Tahlia McGrath admits memories of the WBBL|05 final still haunt her, but the Adelaide Strikers captain is confident her well-balanced side can get the better of two-time champions Brisbane Heat in Wednesday’s elimination final.
The Heat claimed the second of their two titles when they defeated the Strikers in the 2019 decider, a memorable double completed in front of home fans in Brisbane.
This time the rivals are meeting in the first step of the new-look Weber WBBL finals series, one that requires the sides that finish third and fourth to win three matches in a row if they want to take out the title.
The second-ranked Melbourne Renegades lie in wait for the winner of Wednesday’s match, while the Perth Scorchers are already at home cooling their heels ahead of Saturday’s final with their spot secure.
“It was a tough match, it still haunts me, but you’ve got to move on,” McGrath said of the WBBL|05 final at Allan Border Field.
“It’s such a good competition that anyone can beat anyone on their day.”
McGrath is wary of Brisbane’s notoriously hard-hitting line-up; Georgia Redmayne and Grace Harris at the top of the order, followed by the likes of Georgia Voll, Laura Kimmince and Mikayla Hinkley.
“They’re quite dangerous and (they have) players that we need to contain and get out early before they can do too much damage,” McGrath said.
“The best thing about our attack is we’re so balanced. We’ve got Darcie Brown with express pace, Megan Schutt swinging the ball and Amanda-Jade Wellington spinning the ball so someone different stands up every time.”
The Heat go into the finals as the only side of the four to have previously won a title, but their skipper Jess Jonassen is under no illusions of the difficult path ahead to the decider.
Despite finishing higher on the table, they must meet the Strikers at the Adelaide Oval; with the Renegades unable to play in Melbourne, they selected Adelaide Oval as their ‘home’ venue to host Thursday’s Challenger, and the same ground is being used for both mid-week matches.
“With the new structure of the finals, it’ll be a little bit different,” Jonassen said. “But the girls are really looking forward to the challenge and hopefully, we’ve got three more games ahead of us.
“We had a really good experience here (at Adelaide Oval) with a game against the Thunder earlier in the regular season, so we’ll look back on that.
“It’s been proven throughout this season that any team that doesn’t fully show up on the day doesn’t come out on top.”
When is it?
Wednesday Nov 24 at 7.10pm AEDT
How can I watch?
The Eliminator will be broadcast on free-to-air television on 7Mate, while Fox Cricket will simulcast the match, which can also be streamed via Kayo on the Cricket Australia Live app. For those who like their cricket served up on the radio, ABC Grandstand will cater to all your listening needs.
Cricket.com.au and the CA Live app will have live scores and highlights of EVERY major moment, as well as replays of every wicket and every boundary in the match centre, plus web, video and social coverage.
How can I be there?
Grab your tickets now! Tickets went on sale on Monday morning and you can buy them HERE.
Brisbane Heat: Jess Jonassen (c), Anneke Bosch (SA), Nicola Hancock, Grace Harris, Mikayla Hinkley, Ellie Johnston, Laura Kimmince, Nadine de Klerk (SA), Charli Knott, Georgia Prestwidge, Georgia Redmayne, Courtney Sippel, Georgia Voll, Poonam Yadav (Ind)
Adelaide Strikers: Tahlia McGrath (c), Jemma Barsby, Darcie Brown, Sarah Coyte, Meagan Dixon, Katie Mack, Tegan McPharlin, Dane van Niekerk (SA), Annie O’Neil, Bridget Patterson, Megan Schutt, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Laura Wolvaardt ( SA)
Form (most recent first)
Brisbane Heat: WLLWWWWWWWWWWWRWLNLWL
Adelaide Strikers: LWLWWWWLLLLNRWW
Honours were split this season, with the Heat winning a rain-shortened encounter by five runs in Launceston before the Strikers romped to an eight-wicket win in Mackay.
Brown’s hat-trick and a blazing half-century from Laura Wolvaardt were not enough for the Strikers in Launceston, as the Heat successfully defended their total of 5-104 from 11 overs thanks to Jonassen’s double strike.
In Mackay, the Heat were forced to back up after their Saturday night game for a 9.15am start local time on Sunday and they struggled against an in-form Strikers bowling unit, as Schutt (1-17) and Brown (1-16) helped keep them to just 7-94 from their 20 overs.
Heat quick Courtney Sippel struck twice in as many balls in the second over to remove South Africans Dane van Niekerk and Wolvaardt, but Katie Mack (54no from 48) and McGrath (31no from 44) combined in an unbeaten 88-run stand to see the Strikers home with 22 balls to spare.
Leading run scorers
Brisbane Heat: Georgia Redmayne (436 at 43.9, SR 120.44), Grace Harris (403 at 33.58, SR 128.34)
Adelaide Strikers: Katie Mack (436 at 60.85, SR 118), Laura Wolvaardt (331 runs at 30.09, SR 125.37)
Leading wicket takers
Brisbane Heat: Jess Jonassen (21 at 14, eco 6.5), Nicola Hancock (13 wickets at 19.76, eco 6.9)
Adelaide Strikers: Amanda-Jade Wellington (16 wickets at 19.81, eco 7), Darcie Brown (15 wickets at 18.46, eco 6.4)
Strengths and weaknesses
The Heat have one of the strongest opening partnerships in the competition, with Redmayne and Harris both in peak form with the bat. They balance each other out perfectly, with Redmayne’s ability to attack in the Powerplay giving Harris the breathing space she needs to get a start before she launches. With the ball, Heat skipper Jonassen walked back into elite cricket from an injury layoff and never skipped a beat, storming her way to the top of the wickets tally.
But the Heat are somewhat boom or bust, and that is part of their go-hard-or-go-home charm. They have suffered several big collapses this season, including 9-51 chasing against the Thunder on Friday. If Redmayne and/or Harris go early, the middle-order need to steady the ship – there are a lot of big hitters in that side, but sometimes finesse is all that is needed to keep a run chase under control.
Strikers opener Mack is in the form of her life, becoming the first domestic player to pass 350 runs in a season for the club. Her recent consistency is allowing South African van Niekerk to play with freedom, knowing not only is her partner in red-hot form, but she has Wolvaardt, McGrath, Bridget Patterson and Maddie Penna to follow.
With the ball, the Strikers have three bowlers in the top 10 wicket takers, and Brown keeps finding new levels in her game. Combined with the economical Schutt, they are a perfect match for the Heat openers in the Powerplay.
Consistency has also been an issue for the Strikers, who started the tournament well, endured a tough streak of four losses, then regained momentum at the back end of the tournament.
The Eliminator: Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat | Adelaide Oval | November 24, 6.40pm local (7.10pm AEDT)
The Challenger: Melbourne Renegades v TBC | Adelaide Oval | November 25, 6.40pm local (7.10pm AEDT)
The Final: Perth Scorchers v TBC | Optus Stadium | November 27 at 4.10pm local (7.10pm AEDT)
Grab your tickets or tune in on the Seven Network, Fox Cricket, Kayo, the CA Live app or listen on ABC radio