21/02/2024

Can the Hobart Hurricanes improve on an up and down WBBL|08? (Photo: cricket.com.au)

WBBL|07 was an inconsistent outing for the Hobart Hurricanes, but saw notable improvement after Tasmania’s team struggled to impact the competition in recent years.

Big name recruits, both local and international, would bring excitement and promise that was ultimately never met, as they finished sixth.

However, a solid ending to their campaign which included three wins in five games gives the Hurricanes plenty to build off in WBBL|08, with a yet again improved squad.

Last season: 

There was plenty of buzz around the Hurricanes camp as the big name signings didn’t seem to end: Rachel Priest, Mignon du Preez, Molly Strano and the return of national fast-bowler Tayla Vlaeminck from injury had the state believing again.

But those hopes were quickly dashed as the Hurricanes lost three of their first five matches, going on to slump to a three-game losing streak mid-season.

They often found themselves unable to put up winning totals to either defend or chase down their opposition. Losing run tallies of 121, 125, 109, 110 and 96 across this period tell the story.

Too often they would rely on du Preez or Priest to have a big game, and when they fell early, the middle order just couldn’t steady the ship.

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The strong bowling line-up got them out of jail more than once, with Strano, Vlaeminck, Nicola Carey, and young all-rounder Ruth Johnston putting up strong figures often.

A run of five losses in six games across the middle to end of the season all but sealed any chances the Hurricanes had of pushing up to finals.

Wins against the Scorchers and Renegades showed promise, but it wasn’t enough to live up to the expectations of what the group was capable of.

Vlaeminck was named in the team of the tournament, taking 13 wickets at an economy of 6.06. Du Preez finished seventh in the Golden Bat, hitting 414 runs from her 14 games, including a best knock of 87*.

Squad:

Nicola Carey, Mignon du Preez (RSA), Maisy Gibson, Heather Graham, Ruth Johnston, Lizelle Lee (RSA), Emma Manix-Geeves, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Amy Smith, Naomi Stalenberg, Molly Strano, Rachel Trenaman, Elyse Villani, Hayley Jensen (NZ)

Big inclusion:

Fourth in the WBBL all-time leading run scorers, Elyse Villani is a huge addition to a batting group that’s desperately looking for some extra firepower.

Scoring 439 runs in WBBL|07, including a ton and four half-centuries, she’ll shore up either the top or middle order.

For the first time in a long time, the Hurricanes will feel comfortable going out to the crease at the start of their innings. Expect Villani and du Preez to form formidable partnerships throughout the tournament.

In the Australian domestic off-season, she spent The Hundred in England with the Trent Rockets. She put up a best knock of 55* off 40 balls, playing alongside soon to be Canes teammate Nicola Carey.

Who’s missing:

Tayla Vlaeminck was the only Hurricane to be named in the WBBL|07 Team of the Tournament, and got her side out of hot water more than once across their campaign.

It was announced in June that the fast bowler would be returning to the Melbourne Renegades, where she signed a two year deal.

Vlaeminck will miss the upcoming tournament with a foot injury, in another unfortunate set-back for the young prodigy.

At her best, she’s firing absolute rockets down the wicket, making even the most experienced batters nervous to take on a single delivery.

The Hurricanes bowling line-up will look relatively different this time around, with Belinda Vakarewa not currently signed to any team.

They did retain Molly Strano, while Issy Wong will miss the whole tournament due to injury.

Wildcard player:

Signing for her first WBBL season, young Tasmanian wicket-keeper Emma Manix-Geeves will be the first choice behind the stumps, with the departures of Priest and Richa Ghosh.

But it’s her batting form that’s caught the eyes of many. Mannix-Geeves hit a knock of 104* off 133 balls against South Australia in the WNCL final, forming a dangerous partnership with Villani to bring home the title.

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Since making the move down the order this season, she hasn’t been given much of a chance to perform with the bat yet.

Manix-Geeves still managed to hit 31 off 41 balls in the recent loss to Victoria, coming into the crease seventh in the order.

With a strong batting line-up through both top and middle orders, she may be one to watch when it comes to forming dangerous partnerships with experienced international batters opposite her.

More WBBL Previews

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Rookie to watch:

17-year-old Amy Smith still hasn’t played much high level senior cricket, but built serious bowling form playing for Tasmania in last season’s WNCL.

The young leg-spinner has three three-wicket hauls to her name in the past seven months, including a best figure of 3/32 against New South Wales.

In that game, she tore through the middle order, claiming the wickets of Sammy-Jo Johnson, Maitlan Brown and Lauren Smith.

Now entering her third WBBL season, the talented prodigy is every chance to rise to the next level and match it with the best bowlers of the competition.

She first debuted for the Tasmanian Tigers at just 14, so it’s clear there’s plenty of belief in the state pathway about what Smith can become.

Squad strengths:

For the first time in a number of seasons, the Hurricanes have a batting line-up that can match it with some of the top teams in the competition. Du Preez and Rachel Priest was a good start last season, but they’ve only built on it this season.

The addition of Villani speaks for itself. A genuine striking force who’s played both top and middle order at international level will change the way they enter batting innings entirely.

In the past, the Hurricanes have relied perhaps too strongly on all-rounders through the middle order to get the job done.

With the combination of du Preez, Villani, and new addition in South African international Lizelle Lee, the firepower is there out of the gates.

Lee is a serious big hitter, and just like Villani, has the runs on the board at international level.

In T20Is, she averages an 110.61 strike rate, with 13 half-centuries to her name. In her 51 WBBL matches previously with the Melbourne Stars and Renegades, she’s scored 1361 runs, hit 63 sixes, two centuries, and has a best knock of 103*.

With all-rounders Carey, Heather Graham and Ruth Johnston all strong at the crease in their own right, and Strano no sitting duck with the bat, the Canes should be able to put up higher totals this campaign.

Squad weaknesses:

There are less glaring weakness in the Hurricanes squad this time around in comparison to campaigns past. But as mentioned previously, the bowling depth has taken a hit.

With no Vlaeminck or Vakarewa, and Wong now set to miss the whole tournament due to injury, the fast-bowling stocks are desperately low.

Against sides with a confident bowling line-up that may be happy to play the singles in their batting innings and hold down a lower total, the Hurricanes may struggle to take wickets with a more predictable spin attack.

There will be plenty of pressure on Strano’s shoulders to carry the attack along in big games, and take wickets late in innings.

Predicted XI:

  1. Mignon du Preez
  2. Elyse Villani
  3. Lizelle Lee
  4. Ruth Johnston
  5. Emma Manix-Geeves
  6. Nicola Carey
  7. Heather Graham
  8. Hayley Jensen
  9. Hayley Silver-Holmes
  10. Molly Strano
  11. Amy Smith

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