Renegades and Satterthwaite burn their chances
Let's say it straight: none of the Brisbane Heat, Perth Scorchers or Melbourne Renegades deserve to be in the finals. But, one of those sides will. More on the former two further down, but first the rabble that Red Melbourne has become.
Previously, we thought Renegades had got things right. They beefed up their batting and started winning close games that previous seasons had seen them lose. But recent rounds have seen it all come undone.
They couldn't chase 121 against last-placed Hobart Hurricanes, or make 119 against the second-last-ranked Melbourne Stars and were then routed for 68 by Sydney Thunder. The Gades did their job in the field, but failed totally with the bat.
For culpability in the two chases, we're looking squarely at Amy Satterthwaite.
This may seem harsh, given she was out off the last ball for 65 against Hurricanes and her unbeaten 31 against the Stars included a last-ball six that ushered in a Super Over. Her team-mates losing four wickets in that decider was emblematic of their lack of support.
But the numbers don't show how the captain batted through the guts of both innings without moving the scoreboard enough. Her six off the final ball was Satterthwaite's first boundary since halfway through the ninth over. She hit only those two in the game.
Satterthwaite kept finding boundary riders on the leg side, rather than making room to go over cover with the field in close. Attempted ramps didn't work with no pace in the bowling or the pitch. Overall, it just wasn't smart play. With a required rate barely topping a run a ball from the halfway mark, the Stars game should have been well and truly won before that six was ever needed.
And 65 from 58 against Hurricanes looks good on paper, but a player coming to the crease after seven balls has to be worth more than four boundaries in the final five overs. The required rate ballooned from 6.38 at Satterthwaite's first ball, to 10.75 after 16 overs. At that point, her strike rate was still under 100.
So the equation became 33 from three overs, 25 from two, and 18 from the last. That Renegades lost by four runs showed how they had left their charge too late.
You can only credit good bowling up to a point. The players who are valued in T20 cricket are the ones who find a way, whatever it takes.
Sixers are bubbling, but now lack key ingredients
Sydney Sixers, conversely, got back to their consistent best, recovering to turn a mid-season stumble into a minor event. The Harbour City side are back to second spot after a thumping trio of wins, two against Heat and one against Stars.
It's the spread of contributions that set the Sixers apart. Alyssa Healy was back in business with 70 off 43 balls against Heat, then when she got a first-baller in the return bout, Erin Burns stepped up with 54 from 39, each driving Sixers to a total beyond being chased. Ellyse Perry chipped in with three useful knocks, and sits atop the season list with 477 runs. That means that Meg Lanning's record of 560 is in her sights.
But the Sixers bowling is the interesting point now, given that South Africans Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk are leaving the WBBL for national duty. Kapp is the season's most economical bowler, at a frankly indecent 4.72 runs per over, while van Niekerk is the leading wicket-taker with 20 at at 11.70.
Reverse the stat categories and Kapp offers another dozen wickets while van Niekerk's legbreaks have gone at 5.57 runs per over. It's a truly class pairing - so can the Sixers continue their tilt without them?
With the same problem having occurred in previous seasons, it again emphasises the need for a WBBL window free of international interference. The Stars also lose big-hitting opener Lizelle Lee, one of their few shining lights, while Indian players Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy have also left Thunder and Hurricanes respectively.
Pretenders get a final chance they don't deserve
Back to Scorchers and Heat, then. A familiar theme runs through both: over-reliance on too few. Heat are doing an excellent Stars impression from the first two WBBL seasons, with Beth Mooney the star this time around.
The run-machine opener was at it again, hunting the Sixers' hefty 160. With her there, they were right in the game. But when she fell on 60, a 9-for-50 collapse followed.
In the return bout, Heat were chasing 145 for an unlikely win, again fielding a bits-and-pieces attack in which seven or eight players bowl. But when Kapp picked up Mooney in the first over, Heat never stood a chance.
As for the Scorchers from Perth, they couldn't have picked a better weekend to host the ailing Hurricanes after a misadventure up north. Elyse Villani finally relocated the form that lit up the WBBL before Christmas, smashing 70 not out from 48 balls to steer an easy chase.
Second time around, though, it should have been another Hurricanes upset had Nicole Bolton been caught in the 17th over. Heather Graham had just got out, and Scorchers needed 29 from 21. Instead, Bolton was dropped, slapped a six next ball, and saw out the chase of 130.
The Scorchers, therefore, can still make the cut. But it can't be Bolton and Villani forever. If they are to contend rather than pretend, they need more contributions.
Super Saturday (and Sunday) to solve the puzzle
The teams that can't make the cut - Stars and Hurricanes - play each other, so the six contenders each play a pair of games against one other contender. The final round is perfectly poised.
From sixth, Renegades (10 points) have to win twice against Scorchers (14) to have a chance. But the team from Perth are notoriously poor away from home, so Renegades could flip Scorchers' small run-rate advantage and take fourth spot. Once again, it's sudden death all around.
Of course, Renegades would also need Heat (12 points) to lose at least once against Thunder (18 points), which is a fairly safe bet against the top side. But if Heat can win both games and Scorchers can't get a win, then the former will take fourth spot instead.
Adelaide Strikers have been better on the road than most, but will need to be at their best in Sydney against Sixers. Second versus third will be a quality contest, though there's no home final at stake given the finals still follow the men's BBL draw.
Either Strikers or Sixers could theoretically miss finals if one side is thrashed twice, with Scorchers winning twice, and Heat having a couple of massive wins to get a net run-rate boost. That, however, is unlikely and we wouldn't recommend holding your breath.
We would recommend tuning in, though, with all these games streamed live. At this time of the season, it's not worth missing a minute.