On Saturday 2nd January the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) returned to Melbourne as the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the televised double-header derby between the Stars and Renegades as the teams contested the Lanning/Elliott Cup.
This was a historic occasion for women's domestic cricket. It was the first time a WBBL match had been shown on Channel Ten and after impressive viewing figures - a peak audience of 439,000 with an average of 372,000 - and being number one in its timeslot, Channel Ten officials are meeting to discuss moving the remainder of the televised WBBL games to Channel Ten.
It was not just the television audience which was unprecedented, but the crowd attendance which stood at 12,901 by the end of the game, which was a record for women's domestic cricket in Australia.
Melbourne Renegades went into the match following their first win of the competition which came against Brisbane Heat, while the Stars were looking to return to their winning ways after losing three consecutive matches.
The match was a low-scoring but enthralling affair which went down to the penultimate delivery as England international, Danni Wyatt, scored the winning run for the Renegades and finished on 23.
The Renegades had a change to their line-up as Shabnim Ismail, a South African international, replaced Rachel Priest who returned to New Zealand to play in their domestic competition. Ismail proved an invaluable addition to the team as she brought an extra level of pace to the attack which the Renegades had previously lacked. She opened the bowling alongside Victorian off-spinner Molly Strano and the pair proved devastating for the Stars.
Strano picked up the first five wicket-haul of the WBBL as her four overs went for just 15 runs. It was her first wicket of Meg Lanning that was the real highlight. Any player would be thrilled with this prize scalp but for Strano this was the first time she had dismissed Lanning and she admitted that at club level the Box Hill skipper had given her a bit of strife.
Ismail's figures were also impressive at four overs, one maiden, three wickets for ten runs. The pace-bowler produced a double-wicket maiden in her second over as the she dismissed England international Natalie Sciver and VicSpirit wicketkeeper Emma Inglis. Ismail also broke her own record as she bowled a delivery at 122km/h and believes her previous fastest was 120km/h.
It was the Stars' South African captain and top order batsman Mignon Du Preez who made 36 and helped see a recovery from 4-8 to a total of 85-9, ensuring the bowlers had something to defend.
The Stars' bowling and fielding was tight and Sciver got the breakthrough as Van Niekerk was smartly stumped by Inglis for six with the score on 13 in the fifth over.
Beams took the second wicket with the final ball of the tenth over after another stumping from Inglis which saw Kris Britt dismissed for eight with the score on 31.
Continued pressure in the field saw three run outs occur and the Renegades' chase went down to the penultimate delivery of the game. It was England's Danni Wyatt who secured the victory as she hit a single to point and finished on 23. This saw Melbourne Renegades crowned inaugural winners of the Lanning-Elliott Cup.
The Melbourne rivalry was not over, however, as the two teams returned to the MCG on Sunday.
On this occasion there was a smaller but still a healthy crowd and those who attended had the pleasure of watching Lanning return to her best as the Stars posted 120-4. Despite a slow but steady start from the captain she accelerated towards the end of her innings to finish with her second top score of the WBBL 77 (58) with eight fours and a six. Four of the fours came in the last two overs as she took the attack to her opposite number, Sarah Elliott.
The Stars' brought the momentum from the end of their innings through to their bowling as Emma Kearney took a wicket with the first ball bowling South African international Dane Van Niekerk.
Kearney continued her spell and took a wicket in the third over after a slip was introduced following a edge that went for four.
The Stars continued to bowl tightly and for the second time in as many days the Melbourne derby produced a double-wicket maiden. On this occasion it was fast-bowler Gemma Triscari with the honours as she dismissed Elliott and Britt.
It looked like the Stars would secure a victory but with Danni Wyatt at the crease and in good form she had the ability to once again score the winning runs. But with scoreboard-pressure mounting Hayley Jensen got the breakthrough as Wyatt skied one and Lanning comfortably took the catch.
The match was almost dead and buried when Strano came to the crease in the 18th over. With nothing to lose though she came close to pulling off a stunning victory for the Renegades. She struck an unbeaten 29 off just 16 runs including four fours which brought the team close to the Stars but they fell short and lost by eight runs.
Both the Stars and Renegades are in action again on Friday and over the weekend. The Melbourne Stars play Adelaide Strikers at 10am and the Melbourne Renegades play Sydney Sixers at 2:30pm at the Junction Oval on Friday 8th January.
Melbourne WBBL fixtures
Friday 8th January Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Stars 10am at Junction Oval, St Kilda
Friday 8th January Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Sixers 2:30pm at Junction Oval, St Kilda
Saturday 9th January Adelaide Strikers v Sydney Sixers 10am at Junction Oval, St Kilda
Saturday 9th January Sydney Sixers v Adelaide Strikers 2:30pm at Junction Oval, St Kilda
Saturday 9th January Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder 2:40pm at Etihad Stadium (Televised on Channel One)
Sunday 10th January Melbourne Stars v Adelaide Strikers 10am at Junction Oval, St Kilda
Sunday 10th January Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades 2:30pm at Junction Oval
05 JANUARY, 2016|Georgia Isaac | WBBL