On a stunning Hobart day, the visitors won the toss, electing to send the Tigers into the field first. On a declared ‘batting wicket’ from the Blundstone Arena curator team, it was a decision either side would’ve made, but Tigers captain, Elyse Villani, declared she was just as happy to field first.
After the national anthem and other formalities befitting of a final, the Tigers made their way out into the field. The Tasmanian bowlers were economical early, whilst the Scorpions batters were daring, opting for sometimes risky quick singles very early on in the piece.
Sharp fielding from the Tigers saw multiple shouts for run out during the early overs of the match, until the Scorpions pushed their luck one time too many. The dangerous Bridget Patterson – fresh of a century in South Australia’s last match of the regular season – underestimated the arm of Naomi Stalenberg in pushing for two runs, and was adjudged out of her crease by the third umpire, heading back to the sheds for 24.
From here the Scorpions were a little more cautious, continuing on at a low-ish run rate of just under two an over, but with the majority of their wickets in tact. Remaining opener Emma De Brough looked well on track to record another half century, until a stunning catch by Corinne Hall off the bowling of Sasha Moloney saw her dismissed for a gallant 48. It was a great effort from Hall, who has notified the team that today’s match will be the final one for the Tigers, after over a decade with the program. Fittingly, today the 34-year-old becomes the most capped Tigers WNCL player on 63 matches, one ahead of Emma Thompson, who is currently contracted to the Tigers but on maternity leave this season.
It took until the 28th over the Scorpions to bring up their 100 runs but with Josie Dooley and Courtney Webb settling in at the crease, if they were worried about this run rate, they certainly didn’t let it show. The pair piled on 113 runs between them, both reaching well-deserved half centuries in the process.
Unfortunately, the Tigers gave Josie Dooley a life on 40, and she went on to make 66 of 82 deliveries. Just as the exasperation from the Tigers was beginning, it was 17-year-old Amy Smith who set Tigers fans at ease, clean bowling Dooley to see their third wicket fall incredibly in the 45th over of the game.
Smith, however, had inspired a late resurgence from the Tigers, which would see the Scorpions lose six wickets for just 34 runs in the final five overs for the game. The teenager partnered with Molly Strano at the other end, and the spinners took three wickets apiece. The pair finished with figures of 3-33 (off seven overs) and 3-39 (off 10) respectively, to see the South Australians finish on 8-242 after their allotted 50 overs.
Tasmanian-born Courtney Webb was excellent with the bat for the Scorpions, making an impressive 88 off just 78 deliveries – her highest score in WNCL cricket to date. She was unlucky to lose her wicket on the second last ball of the innings courtesy of Strano – Strano also took a wicket on the final ball of the innings, unfortunately leaving herself stranded without the chance of a potential hat trick.
With history on the line, understandably the nerves were high on the bench in the innings break, but some wayward early bowling from South Australia allowed the Tasmanians to settle into their innings. In familiar fashion, Rachel Priest hit a couple of boundaries to get the Tigers to a comfortable run rate, before one big swing too many saw her come undone, clean bowled by Samantha Betts.
Next in was Tigers captain Elyse Villani, and she picked up where Priest left off. Determine not to let her dropped catch earlier in the game be a determining factor in the result, Villani made a statement but opening with a boundary right off the bat.
With the captain setting the tone, together Villani and remaining opener, Manix-Geeves, set about building a three-figure partnership, and eventually, matching each other, stroke for stroke.
The two paced themselves brilliantly as the wicket continued to improve, and were rarely challenged as they both brought up their half centuries in front of a growing local crowd.
When the pair moved into the 80’s, with the run chase well and truly under control – Tasmanian fans began to dream, and Elyse Villani brought up a stunning century – a true captains knock which hoped set the tone for her side, much to the delight of the bench.
It was to be a dream come true for Emma Manix-Geeves as well, who reached her maiden WNCL century in front of a home crowd, and with just a handful of overs to play – it was beginning to look comfortable for the Tigers.
As the runs required dipped below ten, the faithful knew they were home, and when Villani struck the winning run, pandemonium ensued as the Tigers engulfed the field.
Villani, who was to be named player of the match – finished unbeaten on 111* - an innings that included 14 boundaries off just 124 balls. Manix-Geeves was also undefeated, finishing 104* off 133 with eight boundaries along the way, an incredibly mature knock for such a young player.
Villani and coach Salliann Beams lifted the trophy in front of a jubilant home crowd, delivering a performance that Tasmanian and cricket fans will remember for years to come.