The punt to have an Opening Weekend Carnival for the second Women’s Big Bash League turned out to be a huge win for Cricket Australia, as the six games played over two days in Sydney drew good crowds who were treated to entertaining cricket.
The weekend encounters featured all eight teams, and the gates at North Sydney Oval remained open and free to the public. With dedicated children’s zones, mascots mingling with the crowd, and a big screen to watch replays on, the objective of turning a game of cricket into a carnival for the family was certainly achieved.
Anthony Everard, head of Big Bash League, was particularly pleased with the response. “Given the success of the WBBL opening weekend, we are looking forward to it becoming a permanent fixture on the cricketing calendar and one of the highlights of the summer,” he was quoted as saying.
India’s T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur embellished the cricket, and her timing could not have been better. In the third game on Saturday night – which was the first ever women’s sport event to be televised at prime time in Australia – she cracked an unbeaten 47 off 28 balls, including two sublime sixes over the cover region. Although her side Sydney Thunder fell short against the Melbourne Stars by six runs, she brought them back from an almost unwinnable situation, (45 runs from three overs) to within touching distance of victory, and in the process, won over the crowds and viewers.
She went one better in the return fixture, when she helped Thunder thoroughly outplay Stars. First she took four wickets with her now-darting, now-looping off spin, and then she saw them home in the penultimate over, scoring an unbeaten 30 off 21 balls. 14 of those runs came in what turned out to be the last over of the game, as she swept a six and a four through midwicket, before clearing long on with another six to seal the affair.
The other Indian player, Smriti Mandhana, did not enjoy as much success in her two fixtures though, falling for single digit scores in both. Her teammate at Brisbane Heat, West Indian import Deandra Dottin, stole the limelight with a 44-ball 60* that got them a win over Sydney Sixers in another televised game on Sunday. In all, four of the six games in the opening weekend were televised.
The television ratings did even better than the record-breaking figures of last year’s competition. According to a press release from the league, “The prime time match between the Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars attracted an average national audience of 379,000 viewers, peaking at 637,000 during the second session. The second session average audience of 432,000 represented a 67 percent increase on the season average for Rebel WBBL01.”
In addition to this, more than 6000 people came in to watch the Opening Carnival over two days. The return fixture between the Thunder and the Stars, at Albury, a city on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, saw a full grandstand as well.
All four weekend generated a strong interest on social media in India as well, mostly thanks to Harmanpreet’s efforts.
Coming from the big man means so much...always rated Harmanpreet Kaur. https://t.co/ZaEeSIcKet
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) December 11, 2016
Harmanpreet smashed 47 off 28 balls at the North Sydney Oval ground hitting two fours and three sixeshttps://t.co/9s1TnmAivO
— News18 (@CNNnews18) December 10, 2016
As for the results, all teams played each other twice in this round, which concluded on Tuesday. It is a measure of how tight this tournament will be, with every team that lost the first game coming back to even the scores in the second. As things stand, every team has secured two points in this round.
“It so close and competitive, this competition,” said Australian all rounder Ellyse Perry after she helped Sydney Sixers beat Brisbane Heat at Drummoyne Oval on Monday. Perry scored an unbeaten 45 off 43 balls to help her team even the scales. “There are no easy round games. That’s one of the most exciting things about this competition, and what makes it special,” she went on to say.
The next round of games starts on Friday, 16 December. Harmanpreet will be in action on Friday, against the Adelaide Strikers, while Mandhana will feature on Saturday, as the Heat take on the Perth Scorchers. Every match is being streamed live on the WBBL Facebook page, as well as the Cricket Australia website.
The writer is a former international cricketer and now a freelance journalist, she tweets at @SnehalPradhan.
Updated Date: Dec 14, 2016 14:01:04 IST