Sydney Sixers 1 for 100 (Healy 41, Perry 36*) beat Perth Scorchers 99 (Cleary 18*, Coyte 3-17) by nine wickets
Sydney Sixers dominated Perth Scorchers from the start to lift their second Women's Big Bash League title in three seasons, drawing inspiration from the exemplary bowling of Sarah Coyte after she returned to the team late in the tournament following a much-publicised departure from the game for mental health reasons.
Electing to bat, the Scorchers found the early going hard on an Adelaide Oval pitch offering some moisture to the bowlers, and once Coyte struck to deceive and dismiss Elyse Villani, the West Australian side was never able to build the partnerships capable of building a defendable total. Left with a modest chase, the high-powered Sixers batting line-up was never likely to be tested, and galloped home to victory with five overs to spare.
Pressure brings wickets
Both captains had spoken about the need to cope with the pressure of the occasion on the eve of the final, with the memory of Adelaide Strikers' horrid batting collapse - 6 for 3 - in the semi-final still fresh in everyone's minds. To that end, the Scorchers started their innings intent on not losing early wickets after Villani won the toss, while at the same time the Sixers bowlers were intent on tight lines and the denial of runs. Runs duly came at a trickle, and only three boundaries were struck in the Powerplay.
The longer this Mexican stand-off went on, of course, the more it favoured the Sixers, who created pressure of their own in the minds of Villani and Nicole Bolton through the knowledge of the power contained up the top of their batting line-up. Ultimately, it was this pressure that forced Villani into error, advancing to a change of pace from Coyte while failing to reading either the length or the subtle movement away from the bat. Alyssa Healy pounced on the stumping chance virtually before Villani had the chance to turn around, and clapped her gloves triumphantly in the prone Scorchers' ears as she ran past to celebrate the vital first breakthrough.
Coyte's day in the sun
The Sixers' grip on proceedings went from firm to vice-like in the first ball of the eighth over when Kim Garth seamed a ball back on the line of middle and leg to pin Bolton lbw, with Ellyse Perry following up by coaxing an edge from the bat of Natalie Sciver. When Megan Banting fell to Erin Burns, three wickets had fallen in as many overs, Scorchers' innings well and truly in free-fall.
Chief beneficiary of the game's decisive turn towards the Sixers was to be Coyte, who followed up her first over deception of Villani by winning in lbw verdict against Thamsyn Newton and then bowling a driving Heather Graham five balls later. Coyte's figures of 3 for 17 summed up the Sixers' dominance, while at the same time capping a wonderful return to the game, following her decision to step away from the game in early 2017 to deal with personal health issues. In four matches, she has scooped 10 wickets at a meagre average of 8.10, providing the fresh impetus the Sixers needed towards the end of a lengthy campaign.
A simple chase
Defending 99, the Scorchers needed early wickets but were unable to take them, thanks to Perry and Healy. The Sixers innings began in the manner that Villani had perhaps envisaged for the Scorchers, starting slowly then building steadily to a peak of shotmaking aggression - helped of course by the fact the modest target did not bring too much in the way of scoreboard pressure. As is customary, Healy went a little more eagerly for her shots - striking three fours in the fifth over - while Perry played within herself, and together they had taken the required runs down to a mere 36 from 59 balls when Healy was stumped for a 32-ball 41.
The remaining runs were gobbled up without much fuss by Perry and Ashleigh Gardner, who reminded all of the powerful hitting that had made her such a key force in the tournament by depositing Katherine Brunt for a towering six over midwicket. Perry was left to hammer the winning runs with a pair of boundaries, meaning the Sixers had won with a yawning nine wickets and five overs to spare.
'Relaxed but focused'
Sciver summed up the Scorchers' anguish at saving their most inept performance for the biggest of days, and agreed the slow going in the early overs had made a rush of wickets more likely. "In a situation like that, it's always difficult not to lose wickets in clusters and unfortunately we managed to do that a couple of times and never really got a partnership going, which is what has been one of our strengths throughout the season, so not our best batting day," she said. "It's a bad day of cricket really from us and we had to play it on the biggest stage in this tournament. Previously, the girls have done brilliantly and throughout the season different people have stood up...we couldn't have played any worse really."
As for Perry, there was relief at putting it all together in the final, a year after the Sixers had won far more narrowly over the Scorchers. "It was one of our best games of the season certainly, we started the tournament with a bit of a bang in Sydney when we put on 242 and to finish in the fashion we did today was absolutely awesome," she said. "I thought our composure was absolutely outstanding today, we seemed quite relaxed but really focused in the field. In hindsight, it was probably not a bad toss to lose because there was just a bit of moisture in the wicket early and I think it just held up and gave our bowlers enough to bowl at Elyse and Nicole. We kept the pressure on them and it showed in the end."
Perry reserved special praise for Coyte, and also noted the initiative of the coach Ben Sawyer, who first saw the possibility of bringing Coyte back into the fold. "Firstly, it was an absolute masterstroke from Ben Sawyer, our head coach, he noticed she'd been playing some grade cricket and gave her a call and asked her if she'd be interested," Perry said. "Secondly, and most importantly it's been an inspiration not only for the girls in our team but for lots of young girls who've watched her play. Coytey's got an extraordinary story and she's so strong and such a fighter and been really brave in what she's gone through and how she's spoken about it as well. To see her perform on the biggest stage and slot back into the team is a true testament to the character of her and how brave she is."