High five as Stars emerge as WBBL team to beat

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No Meg Lanning. No worries. The Melbourne Stars' superstar batter may have failed against the Adelaide Strikers but it did not matter as two fellow experienced campaigners took responsibility to help maintain their team's push for a breakthrough finals campaign in the Women's Big Bash League clash on Tuesday.

Lanning, coming off three-straight half-centuries, opened in style with a six over long-on and a pull for four in the next over but fell for 11 on the next delivery, as the Stars successfully chased 113 for victory at Blacktown International Sportspark. However, it gave South African star Mignon du Preez (61 off 51) and former Australian batter Elyse Villani (46 off 43) the chance to dominate – and they did just that.

The Stars have yet to make the finals in five previous attempts but now sit on top of the table and have emerged as championship favourites.

Villani had a disappointing 2019 campaign but has rebounded well and has had a key role to play in the Stars enjoying a franchise-record five-straight wins, the latest a five-wicket victory with three deliveries remaining. She drove well and lofted a six over mid-wicket off spinner Alex Price and appeared set for a half-century before a slog sweep caught at deep mid-wicket ended her stay.

Du Preez always enjoys playing against the Strikers – three of her seven half-centuries have come against them – and she was in fine touch, easily negotiating pace or spin.

The Strikers were dealt a blow when New Zealander Suzie Bates aggravated a shoulder injury in the field. Bates (28 off 23) had been in good touch with the bat in her first game of the campaign, having been hurt in the recent series against Australia.

"It was nice to get a few away in the middle. I would have liked to have kicked on. I feel like I am up to 100 per cent with the batting," Bates said during play.

But that was not the case in the field, where she was in pain and forced to the sidelines after delivering her first throw of the afternoon.

Fast bowler Nat Sciver (4-29) led the way with the ball for the Stars although the Strikers' South African star Laura Wolvaardt (46 off 40) was a major hindrance.

Wolvaardt showed just why she was the fourth leading run-scorer in the competition by maintaining an aggressive mindset. She thumped six boundaries but gave herself too much room when looking to slash Tess Flintoff through cover and was bowled. When Flintoff struggles, she often veers down leg side but this delivery reinforced why the 17-year-old, who has been completing her year-12 studies while in the Sydney hub, is a star of the future.

Amanda-Jade Wellington (29 off 17) provided some late punch, including a six over mid-wicket, but the Strikers' hopes were hampered by Sciver, who claimed three wickets in the final over, including two with the final deliveries of the innings.

Players from both teams took a knee before the match in respect of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Melbourne Renegades are dealing with another significant injury, with Georgia Wareham to miss the remainder of the season because of a bone-stress reaction in her shin.

The Australian all-rounder had been the Renegades' leading run scorer this season, including 54 not out against the Sydney Sixers and 42 against the Adelaide Strikers, while her leg-spin was also an integral part of the attack. Wareham joins key fast bowler Maitlan Brown on the sidelines, the latter set to have surgery this week on an injured hamstring.

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