Final race hots up in WBBL
THE WBBL competition has reached the mid-point and all eight franchises are on the home stretch with a handful of games left per team in the competition.
This season's WBBL has been all about the batters with some huge scores posted, including a record number of individual hundreds scored.
There's been super overs, record hundreds and big individual performances across the competition, but the Sydney Sixers remain the team to beat, as predicted by the captains in the lead up to the competition.
Here's where the competition is placed heading into 2019.
7th, five points (five games to play)
v Heat at Harrup Park, Saturday January 5, 6:15pm
v Hurricanes at Karen Rolton Oval, Tuesday January 8, 1:40pm
v Hurricanes at Karen Rolton Oval, Wednesday January 9, 1:40pm
v Scorchers at Traeger Park, Saturday January 12, 10:50am
v Scorchers at Traeger Park, Sunday January 13, 10:50am
The Strikers have been one of the more disappointing teams in the WBBL|04, unable to string along consistent performances and have won just two games this season. They've struggled to take wickets this season, unable to bowl a team out this summer and have felt the pinch without Suzie Bates rolling her arm over.
New Zealand internationals Bates (287 runs) and Sophie Devine (311 runs) have been the mainstays at the top of the order, but the pair have struggled for support from their other batters. Bridget Patterson (145 runs) made her first WBBL half-century against Melbourne Stars, but they have been unable to get consistent runs from their middle to lower order.
Devine is also the Strikers' leading wicket taker, with 10 wickets at an impressive strike rate of 14.6. But the Strikers' next highest wicket taker is Amanda-Jade Wellington who has six wickets at an average of 33.83. The Strikers will likely need to win every game from here on in to find a spot in the top four.
2nd, 12 points (four games to play)
v Strikers at Harrup Park, Saturday January 5, 6:15pm
v Renegades at Harrup Park, Sunday January 6, 3pm
v Stars at the Gabba, Thursday January 10, 12:50pm
v Thunder at Cairns, Saturday January 12, 6:15pm
The Heat have been a consistent side throughout the tournament and with some relatively easy games on paper, they should win enough games to qualify for the top four. A full season out of hard-hitting batter Grace Harris has helped, with the opener having missed most of WBBL|03 through injury. Harris scored the competition's fastest hundred against the Melbourne Stars at the Gabba and has scored 288 runs this season, blasting 37 fours and 13 sixes. Australian opener Beth Mooney has scored 241 runs, while Jess Jonassen (178 runs), Kirby Short (170) and Sammy-Jo Johnson (168 runs) have all contributed when required.
With the ball, spinners Jonassen (11 wickets) and Jemma Barsby (11 wickets) have weaved a web in the middle overs, while Johnson (13 wickets) has been one of the competitions big improvers, containing teams with her tight economy and swinging the new ball.
8th, four points (four games to play)
v Renegades at GMHBA Stadium, Thursday January 3, 2:50pm
v Strikers at Karen Rolton Oval, Tuesday January 8, 1:40pm
v Strikers at Karen Rolton Oval, Wednesday January 9, 1:40pm
v Renegades at Junction Oval, Saturday January 12, 1pm
With just four games remaining the Hurricanes are out of the running for finals. Tasmania's team have won just two games this season, and lost in a super over against the Perth Scorchers - a match they should've won.
They've been hindered by the injury to West Indian all-rounder Hayley Matthews who has been sidelined with a nasty knee injury suffered against the Melbourne Stars, while their bowlers continue to leak runs.
International pair Heather Knight (263 runs) and Smriti Mandhana (217 runs) have been their best performers, while young gun Erin Fazackerley has provided a few cameos at the top of the innings, including 38 in the opening game against the Scorchers.
Knight has also been strong with the ball, with her off-spinners seeing her claim 11 wickets for the tournament, while pace bowlers Brooke Hepburn (10 wickets) and Meg Phillips (12 wickets) have both shown huge improvement as the season has gone on.
5th, nine points (five games to play)
v Hurricanes at GMHBA Stadium, Thursday January 3, 2:50pm
v Heat at Harrup Park, Sunday January 6, 3pm
v Thunder at Sydney Showground Stadium, Tuesday January 8, 1:50pm
v Hurricanes at Junction Oval, Saturday January 12, 1pm
v Sixers at GMHBA Stadium, Sunday January 13, 2:50pm
No Melbourne WBBL team has ever made the finals and while the Renegades are outside the top four, they are the best placed with five matches remaining. Danni Wyatt has been the hero at the top of the order with 229 runs at an average of 28.6, while Sophie Molineux starred in the derby against the Stars with an outstanding knock of 78 not out opening the batting. Captain Amy Sattherwaite has scored 181 runs, but the 'Gades batting has struggled at times this season with a lack of big partnerships noticeable.
