Devine, McGrath propel Adelaide Strikers to WBBL final

Cricket


Adelaide Strikers 2 for 130 (Devine 65*, McGrath 36) beat Perth Scorchers 7 for 126 (Redmayne 51, Barsby 31, Schutt 2-14, Devine 2-23) by eight wickets

Sophie Devine marched the Adelaide Strikers all over Perth Scorchers and into Sunday’s WBBL final, and in doing so closed to within 14 runs of surpassing Ellyse Perry’s 777-run tournament aggregate record, on a sweltering day at Brisbane’s Allan Border Field.

The Strikers had taken the initiative from the first few overs after sending the Scorchers in, Devine claiming the pivotal first wicket of Meg Lanning while Megan Schutt played her customary stymieing role at the other end, ultimately conceding just 14 runs from her four overs.

Despite a recovery led by Georgia Redmayne, the Scorchers were held to 7 for 126, a total that was defendable only if Devine could be seen off quickly. Instead, she took control of the innings as she has so often this competition, gliding to a ninth half-century this season at the WBBL. She was aided by Tahlia McGrath and Bridget Patterson to rush the Strikers to their first-ever tournament final. The Scorchers, whose coach Lisa Keightley is set to take over as England coach, did not help themselves by dropping two catches and missing a stumping.

Devine, Schutt get the early break

An early start at Allan Border Field offered the chance for the bowling side to get the most of any movement in the air or off the pitch. Thanks to Devine and Schutt, the Adelaide Strikers were able to do both.

Critically, this reaped them the wicket of Meg Lanning in only the day’s second over. After being corralled by Schutt’s inswing in the opening over, Lanning leant forward to drive at Bates, only to slice an away-swinger into a well-staffed backward-point region, where Alex Price held the catch.

The Strikers’ glee at dismissing the Australian captain was unconfined, but more was to follow as Schutt found a way past Chloe Piparo and Nicole Bolton in consecutive deliveries. A tally of 3 for 26 from the Powerplay meant the Scorchers were starting their innings from an awful long way back, requiring high skill, patience and stamina to rescue things as temperatures ticked towards the high 30s.

Redmayne, Barsby fight back

Initially, the Scorchers had to be principally concerned with the preservation of wickets, and as 10 overs ticked past with only 45 on the scoreboard, Redmayne and Barbsy knew they needed to add acceleration to occupation. The telling moment arrived when Redmayne hoisted the first ball of Sarah Cotye’s third over high beyond the midwicket boundary for her first-ever WBBL six, starting an over that was to cost the Strikers 17 runs and allow the Scorchers to wriggle clear.

In mounting heat, the Strikers’ earlier pristine fielding and bowling began to fray, as wides and byes accrued. Devine returned to end the stand at 88, and Schutt completed an outstanding analysis of 2 for 14 from four, but the Scorchers were able to pile up 81 runs from the final 10 overs of their innings, meaning that the Perth side had given themselves something to bowl at – the average winning score by teams batting first at AB Field being 129.

Devine takes charge…

Desperate for an early wicket to mirror the loss of Lanning, the Scorchers were able to manufacture one when Suzie Bates, who had looked out of sorts, sliced a ball to gully and set off, only to be foiled by a brilliant diving save and throw into the wicketkeeper by Bolton.

But where Lanning’s exit had been followed by two more, Devine was soon able to find her stride in the company of Tahlia McGrath, negotiating the new ball with a combination of vigilance and the occasional rasping shot through the off-side field. Given how dominant she has been all tournament, Devine’s calmness and control were perhaps not surprising, but she benefited from McGrath’s willingness to drive the game forward herself.

That approach came with some risk, and she was to be dropped twice – by Redmayne when McGrath had only four, and again when Bolton turfed a straightforward chance at long-on with the Strikers No. 3 on 19. These chances allowed the Strikers to get to the midway point of their innings needing 68 from the last 10 overs, making a favourable comparison with the back-end of the Scorchers’ innings.

…and sees the Strikers home

When McGrath was out, ending the second-wicket partnership at 79, the Strikers still needed 45 from 38, no sure thing. Bridget Patterson, another strong performer for Adelaide this season, had a few early jitters, notably a stumping chance spurned by Redmayne. But Devine did not for a moment lose her poise, even laughing with the broadcasters about how her swimming ranks rather poorly next to her cricketing skills.

The end duly arrived quickly, as 12, 11 and 16 were piled up from the 16th, 17th and 18th overs. That left Devine with just one more run to get, and her drive down the ground was about as commanding a finish as anyone could want.

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