ball at some point.”
Davidson could be a huge ‘X-Factor’ for the Thunder’s bowling lineup for many years to come if she impresses in her debut season.
Rookie to Watch
Issy Wong is the one to watch. Wong is yet to make her senior debut for the England national team and will look to use these years’ WBBL to build on her experiences in The Hundred to enhance her reputation and get picked in the England team with the Ashes around the corner.
The 19-year-old has bowled at paces in excess of 110km/h and has been selected to fill the void left by Ismail, a daunting task for any fast bowler. Wong’s batting has been the biggest growth to her game thus far and could prove to be a huge asset when given the opportunity this season.
The main strength of the squad falls towards the bowling department. Since losing Ismail, the Thunder made it their mission to recruit more bowers in order to fill in for the notable absence of Ismail. With Wong, Sharma, and Jess Davidson joining the Thunder, they now boast an abundance of fast bowling and will stake their claim as one of the best bowling attacks in the WBBL.
The main weakness for the Thunder comes from the loss of Haynes and Heather Knight, the Thunder captain boasts a strike rate of 109.42 for her WBBL career and was instrumental for the Thunder last year. Knight finished in the top 10 for both runs scored (446) and strike rate (124.93). This leaves new recruit Mandhana with a huge load to carry into the upcoming season. Mandhanna has proven her skills for the Indian side, however, can she consistently be the batter the Thunder need to win matches? This remains the biggest question and could be the Thunder’s undoing in 2021.
Tahlia Wilson (wk)
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