Women's Big Bash League 05 gets underway tonight and once again, we have a hefty crew of kiwis who will take part. There are the usual suspects at the top of the pecking order and then there are a few youngsters who will be eager to make an impression, although Amy Satterthwaite won't be able to join wife Lea Tahuhu with Melbourne Renegades as Satterthwaite is pregnant with their first child.
Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine return to Adelaide where they have essentially set up shop for the past few campaigns. Two of Aotearoa's finest cricketers ever, Bates and Devine will again be tasked with leading from the front after they both finished in the top-5 run-scorers last season. Devine finished 2nd in runs, averaging 46.33 with a typically brutal strike-rate of 136.60 and with the ball, Devine finished 14th in wickets alongside Tahuhu in a clear example of Devine's all-round ability.
Bates was 5th in runs with 35.08avg/112.26sr and barely featured with the ball in WBBL04 as her bowling workload has steadily decreased in recent years. As one of the few kiwis playing in England's T20 Super League this year, Bates finished 12th in runs there and had a top-score of 47, which was well below her best. How Bates moves into WBBL05 will be interesting as she isn't carrying much form with her; both Bates and Devine played two games in the Australian one-day competition prior to WBBL05 without any notable success.
Suzie Bates (T20I)
Thankfully, Brisbane Heat have bolstered the whanau this season by signing young White Ferns Maddy Green and Amelia Kerr. Kerr thoroughly deserves these opportunities as one of the best bowlers in the world and she comes into WBBL05 after finishing 1st in wickets last summer in Aotearoa's women's T20 competition where she averaged 9.47 with the ball. Kerr also finished 5th in runs, averaging 34.83 with a strike-rate of 107.17 and Kerr could flourish as one of Brisbane's main strike bowlers.
Maddy Green is easily the most interesting player from this year's group as this is her first WBBL campaign and one look at her stats makes you wonder how Green commanded a WBBL contract. Through 40 T20 internationals, Green is yet to pass the 50-run mark, either in a game or throughout her T20I career and that is amplified by an average of 10.08. In last summer's national T20 competition, Green finished 15th in runs averaging 25/112.61sr and she doesn't really bowl.
That record has seen me question Green's standing in the White Ferns, or more to the point how big the gap between women's domestic cricket in Aotearoa and international cricket is. Green has enjoyed consistent international selection without really cashing in and has now earned a WBBL contract by averaging 10.08 in T20I. All of which may sound harsh, although I'm merely setting the scene as to what makes Green's WBBL05 journey so interesting as this could be the moment when Green taps into her potential.
Veteran seamer Lea Tahuhu will again hold it down for Melbourne Renegades after last summer's campaign saw her take 14w @ 21.35avg/5.92rpo. Tahuhu showed her class in the Aotearoa T20 competition as she only played four games, but still managed 6w and this saw Tahuhu average 8.83 with the ball (3.78rpo). WBBL05 won't be that easy for Tahuhu, although experience and consistent T20 work will likely see Tahuhu finish somewhere in the top-10 wicket-takers this season.
Having finally been recalled into Aotearoa's White Ferns after non-selection sent Priest into T20 travels, Priest has done a great job around the world over the past 12 months in T20 cricket. Priest started out by averaging 58 through four games in the Aotearoa competition, then Priest finished 4th in T20 Super League runs in England with 36.50avg/145.41sr and now she returns to Sydney Thunder where she has been a consistent presence at the top of the order. WBBL04 saw Priest finish 13th in runs, 3rd best kiwi averaging 24.14/134.12sr.
Not quite a youngster in age, but Katey Martin joins the WBBL wahine this summer to play with Melbourne Stars. Martin hasn't been overly active in the T20 landscape, but is a low key presence in the White Ferns batting line up, often over-shadowed by the likes of Bates, Devine and Satterthwaite. Martin is likely to operate as the Stars wicket-keeper and she's last summer's Aotearoa T20 competition saw Martin finish 11th in runs, averaging 22.28/107.58sr. I'm uncertain as to how Martin will go on the WBBL circuit, there is the possibility of high upside as her experience and hitting ability could be crucial in the Stars middle order.
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Peace and love 27.