Sydney Thunder has fallen agonising short to the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL semi-final at Drummoyne Oval.
The match went right down to the final delivery with a six needed to win and four to force the match into a super over. Nicola Carey (19) hit a sweetly timed slog sweep out to deep mid-wicket, which would have cleared the boundary rope if not for an excellent catch by Haidee Birkett.
Earlier Thunder captain Alex Blackwell won the toss and elected to bowl first at Drummoyne Oval. The Heat made a quick start in the power play however they also lost two wickets, including the crucial wicket of Australian opener Beth Mooney.
Mooney, who made a match-winning 102 from 55 against the Thunder in Cairns last Saturday, was dismissed for 14. In her first match back from injury, Rene Farrell provided the breakthrough and Sam Bates took the catch at mid-off. The Heat were 2/38 after six, which quickly became 3/38 when Heat captain Kirby Short fell for a first ball duck.
Sammy-Jo Johnson became the wicket to get for the Thunder to keep the run rate in check. She hammered two consecutive sixes from the ninth over to get her innings going but departed for 33 from 26 to the left-arm orthodox spin of Bates (1-19). Naomi Stalenberg claimed the catch in the deep and followed that with another on the boundary rope to dismiss Australian all-rounder Jess Jonassen (13). At that stage the Heat were 5/78.
A crucial 32 not out from 25 balls by Laura Harris saw the Heat finish 7/140 from their 20 overs. Thunder had six individual wicket takers for the innings with Stafanie Taylor returning best figures of 1-13.
Heat made the perfect start in reply. Johnson claimed the key wicket of leading run-scorer for the Thunder in WBBL|04 Rachael Haynes for a duck in the first over. The opening batter had made 376 runs at a strike rate of 114.63 leading into the semi-final.
The wicket of Haynes meant Rachel Priest needed to take a lead role in the chase. The former New Zealand wicket keeper made 44 from 33 balls and when she fell with the score on 66 in the ninth over Thunder's chase lost momentum.
Blackwell (29 from 28) eventually found the boundary, hitting a four and a six from the 18th over to bring victory within reach before Nicola Carey (19 from 10 balls) almost led Thunder to the final.
Thunder made two changes for the semi-final from the side that narrowly went down to the Heat by three wickets in Cairns last Saturday.
Seamer Rene Farrell returned from a finger injury and fast bowler Belinda Vakarewa also came back into the side. They replaced all-rounder Rachel Trenaman and Harmanpreet Kaur who departed for international duties.
The Heat made one change to the team that won in Cairns. Pace bowler Haidee Birkett replaced Georgia Prestwidge.
Sydney Thunder: Alex Blackwell (c), Sam Bates, Nicola Carey, Rene Farrell, Maisy Gibson, Lisa Griffith, Rachael Haynes, Rachel Priest (wk), Naomi Stalenberg, Stafanie Taylor, Belinda Vakarewa.
Brisbane Heat: Kirby Short (c), Jemma Barsby, Haidee Birkett, Josie Dooley, Grace Harris, Laura Harris, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Laura Wolvaardt.
THE TURNING POINT
Thunder's chase lost momentum after the wicket of Priest in the ninth over. Heat restricted Thunder to just 26 runs from the next six overs.
THE FINAL OVER
Jess Jonassen had the ball for the Heat with Nicola Carey and Maisy Gibson in the middle and Thunder needing 13 runs to win.
Carey and Gibson made singles from the first two deliveries before Carey hit a four to give Thunder a chance. The pair made a couple more singles to leave Carey on strike with a six required to win. The final ball sailed into the deep but was taken by Birkett to see Thunder fall short by four runs.
PERFORMANCE OF THE MATCH
Priest played superbly during her hard-hitting 44 from 33, including five fours and two sixes, and was tidy behind the stumps as always.