Sydney rivals dominate; Stars, Hurricanes in sharp decline

Wolvaardt's catch, van Niekerk's hat-trick light up WBBL (2:06)

Adam Collins and Geoff Lemon review the second week of WBBL 2017-18, in which two South Africans made headlines with a stunning effort in the field and a legspin masterclass (2:06)

Sydney captains lead from the front

They call her Dessy. Rachael Haynes has had something of a reinvention since coming back into the Australian side. Her first stint in green and gold wasn't known for its aggressive approach, but the new Haynes is far more like her West Indian namesake in approach. We saw that with her 89 from 56 balls to win the recent women's Ashes ODI in Coffs Harbour. She has taken the form on into her WBBL season, with three fifties in four attempts for the Sydney Thunder, at strike rates ranging from 134 to 164.

Her 78 not out against the Melbourne Stars was her biggest of the season. Recognising that Melbourne's green team is also a green team bowling wise, she went for it from the get-go. Two shots did the damage: advancing to spinners to loft sixes over long-on, and getting down on one knee to sweep fours behind square. Haynes isn't the Thunder captain - that task falls to national deputy Alex Blackwell - but she's leading from the front all the same. For the same story at the Thunder's crosstown rivals the Sydney Sixers, see as always Ellyse, P. Just another casual 65 from 49 to crush the Hurricanes.

Hobart Hurricanes: we have a problem

The Stars, too. This column predicted before the season that the Hurricanes and the Stars might battle as a result of their depleted team sheets, in comparison to what they were able to field in the first couple of WBBL seasons. It wasn't expected to be this bad. In the case of the Hurricanes, the self-styled Lilac Ladies, returning to their home city did nothing to alter their fortunes. With the ball, they coughed up 152 against the Sixers. In response, they never looked like chasing it, with Veronica Pyke's unbeaten 35 the only thing that stood between them and a second sub-100 score on the bounce. All after Sixers legspinner Dane van Niekerk took a hat-trick to rip through their middle order, all bowled, with the last of those three - Stefanie Daffara - knocked over lap-sweeping. Not good at all.

As for the Stars, they simply don't have the bowling to compete in this competition at the moment. Especially when delivering seam-up. Tallying 132 for 4 batting first against the Thunder was an improvement on the previous weekend, but the strong Sydney side gobbled it up with a massive 29 balls to spare with nine wickets in hand. This could get ugly and fast.

Melbourne Renegades's struggle with the close ones

The Renegades would be sick of being involved in classic contests. They'd much rather bank some safe and boring wins. Last season, the Renegades lost a series of close games, including last-ball thrillers and a Super-Over defeat. They missed the finals by two wins.

This year, there might already have been a familiar sinking feeling. Last week, the Jess Duffin umpiring blunder derailed a brilliant run chase. This week, the Renegades started off with another last-ball thriller, against the Adelaide Strikers, and, as usual, were on the wrong side of the result.

Newly appointed captain Amy Satterthwaite was holding together a chase of 140 against the fancied Strikers. When she fell for 56 from 40 balls, the Renegades were only 18 runs from the target with 17 balls remaining. As the runs ticked by and another wicket fell, the Strikers captain Suzie Bates brought herself on to bowl the last over. And with one run needed to tie from the last ball, she delivered an attempted slower ball that slipped from her hand. It drifted down towards Lea Tahuhu and ended up as a juicy full toss. So anxious was Tahuhu to hit the ball as hard as possible that the loop deceived her, and she sent back a leading edge to the bowler. One run proved to be the difference.

Perhaps, though, the Renegades can shake the hoodoo this year. In the return fixture the next day, the Renegades batted first for 160, and held off the fast-finishing Strikers by nine runs. Finally, a close one that went Renegades' way. They'll have to keep that going.

What's next?

The Renegades and the Brisbane Heat lock horns in a Melbourne two-parter on Friday and Saturday that will dictate which of the two can truly enter the conversation as legitimate title contenders.

The SCG on Saturday will host the televised game between the Sixers and the Hurricanes, the second of their two home and away matches, with Hurricanes desperately needing to trump their hosts this time around.

Then, over the two days following Christmas, the Perth Scorchers and the Stars will duke it out in a pair of fixtures at the WACA Ground in Perth - contests the home side will enter as very hot favourites.