The world’s premier women’s T20 competition, the Women’s Big Bash League, is soon to get back underway for a seventh time, featuring the very best Australian cricketers and 21 overseas stars.
Complications surrounding COVID-19 and state border restrictions have made the tournament very difficult to stage for a second year.
Last season was played entirely in a Sydney hub, but this time the tournament has shifted to Tasmania, which is hosting the first 24 games, before moving to carnival-style weekends across South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.
At this stage, spectators in Victoria and New South Wales will miss out.
But organisers hope the finals may be able to played in these states if their teams make it through to the top four.
The good news is that every match will be covered on television for the first time, while the ABC will also broadcast a selection of matches.
An Indian flavour
The biggest drawcard of the tournament this season is the Indian contingent who have signed on after their Australian tour.
A record eight Indian stars will take part, including Poonam Yadav (Brisbane Heat), Richa Ghosh (Hobart Hurricanes), Harmanpreet Kaur (Melbourne Renegades), Jemimah Rodrigues (Melbourne Renegades), Shafali Verma (Sydney Sixers), Radha Yadav (Sydney Sixers), Deepti Sharma (Sydney Thunder) and Smriti Mandhana (Sydney Thunder).
Kaur and Mandhana are previous WBBL favourites, back to excite crowds after a two-year hiatus.
Mandhana finished the recent international multi-format series as India’s highest run-scorer (362) and was awarded player of the match in the Test after becoming the first Indian woman to score a Test century on Australian soil.
Her opening partner, 17-year-old Verma, was another standout in the series and is new to the WBBL.
The powerful batter totalled 218 runs and registered two half-centuries on the tour.
The rest of the WBBL’s imports hail from England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, England’s biggest stars, such as WBBL06 winners Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont, will be missing this year.
They were unavailable because the English national team were due to tour Pakistan at the same time as the Australian T20 competition. That tour has since been cancelled.
Their absence has opened up opportunities for some other up-and-coming English players to shine – Eve Jones, Maia Bouchier, Issy Wong and Linsey Smith.
Reigning champs dealt blow on eve of the tournament
Last year’s champions Sydney Thunder will not only be without Knight and Beaumont this year, but will also have to try and go back-to-back without their skipper Rachael Haynes.
The Australian vice-captain announced yesterday that she will be unlikely to link up with the team this season because of a number of reasons relating to border restrictions.
Haynes is currently on parental leave with her partner Leah and their newborn Hugo, and would need to quarantine for two weeks once arriving in Tasmania.
Haynes said she would do her best to try and meet up with the Thunder squad if border restrictions ease later on in the tournament.
A replacement captain is yet to be named.
Players to watch
Beth Mooney (Perth Scorchers) and Tahlia McGrath (Adelaide Strikers) are two obvious players in form right now, coming off the back of very successful campaigns in the India-Australia series.
Together, the pair were the most reliable batters for the home side and made the bulk of the runs for the team (Mooney 287, McGrath 235).
The tour was a huge coming-of-age moment for McGrath, who was named as the Player of the Series for her ability to steady the ship and close out a win in the middle order.
Both players have been playing in the WBBL since it first began, but seem to get better each year.
A number of the Australian debutantes from the multi-format series are also expected to have big WBBL campaigns, like teenage fast bowlers Stella Campbell (Sydney Sixers), Darcie Brown (Adelaide Strikers) and Annabel Sutherland (Melbourne Stars).
New finals format
There has been a shake-up to the usual finals format for WBBL07.
The top four teams will still make it through, but the minor premiers will now advance straight to the final match.
This will be played in a prime time slot on Saturday, November 27.
The teams that finish third and fourth on the ladder will face each other in an elimination match on the Wednesday that week.
The winner will then have to back up the next day to play the second-placed team for a chance to challenge the minor premiers in the final.
This will make it a very difficult slog to reach the grand final from third or fourth place, and give a huge advantage to the most consistent sides that finish on top.
Where to tune in
All 59 matches of WBBL07 will be broadcast on Fox Sports and available for streaming on Kayo Sports and cricket.com.au.
Channel 7 will broadcast 24 matches on free-to-air television.
ABC Radio will cover a range of games, including these first-round fixtures, on the ABC Listen app and ABC Sport digital radio:
Thursday October 14
Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Stars
Saturday October 16
Melbourne Renegades v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Thunder v Adelaide Strikers
Sunday October 17
Perth Scorchers v Brisbane Heat
Hobart Hurricanes v Sydney Sixers