Perth Scorchers have been given a major boost as they vie for a spot in the Rebel WBBL semi-finals, with star batter Elyse Villani returning from a hamstring injury for their back-to-back matches against Adelaide Strikers this weekend.
The Scorchers and the Melbourne Renegades are the top contenders battling for the one remaining semi-final berth – although Adelaide also remain a very slim chance – as the competition enters the final weekend of round matches.
Sydney Sixers, Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat have already locked in their spots, with both semi-finals to be played at Drummoyne Oval on January 19.
Sitting in fifth spot, Perth need to beat the Strikers twice in Alice Springs to give themselves the best possible chance of progressing to the knockout stage of WBBL|04, with the teams to meet on Saturday and again on Sunday.
They’ll also need to rely on the Renegades dropping at least one of their two remaining matches against Hobart Hurricanes and reigning champions Sydney Sixers.
The return of Villani will lift Meg Lanning’s team, after the Australian representative missed their last three matches with a hamstring injury, but the Scorchers remain without fellow Southern Star Nicole Bolton who is on indefinite leave due to personal reasons.
The Strikers have been up and down this season with just four wins from 12 matches, but are coming off back-to-back wins over the Hurricanes with star New Zealand pair Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine in excellent form.
“We need to win a couple of games this weekend,” Lanning said. “We’re coming up against a pretty good side in the Strikers who’ve got some pretty in-form players.
“It’s do or die but it’s a good challenge for our group.”
Lanning has been in superb touch, with scores of 11, 75, 70, 76, 1 and 76 since returning from a back injury that derailed the first half of her WBBL season.
“I guess that’s the nature of the competition, once you get into some form the games come around so quickly you just feel like you can continue on,” she said.
“T20 cricket is all about having fun and going out and trying to take the bowlers on.
“I’ve really enjoyed opening the batting again I haven’t done it for a little while and once you get some confidence up you can get on a bit of a roll which is nice.”
The Renegades are fourth on the table after making a late charge at the semi-finals and despite a loss to top-ranked Thunder in their most recent outing, captain Amy Satterthwaite is confident her team can bounce back.
“We’ve got to remember that we won the four games before that and we’ve been playing some good cricket so I think that’ll put us in a good position for the last couple of games,” Satterthwaite said.
“I think when you get to the end of the season you always start think about finals, it’s always tempting, but at same time for us we’ve got to ignore it and worry about games coming up and what we can control.
“Because at the end of the day if we don’t win these last couple of games we won’t even make it, so we’re focusing on one thing at a time and on what we can control.”
Remaining WBBL|04 matches
Saturday: Strikers v Scorchers, Alice Springs, 9.30am local (11am AEDT)
Renegades v Hurricanes, CitiPower Centre, 1pm AEDT
Heat v Thunder, Cazalay’s Stadium, 6.15pm AEST (7.15pm AEDT)
Sunday: Strikers v Scorchers, Alice Springs, 9.30am local (11am AEDT)
Renegades v Sixers, GMHBA Stadium, 2.50pm AEDT
Monday: Stars v Sixes, MCG, 2.50pm AEDT