Off-spinner Molly Strano delivers season after season, with 17 wickets in WBBL|04 after nine games. Spinners Molineux (nine wickets) and Georgia Wareham (six wickets) have bowled well throughout the innings, but their bowling performance has been somewhat down on WBBL|03. With two games against the Hurricanes that they should win, they'll need to pull off a win or two against the Heat, Thunder or Sixers in order to jump inside the top four.
6th, eight points (four games to play)
v Thunder at Blacktown, Saturday January 5, 2pm
v Thunder at Blacktown, Sunday January 6, 2pm
v Heat at the Gabba, Thursday January 10, 12:50pm
v Sixers at MCG, Monday January 14, 2:50pm
The Stars lost two crucial games against the Melbourne Renegades at the wrong time and it has meant their finals chances are all but over. With four games against the top four sides, they will need to pull off some upsets to sneak in.
Lizelle Lee peeled off an outstanding hundred to kick-start WBBL|04, while South African teammate Mignon du Preez has made 208 runs at 26 this campaign. Skipper Kristen Beams has been kept to just four games due to an Achillies injury suffered last year, with stand-in skipper Erin Osborne one of the Stars' more consistent players with both bat and ball.
The former Australian spinner has made 203 runs and taken eight wickets. After moving from the Hurricanes, Nicola Hancock has claimed 11 wickets to be the Stars' leading wicket taker. Annnabel Sutherland's form has been strong with the new ball, claiming eight wickets - it's hard to believe she's only 17.
4th, 12 points (three games to play)
v Sixers at Lilac Hill, Sunday January 6, 10am
v Strikers at Traeger Park, Saturday January 12, 10:50am
v Strikers at Traeger Park, Sunday January 13, 10:50am
The Scorchers have played the most games in the competition and find themselves in the top four, but have three hard games to end the season and will be aiming to clean sweep the Strikers in Alice Springs.
A shoulder injury to captain Meg Lanning has kept her sidelined for five matches, but she is in fine form having peeled off scores of 75, 70 and 76 in her past four games. Elyse Villani is dominating at the top of the order, having scored 390 runs from 10 innings, averaging 48.75 with four half-centuries. Nicole Bolton has been a consistent all-rounder, scoring 192 runs and claiming 12 wickets at an economy rate of 6.78.
Heather Graham has pushed herself into the minds of Australian selectors no doubt, with 18 wickets at an average of 15.27. Her medium pace bowling has been effective right throughout the innings and especially at the death, where she has a good ability to change the pace of her deliveries. They might be the team best placed to knock off the Sydney Sixers come finals.
1st, 16 points (four games to play)
v Thunder at Sydney Showground Stadium, Wednesday January 2, 2:50pm
v Scorchers at Lilac Hill, Sunday January 6, 10am
v Renegades at GMHBA Stadium, Sunday January 13, 2:50pm
v Stars at MCG, Monday January 14, 2:50pm
The competition's dream team have continued their fine form as they hunt a 'three-peat' of Women's Big Bash League titles.
It's no surprise given they boast the most marquee signings across the entire competition, including Australian World Cup winning trio Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy and Ash Gardner. Perry's number with the bat have been simply ridiculous. She is the competition's leading run scorer with 524, averaging 87.33 including scoring three half-centuries and two hundreds.
Healy herself hasn't been bad either, scoring a fast century against the Strikers to take her tally to 332 runs. Gardner has whacked a team-high 12 sixes from her 10 games this season.
With the ball, South African pair Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk have both claimed 13 wickets, while spinners Lauren Smith and Erin Burns both boast economy rates under 6.5 runs per over. They are going to be hard to beat in the finals, but if teams find a way to dismiss their Australian star trio, they may just have the upper hand.
3rd, 12 points (five games to play)
v Sixers at Sydney Showground Stadium, Wednesday January 2, 2:50pm
v Stars at Blacktown, Saturday January 5, 2pm
v Stars at Bankstown, Sunday January 6, 2pm
v Renegades at Spotless Stadium, Tuesday January 8, 1:50pm
v Heat at Cazaly's Stadium, Saturday January 12, 6:15pm
The Thunder just continue to get the job done throughout the season and have used just 12 squad members so far.
At the top of the order international players Rachael Haynes (232 runs) and Rachel Priest (230 runs) have continued to get the Thunder off the impressive starts, with Indian all-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur is striking at an amazing 137.8 in WBBL|04 and is the Thunder's leading run scorer with 277 runs. Kaur has struck 21 fours and 15 sixes.
With the ball, the Thunder have had plenty of contributors but it's been off-spinner Stafanie Taylor (15 wickets) and veteran Rene Farrell (13 wickets) who have done most of the damage. Left arm spinner Sam Bates has been effective with ball in hand, claiming eight wickets at an economy of 6.60. The Thunder's run home should mean they will play finals for yet another WBBL season.