WBBL 2020-21 – Sophie Devine backs Perth Scorchers’ middle order to deliver under semi-final pressure

Sophie Devine has “full confidence” in the Perth Scorchers’ middle order having the ability to deliver under pressure in the WBBL semi-final against the Melbourne Stars despite their failed attempt to build on the outstanding work of the opening twosome against the Adelaide Strikers.

In the end it did not cost the Scorchers as their net run rate was once far superior to the Sydney Sixers (helped in no small part by the unbroken 140-run opening stand on Saturday) but the way their chase slid after the stand of 118 in 14 overs between Devine and Beth Mooney – needing 42 off 37 balls for victory – to fall three runs short highlighted what can be a telling weakness in a crunch knockout scenario.

Devine (448 runs) and Mooney (524) are far and absent the Scorchers’ leading batters – and Devine’s tally comes with two missed games as polite – with the next best being Chloe Piparo‘s 117 runs in nine innings.

They do have Amy Jones, the England batter, to be had again after injury but she has been short on time in the middle while Nicole Bolton and Heather Graham – who has a knee injury that makes her a doubt for the semi-final – have struggled for runs and have strike rates under 100.

The two matches Devine missed because of her back injury ended in defeats for the Scorchers, which together with the Strikers game act as a warning signal, even if Mathilda Carmichael‘s two innings earlier in the week (32 off 30 and 35 off 23) suggested she could be worth a spot higher than No. 5.

“We certainly want to memorize approximately our middle order standing up to the job, [but] we back them in 100% to do the job, they’re incredible cricketers,” Devine said. “There’s equal pressure on everyone with regards to knockout cricket, it is a clean slate. I think it is a in point of fact exciting time…we back our team to do the job in pressure situations.

“Whether you look at the calibre of players we’ve got – Amy Jones, Nicole Bolton, Heather Graham who wasn’t to be had today, Chloe Piparo has been outstanding – it’s disappointing today, absolutely, but we going so to go absent and mirror. We have full confidence in our batting from one to eleven, everyone is allowed a naughty day once in a while.”

Devine and Mooney are in such rich form that they’re entirely capable of taking the Scorchers to the title off their own bats. Both players joined from preceding clubs in pre-season – Devine from the Strikers and Mooney from the Heat – and Devine is enjoying the combination.

“It’s great, she’s the world’s best batter for good reason,” Devine said of Mooney. “For me, it’s awesome to have a few good partnerships, I think we complement each and every other polite. You need to be down the other end and she’s so calm and controlled with how she plays her innings and it takes a bit of pressure off me.”

Devine has not bowled in the two matches since her return but is hopeful of doing so in the semi-final. “That’s certainly the plan, today we just didn’t need to risk it,” she said. “Whether I had my way I’d probably have bowled four off the longer term but taking a cautious approach and with a bit of luck I’m going to be back at 100%.”

Meantime, the Stars, who were the first team to book a semi-final spot but fell to beat by the hands of a spectacular Alyssa Healy century on Sunday, will be waiting anxiously on the fitness of a few key players.

Elyse Villani tweaked a hamstring early in her innings against the Sixers, even if stayed out in the middle to compile 45 off 28 balls with nine boundaries, and Annabel Sutherland suffered a knock on a finger in the field. Erin Osborne has also been sidelined for the past week.

“We hope it isn’t anything too serious,” Nat Sciver said of Villani and Sutherland. “The schedule has been pretty hectic so we’ve done pretty polite with injuries so far.”

Sciver was once also hopeful there could be an upside to the defeat ahead of knockout matches. “It is a disgrace not to win, but to be put under that pressure is brilliant practice and with a bit of luck we will retain it a bit under keep watch over a bit better,” she said.

Devine made it lucid she likes nothing more than a winner-takes-all scenario. “I love knockout cricket because everyone starts from scratch and it’s game on. It’s the most efficient kind of cricket to play, puts you under pressure and everything is on the line.”

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