The Melbourne Stars are navigating uncharted territory, with another win likely to move the club closer to cementing a WBBL finals berth — for the first time in the club’s history.
On pure statistics, English import Nat Sciver is the competition’s leading wicket-taker, Alana King holds the league’s third-best bowling economy, Elyse Villani has the tournament’s third-highest strike rate, and South African Mignon du Preez is among WBBL06’s top 10 batters.
But it’s the new coach-captain combination which is proving the key catalyst for the Stars’ surge in 2020.
The influence of new coach Trent Woodhill cannot be underestimated.
Woodhill’s experience has included roles in the Indian Premier League, New Zealand, England, and 10 years of involvement in the Big Bash League, where he was previously a list manager and assistant coach for the Stars men’s team.
Stars Brains Trust 🧠 hard at work. pic.twitter.com/SIKvfVJBbQ— Melbourne Stars (@StarsBBL) October 22, 2020
Then there’s captain Meg Lanning, who returned to the Stars this year after a three-year stint with the Perth Scorchers.
It was a welcome homecoming for Lanning, who was the tournament’s leading run-scorer as a Star across the first two editions of the WBBL.
In WBBL06, the 28-year-old has blasted 248 runs at a strike rate of 129.17, including a run of three consecutive half-centuries.
The Woodhill-Lanning combination has given the stars a “spark”, which spinner Alana King says has helped breathe new life into the time.
“Some fresh faces in the coaching staff and players as well has brought a new life into the Stars,” she said.
“We’ve got that spark and we’re just having plenty of fun.”
Add that to broader squad depth, it’s no surprise the Stars have cooked up a winning formula, which fast bowler Holly Ferling says was illustrated in Sunday’s win over the Heat.
“How we played on Sunday, [we] only used by five bowlers and had a number of those strike bowlers out as well, I think it’s a really good reflection of where we’re at as a group,” she said.
It was on display again on Tuesday, when any nerves from Lanning’s early dismissal were quickly calmed by the composure of Villani and du Preez, much to the pleasure of the head coach.
“Meg Lanning has been so dominant, [it was great] to have a win without Meg contributing much,” Woodhill said.
“Villani and du Preez were awesome, then at the end there to get the winning runs by Anna Lanning was sensational.
“For her to get an opportunity and hit the winning runs was massive.”
Requiring just one more win to confirm a finals spot, Woodhill has called on Stars fans to keep showing support.
“We’re top of the competition by three points and it’s important to celebrate that.
“Get behind us, support us, and we’re looking forward to coming out fresh against the Thunder on Saturday night.”