Ellyse Perry has starred with bat and ball as the Sydney Sixers claimed a dominant 49-run victory over crosstown rivals the Thunder in the opening match of the first standalone Rebel WBBL season.
Perry struck a brilliant 81 from just 48 balls, finding the boundary 13 times and clearing it once with the Thunder bowlers unable to find a way to bring her unstuck as she laid the foundation for the Sixers’ 6-192.
She shared an 83-run opening stand with Australian teammate Alyssa Healy, who struck two maximums of her own in a speedy 32-ball 42, and looked well on track for a century when she was called through for an unlikely single by Erin Burns in the 17th over, only to be caught well shy of her crease despite a desperate dive.
Perry then wasted little time inserting herself into the game with the ball, striking with her fourth delivery to trap Thunder opener Naomi Stalenberg lbw for two, claiming a second wicket just two balls later when Rachael Priest (1) hit a simple catch to Jodie Hicks.
The Thunder, coming into the game with a new-look side after a raft of departures during the off-season, found themselves in deep trouble in reply when captain Rachael Haynes (11) then followed her openers back to the dugout, leaving the lime green team 3-25.
Enter Phoebe Litchfield. Just sixteen years old, a Year 10 student and on Big Bash debut, left-hander Litchfield had already pulled off several athletic saves on the boundary when she came to the middle.
She looked unfazed by the occasion and after finding the boundary from the ninth ball she faced, expertly scooped the next for another four.
Sharing a Thunder record 68-run fourth-wicket stand with the oldest player on the Thunder list, 36-year-old Australian great Alex Blackwell – whose international career began before Litchfield was even born – the young left-hander appeared poised beyond her years before being trapped lbw by fellow 16-year-old Hayley Silver-Holmes on 26 from 22.
The target always looked well beyond the Thunder’s reach after the early wickets, but veteran Blackwell showed no signs she’s slowing down as she reached a 34-ball half-century, continuing her attack being holing out on 56.
Earlier, the Sixers managed to flex their batting strength to post their third-highest WBBL total despite fielding three teenagers in a below strength XI, due to the absence of South African import Dane van Niekerk – expected to join the club next week after a long stint on the sidelines – and the injured Lauren Cheatle.
Litchfield lights up NSO on debut
Ashleigh Gardner was in a destructive mood in her 16-ball 28, while recent Australian debutante Burns struck three fours in her 14 off eight.
Perhaps the most dramatic – and somewhat controversial – moment of the match came in the final over of the Sixers’ innings when the dismissal of Hayley Silver-Holmes brought 18-year-old Maddy Darke to the middle on debut.
Running for a quick single off the first ball she faced, Darke slipped and fell, clutching at her foot.
She was attended to by the Sixers physio – understandably concerned with Darke only recently recovering from stress fractures in her foot – while worried Thunder players also flocked to the young batter.
Amid the confusion, she was not run out by the Thunder, and once she regained her feet and signaled she would continue with her innings, she was awarded a run despite only making it three-quarters of the way up the pitch before falling.
She managed a second, uninterrupted, run from the final ball of the innings before being run out attempting another, the Sixers finishing with an imposing 6-192.
The Sixers are back in action at North Sydney Oval on Saturday night in a final rematch against Brisbane Heat (7.10pm AEDT) while the Thunder take on the Heat on Sunday at 2pm AEDT.