Tess Flintoff produced a record-breaking innings against the Adelaide Strikers. (Photo: Stars BBL/Twitter)

As the battle for finals positions heats up, several teams are emerging as genuine contenders for WBBL|08 glory and are beginning to break away from the rest of the pack.

The Inner Sanctum recaps all the results and the biggest talking points of round four of WBBL|08.

Round 4 Results:

Melbourne Stars (5-186) defeated the Adelaide Strikers (8-164) by 22 runs

Stars: Tess Flintoff 51*, Alice Capsey 49, Sasha Moloney 4-24, Tess Flintoff 1-17

Strikers: Katie Mack 47, Bridget Patterson 41, Deandra Dottin 2-34, Jemma Barsby 1-23

Sydney Sixers (6-163) defeated the Sydney Thunder (7-148) by 15 runs

Sixers: Ashleigh Gardner 53, Maitlan Brown 29*, Lauren Cheatle 3-21, Ashleigh Gardner 3-22

Thunder: Rachael Haynes 37, Chloe Tryon 32, Lauren Smith 2-22, Sam Bates 2-27

Hobart Hurricanes (6-137) defeated the Melbourne Renegades (5-133) by four wickets

Hurricanes: Heather Graham 39*, Elyse Villani 29, Maisy Gibson 4-24, Nicola Carey 1-27

Renegades: Chamari Athapaththu 75*, Hayley Matthews 26, Sophie Molineux 2-31, Ella Hayward 1-14

Brisbane Heat (3-163) defeated the Sydney Thunder (9-149) by 14 runs

Heat: Grace Harris 74, Georgia Redmayne 64, Jess Jonassen 3-20, Courtney Sippel 3-27

Thunder: Sammy-Jo Johnson 41, Phoebe Litchfield 39, Belinda Vakarewa 3-21 

Adelaide Strikers (5-113) defeated the Melbourne Stars (8-112) by five wickets

Strikers: Madeline Penna 56*, Bridget Patterson 31, Amanda Jade-Wellington 3-20, Megan Schutt 2-23

Stars: Annabel Sutherland 47, Kim Garth 24, Annabel Sutherland 2-19, Sasha Moloney 1-13

Perth Scorchers (1-158) defeated the Sydney Sixers (5-155) by nine wickets

Scorchers: Beth Mooney 99*, Chloe Piparo 41*, Alana King 3-27, Lilly Mills 1-24

Sixers: Ellyse Perry 69*, Maitlan Brown 27, Ashleigh Gardner 1-19

Brisbane Heat (6-168) defeated the Hobart Hurricanes (7-164) by four wickets

Heat: Laura Harris 68*, Amelia Kerr 41, Nicola Hancock 4-32, Amelia Kerr 1-24

Hurricanes: Mignon du Preez 73*, Nicola Carey 30, Molly Strano 2-17, Maisy Gibson 2-21

Melbourne Renegades (5-122) defeated the Sydney Thunder (6-121) by five wickets

Renegades: Sophie Molineux 55*, Courtney Webb 29, Ella Hayward 2-14, Hayley Matthews 1-25

Thunder: Amy Jones 53, Sammy-Jo Johnson 19, Hannah Darlington 2-22, Belinda Vakarewa 1-19

Adelaide Strikers (3-120) defeated the Perth Scorchers (9-119) by seven wickets

Strikers: Deandra Dottin 68, Bridget Patterson 21*, Megan Schutt 4-20, Jemma Barsby 3-22

Scorchers: Sophie Devine 37, Maddy Green 36, Piepa Cleary 2-29, Sophie Devine 1-12

Hobart Hurricanes (2-82) defeated the Melbourne Renegades (80) by eight wickets

Hurricanes: Elyse Villani 41*, Heather Graham 23*, Molly Strano 4-16, Heather Graham 2-11

Renegades: Courtney Webb 30, Hayley Matthews 20, Sophie Molineux 2-20

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Five Talking Points:

1. Tight at the top

If the last week of WBBL|08 action is anything to go by, this season’s competition is certainly not a one-horse race. Only one point currently separates the top four teams on the table, being the Sydney Sixers, Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, and the Perth Scorchers.

The Sixers are sitting pretty in first position with a game in hand, yet only find themselves distanced from second and third by net run rate. A crushing nine-wicket defeat at the hands of the Scorchers offered somewhat of a reality check to the team in magenta, ending a three-match win streak in the process.

