Sydney Sixers allrounder Ashleigh Gardner has hit out at critics who have suggested the club cannot succeed without Ellyse Perry, as it was confirmed the superstar allrounder will remain sidelined for this weekend’s must-win matches against the Adelaide Strikers.
Perry is recovering from a low-grade AC joint injury and while Gardner confirmed the Sixers captain had batted in the nets during the week, she was not named in Sydney’s squad of 13 for the final two regular-season matches at Hurstville Oval.
The Sixers, who have featured in all four Rebel WBBL finals to date, currently sit fourth on the table and need to win both games against the second-ranked Strikers to give themselves the best chance of keeping their season alive.
They sit level on 12 points with the Melbourne Renegades, who also have two matches left to play, but have a marginally better net run rate of 0.006, compared to the Renegades’ -0.003.
Perry was injured after landing awkwardly on her right shoulder while fielding in the Sixers’ loss to the Renegades at Drummoyne Oval on November 17, with club officials hoping the injury would only keep her out for 1-3 weeks.
She has since been forced to watch from the sidelines as the Sixers lost their next three matches; to the Hurricanes at North Sydney Oval before back-to-back defeats to the Scorchers in Perth last weekend.
It’s the club’s longest losing streak since the competition’s inaugural season, when they lost their first six games before storming up the ladder to make the final.
"It’s pretty frustrating reading articles and hearing people say that we’re not going to win without her," Gardner said on Friday.
"It’s really disappointing to see that people don’t have faith in us when she’s not around.
"We haven’t played our best cricket since she’s (been injured) but that doesn’t just come back on her, the older players like myself have to step up to her level and fill the void she’s created being injured."
In the Sixers’ favour is their strong record against the Strikers, who they have never lost to.
The teams have met at Hurstville three times across the last two seasons, with one constant – Alyssa Healy making big runs, hitting 106, 63 and 112no across those games at the Boutique venue.
"They’ve played some really good cricket this year, but I think we match up really well against their side, particularly our batters facing their bowlers," Gardner said.
"We can take confidence from that, we generally play good cricket at Hurstville Oval so hopefully we can do that on Saturday and Sunday."
Perry is the Sixers’ leading run scorer for WBBL|05 and third overall for the league despite missing the last three matches, but the club does boast plenty of star power with fellow Australians Gardner, Healy and Erin Burns, and South African pair Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk.
Big-hitting No.3 Gardner has failed to reach the heights of previous seasons so far in WBBL|05, from 11 innings she has hit 251 runs at 22.81, with her sole half-century coming against the Scorchers last weekend.
"There’s always going to be that added pressure when you’re missing a player of her caliber," Gardner said. "But we need to embrace the challenge.
"It’s been a pretty frustrating season, I feel like I haven’t been hitting the ball (badly) but I haven’t been able to put that into scores in games.
"Hopefully I can take confidence from that last innings and replicate it this weekend."
This weekend’s action at Hurstville Oval begins at 2pm AEDT on Saturday and Sunday, with a free live stream on cricket.com.au, the CA Live app and the WBBL Facebook page.
Fans can also stream via Kayo or listen on ABC radio.
Sydney Sixers squad: Sarah Aley, Holly Armitage, Alisha Bates, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Maddy Darke, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jodie Hicks, Marizanne Kapp, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Lauren Smith, Dane van Niekerk
Adelaide Strikers squad: Suzie Bates (c), Ellie Falconer, Sarah Coyte, Sophie Devine, Katie Mack, Tahlia McGrath, Tegan McPharlin, Annie O’Neil, Bridget Patterson, Alex Price, Megan Schutt, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Lauren Winfield