Sydney Thunder stumble out of the blocks with loss to Strikers

Sydney Thunder found out just how hard life could be this season without inspirational captain Rachael Haynes after the start of their title defence unravelled at the hands of the country’s player of the moment.

Before an empty stadium at Blundstone Arena, the women in lime had no answers to the white-hot Tahlia McGrath, who starred with bat and ball in the Adelaide Strikers’ 30-run victory over the reigning champions.

Sydney Thunder batter Phoebe Litchfield was unable to get going against the Strikers. Credit:Getty

Fresh off a breakthrough series with the national side, McGrath rescued her side with the bat by top-scoring with 42 off 34 balls then crippled the Thunder’s run chase with three vital wickets just as the Sydneysiders were mounting a late charge

The highlight of the night came late when Bridget Patterson claimed one of the catches of the season to dismiss England import Issy Wong. Patterson snared a one-hander on the boundary then threw the ball back up as she avoided the rope before stepping back into the field of play to complete the catch.

The casual manner in which she celebrated was not reflective of the difficulty of the play she had pulled off.

In pursuit of 141 for victory, the Thunder struggled after their aces at the top of the order, Smriti Mandhana and Phoebe Litchfield, fell cheaply.

McGrath landed the key wicket of Mandhana, the sensation from India, then turned the game by dismissing Anika Learoyd and Corinne Hall in consecutive deliveries in the 15th over.

McGrath finished with the excellent figures of 3-17 from her four overs, continuing her coming of age season.

Bogged down initially as they sought to rebuild the innings, Learoyd and Hall had kept the asking rate to just under a manageable 10 an over with wickets in hand, but the wheels quickly fell off after their departures.

Haynes’s calmness in a crisis was keenly missed by side that is likely to have to make do without her for possibly the entire tournament.

The Strikers, too, were without one of their weapons Megan Schutt, who is missing the Hobart leg of the WBBL so she can spend time with her wife Jess after the birth of their first child.

Adelaide were in trouble early with the bat after slumping to 4-46 in the seventh over but McGrath and Madeline Penna rescued the innings with a vital 69-run partnership.

“I’m loving that middle order,” McGrath said. “At the top didn’t work for me last year but I’m loving coming into bat in the middle order and working my way into the innings and giving myself the chance to go big at the end.”

“At the top I was taking unnecessary risks and putting too much pressure on myself.”

The Sydney Sixers’ clash with the Hobart Hurricanes on Sunday was brought forward to the morning to give the Perth Scorchers more time to prepare after their delayed arrival into Tasmania.

The Tasmanian government on Saturday gave Cricket Australia the green light to stage the scheduled games across the weekend despite Hobart being in lockdown.

Games are to be played under strict biosecurity protocols with no fans allowed to attend.

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