A reflection of the evenness of this WBBL campaign, the Scorchers succumbed to a heavy defeat against the Strikers, despite defeating the ladder-leading Sixers merely a day earlier. Notably, the Strikers have tasted success against all of their closest rivals on the table.

For the Heat, back-to-back wins over the Thunder and Hurricanes have helped solidify their position in the top four. However, Ashley Noffke’s troops are yet to beat any of the sides currently above them on the table. This means that more testing examinations loom on the horizon. 

Given this tense jostling for positions, the team that peaks at the right time leading into finals may just be the ones to claim silverware. 

The Adelaide Strikers are shaping to be a serious contender in WBBL|08. (Photo: Strikers BBL/Twitter)

2. Fastest 50s

Prior to this year’s edition of WBBL, the record for the fastest 50 in the history of the competition belonged to both Ashleigh Gardner and Lizelle Lee (22 balls). Incredibly, this record was superseded twice in the space of four days. 

At North Sydney Oval, promising teenage quick Tess Flintoff empathically showcased her talents with the bat. Flintoff blasted an unbeaten 51 runs off 16 deliveries for the Melbourne Stars, a knock which included six fours and three sixes. 

Not only does the 19-year-old now boast the fastest 50 in WBBL history, but her devastating innings now also ranks as the second quickest half-century in women’s T20 cricket. 

The hard-hitting Laura Harris almost bettered the feats of Flintoff days later. Arriving at the crease with the Heat precariously placed at 4-65, Harris launched an almighty assault on the Hurricanes bowling attack. 

The 32-year-old reached 50 off just 18 balls, ultimately hitting nine fours and three sixes on her way to a match-winning knock of 68 runs. 

3. The swings and roundabouts of cricket

The run-scoring machine that is Beth Mooney produced yet another masterclass on the weekend, guiding the Scorchers to a valuable win over the Sixers. 

Chasing 156 for victory, Mooney looked in complete control throughout the run-chase, combining with teammate Chloe Piparo for a mammoth 129-run partnership. However, Australia’s opening batter was clearly the star of the show, amassing an unbeaten 99 runs off 58 deliveries. 

This trademark innings included 14 boundaries and one six, with Mooney ultimately deserving of a hundred despite falling agonisingly short. 

Yet in a brutal reminder of the unpredictability of cricket, Mooney only lasted one delivery the following day, having been dismissed by Strikers spinner Jemma Barsby for a golden duck.

Regardless, the Australian cricket public has come to expect that Mooney will fire more often than not. 

4. The return of Hannah Darlington

Following a long lay-off due to injury, Hannah Darlington finally made her return to the cricket field at the elite level.

The Sydney Thunder all-rounder quickly found her feet in the Sydney Smash, claiming the key wicket of Alyssa Healy for 22 before going on to compile a quickfire knock of 21 runs off 9 balls with the bat.

Remarkably, Darlington’s innings saw her hit only the second and third sixes of her WBBL career thus far. 

Meanwhile, against the Renegades, the 20-year-old was once again amongst the wickets. Darlington collected figures of 2-22 of three overs, including the prized scalp of West Indian Hayley Matthews. 

Australian cricket fans will undoubtedly be hoping that Darlington enjoys an injury-free run throughout the rest of the summer. In the interim, the Sydney Thunder will be desperate for their star all-rounder to help them build upon just a single win so far in WBBL|08.

5. Milestone moments

Round 4 of WBBL|08 action saw numerous players reach significant milestones.

The experienced trio of Sarah Coyte, Laura Harris and Sophie Devine all made their 100th WBBL appearances. 

It was a tough night for Coyte in her milestone game, with the Renegades capitulating to a crushing eight wicket loss at the hands of the Hurricanes.

Nevertheless, the 31-year-old did reel in a stunning one-handed catch in the outfield, offering a glimmer of joy in what has largely been a dismal campaign for the Renegades.

Coyte has also represented the Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Sixers on her way to 100 WBBL matches. 

Former Strikers teammate Megan Schutt also accomplished a major milestone, becoming just the seventh player to have picked up 100 WBBL wickets. Schutt achieved the feat against the Scorchers, collecting an impressive 4-20 off her four overs. 

From a batting perspective, the in-form pair of Georgia Redmayne and Ashleigh Gardner passed 2000 WBBL runs on the weekend. In light of Redmayne’s dominant performances in WBBL|08, the duo may soon link up as teammates at the national level. 

The next round of WBBL|08 matches is set to commence on Wednesday afternoon, with the Perth Scorchers hosting the Brisbane Heat at Lilac Hill.

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