21/04/2024

The Melbourne Stars will be looking to make the finals again after missing out entirely last season. (Photo: Stars BBL/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

WBBL|07 wasn’t the season the Melbourne Stars would have been hoping for after appearing in the Grand Final in the previous season, missing the finals entirely.

Despite impressive performances by Elyse Villani, captain Meg Lanning, Kim Garth, and Annabel Sutherland, the Stars finished two games out of a finals spot in fifth.

Melbourne will be looking to turn its fortunes around as it aims to win its first WBBL title.

Last season:

Coming off the back of making the Grand Final and finishing runners-up to the Sydney Thunder, the Melbourne Stars didn’t start their WBBL|07 campaign the way they would have hoped, losing their first two games.

Despite having a quality batting line-up containing Elyse Villani, Australian superstar Meg Lanning, up-and-coming youngster Annabel Sutherland, and England international Maia Boucher, the Stars struggled to consistently put up big scores.

Although the Stars struggled as a team with the bat, Villani finished the competition as the ninth-highest run-scorer, making 439 runs in 12 matches, and averaging 43.90 runs at a strike of 122.28.

Due to making low totals, Melbourne relied heavily on its bowlers to get the side over the line in several matches. Former Irish international Kim Garth and all-rounder Sutherland finished the season inside the top 15 wicket-takers.

Squad:

Alice Capsey (England), Annabel Sutherland, Hasrat Gill, Jemimah Rodrigues (India), Kim Garth, Lauren Winfield-Hill (England), Lucy Cripps, Maddy Darke, Meg Lanning (indefinite leave), Nicole Faltum (captain), Olivia Henry, Rhys McKenna, Sasha Moloney, Sophie Day, Sophie Reid, Tess Flintoff

Big inclusion:

After a fantastic WBBL|07 season, young Indian sensation Jemimah Rodrigues is swapping the red of the Renegades for the dark green of the Stars.

The young batter found herself opening the batting for the Renegades, but could find herself potentially batting at first drop for the Stars. Rodrigues could also bat in the middle order, having played there throughout her young career.

Last season, the 22-year-old scored the 15th most runs, making 333 runs, including two half-centuries, providing the Renegades with a foundation to launch, something the Stars hope she’ll continue to do this season. In 13 matches, Rodrigues averaged 27.75 runs, at a strike rate of 116.43.

The right-hand batter is coming off playing in The Hundred competition for the Northern Superchargers in England. Although she only played two games, Rodrigues made the most of her opportunities, scoring a best 51 runs off 32 balls.

Not only is Rodrigues a great batter, but she is also a gun in the field, and will help keep the pressure on opposing batters.

Who’s missing?

Elyse Villani was arguably the Stars’ best player for the tournament. While others around her struggled to score, the veteran was able to find runs with ease.

The 33-year-old was among the highest run-scorers, finishing fourth with 439 runs which included four half-centuries and a ton.

Unfortunately for the Stars, the right-handed batter won’t be returning to Melbourne in WBBL|08, signing with the Hobart Hurricanes in the off-season.

The fourth all-time WBBL leading run-scorer will be missed not only for her run-scoring ability but her leadership and experience will be hard to replace.

The Melbourne Stars will also be without long-time captain Meg Lanning, who will be unavailable for the entire tournament as she continues her indefinite break from the sport. The Stars’ bowling group will also look a little different this season, with Erin Osborne retiring.

Wildcard player:

Annabel Sutherland has shown signs of greatness in recent seasons, but WBBL|08 could be the season the 20-year-old explodes.

The youngster has started the 2022/23 WNCL season off with a bang, scoring two centuries in four innings. There is no reason why Sutherland can’t translate that form in the WBBL this season.

She will be critical to the Stars’ season if they want to reach the finals again. The all-rounder provides the full package; she can open the bowling and bat in the top order.

In WBBL|07, Sutherland didn’t have the best tournament with the bat, scoring 143 runs in 12 matches at an average of 13 runs per innings.

However, she had better fortunes with the ball in hand, finishing in the top 15 wicket-takers. In 13 matches, Sutherland took 14 wickets, at an average of 17.42 and an economy of 6.42.

Annabel Sutherland is set to have a breakout season in WBBL|08. (Image: Stars BBL/Twitter)

More WBBL Previews

WBBL|08 Season Preview: Hobart Hurricanes

WBBL|08 Season Preview: Sydney Thunder

WBBL|08 Season Preview: Sydney Sixers

Rookie to watch:

WBBL|08 will be English youngster Alice Capsey’s first time in the WBBL, but she has shown some serious talent at international level.

The 18-year-old made her ODI and T20I debut for England in the English summer, against India and South Africa respectively, and hasn’t looked back since. She also took part in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where she averaged over 33 with the bat at a strike rate of over 125.

The batting all-rounder is most recently coming off a campaign in The Hundred playing for the Oval Invincibles. In six matches, Capsey scored 118 runs, averaging 29.50 at a strike rate of 142.16.

She’ll add firepower to an already stacked Stars batting group.

Capsey’s ability to bowl right-arm off-break will provide Melbourne with some bowling depth, should it feel her services are required. In The Hundred, Capsey took nine wickets at an average of 12.37, and an economy of 6.25 runs per over.

Squad strengths:

Despite the departure of Villani and Lanning’s absence, the Stars will have a quality batting lineup as they were able to sign talented international batters in Jemimah Rodrigues, Lauren Winfield-Hill, and Alice Capsey.

Melbourne will be hoping the star international trio can help it overcome its lack of runs from last season and carry the team to massive totals.

The Stars’ bowling group gave the side every chance to win last season, as the team struggled with the bat. Look for Garth to once again lead the bowling group with help from Sutherland, Rhys McKenna, Tess Flintoff and Sophie Day, who will be in their fourth and third season of WBBL respectively.

Squad weaknesses:

With the departure of Villani, Osborne retiring, and the absence of Lanning, the Stars are a relatively young side.

Melbourne has five players under 21 years of age. 22-year-old Nicole Faltum has been named captain this season, but the wicketkeeper batter won’t be overawed by the role, having previously captained Victoria for much of the 2021/22 domestic one-day season when Lanning was touring with Australia.

The Stars will rely heavily on Sutherland, Garth, Sasha Moloney, Rodrigues, and Winfield-Hill to help guide the team’s youngsters in pressure situations.

Predicted XI:

  1. Lauren Winfield-Hill
  2. Annabel Sutherland
  3. Jemimah Rodrigues
  4. Alice Capsey
  5. Sasha Moloney
  6. Nicole Faltum
  7. Sophie Reid
  8. Kim Garth
  9. Tess Flintoff
  10. Rhys McKenna
  11. Sophie Day

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