The Thunder were up and down without their key players from WBBL|06 and struggled to build any momentum towards another trip to the finals. The Thunder finished 7th ahead of only their cross-town rivals the Sixers due to inconsistent performances on both sides of the ball.
This year is poised to tell a different story, however, with WBBL Thunder heroes Rachael Haynes and Tammy Beaumont returning to the side for this edition of the league. The team will be looking to turn around their performances with the restored experience while having mentors and examples to follow for their intriguing young players including Hannah Darlington and last year's Young Gun Phoebe Litchfield.
In the absence of Haynes and Beaumont last year, the Thunder were led by the strong batting performances of Smriti Mandhana who scored 377 runs last season at an average of 34.27. This included a WBBL record 114 not out in a narrow loss to the Renegades.
The Thunder's star bowler was Hannah Darlington who managed 16 wickets in just 13 games with an average of 20.75. The 20-year-old's presence in the bowling attack will be missed as she nurses an injury for the first half of the season, meaning the Thunder will be relying heavily on newcomer Belinda Vakarewa and the experienced players of Lauren Smith, Sam Bates and Sammy-Jo Johnson.
WBBL|07 was a disappointing season for the Thunder and they'll be looking to strike back emphatically this coming year.
How they did last year
7th - Missed finals (four wins and eight losses)
It was a tough season for the Sydney Thunder, never really being able to pick up enough momentum to work their way up the standings and only managing 4 wins. They can take solace in the fact that they had the second-highest net run rate among the teams that failed to qualify for the finals meaning that even in their losses, they were a competitive side.
Phoebe Litchfield was a bright point of a turbulent season, winning the Young Gun award for WBBL|07 and scoring a solid 263 runs in the season to be second in the total runs rankings on the team. Litchfield will be bringing in good for as well, hitting 107 against WA in the WNCL this month. The Thunder will also be helped out by talented wicketkeeper Tahlia Wilson who's coming off some good batting form in the WNCL with a 50 and 100 against Queensland and WA respectively.
How can they improve?
The key for the Thunder to pick up more wins this season will be batting depth. Too many times last season the Thunder were caught with scores short of where they'd been hoping. Usually, it would be only Mandhana or Litchfield who would perform across a batting lineup you'd expect to be at least 7 deep.
The recent form of Wilson will be an encouraging sign alongside the return of Haynes and the acquisition of talented and experienced overseas players Tammy Beaumont, Chloe Tryon and Amy Jones.
This added depth in the batting lineup despite the departure of Mandhana will mean the Thunder will remain a threat throughout their batting innings. The experienced players will also assist the development of the Thunder's younger local batters and the team looks set to make tangible progress in WBBL|08
Returning: Rachael Haynes (c), Sam Bates, Hannah Darlington, Jessica Davidson, Corinne Hall, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Anika Learoyd, Phoebe Litchfield, Olivia Porter, Lauren Smith, Tahlia Wilson
In: Tammy Beaumont (England), Chloe Tryon (South Africa), Amy Jones (England), Belinda Vakarewa (Hurricanes), Leah Tahuhu (New Zealand- Replacement Player)
Out: Issy Wong (England), Kate Peterson (Sixers), Smriti Mandhana (India), Deepti Sharma (India)
Dynamic batting is a trademark of the Sydney Thunder team and this season will be a return to that strength with their returns and acquisitions. Litchfield, Haynes and Tryon in particular will be looking to produce big scores throughout the batting card so that the Thunder can build insurmountable totals and chase effectively throughout the season.
This strength will be compounded in terms of importance as the bowling lineup beyond Bates and Johnson are inexperienced or lesser-known players who will be looking to make their mark with the ball but perhaps will be a touch inconsistent particularly in the early part of the season.
Navigating through the early part of the innings and performing in the power surge will be of significant importance for the Thunder when it comes to producing positive results, and their batters are of the calibre to produce in these important moments.
Being able to strike at crucial moments in the bowling innings is a massive difference-maker in the WBBL. The Thunder do have a player capable of producing these important wickets in Hannah Darlington, however, her injury will keep her out for at least a portion of the season.
Darlington was the only Thunder player to take more wickets than matches she played, and while the prospect of teenager Jessica Davidson is intriguing, she's still an unproven talent at this level. Furthermore, a significant threat in spin bowling beyond Bates will be important if the Thunder are able to become a team that's just as threatening with the ball as they are with the bat.
Tryon will take a couple of overs which will help fill through the 20 overs and Vakarewa's acquisition will be key but the structure of the Thunder's bowling innings remains to be seen in terms of roles and lineups.
Both Davidson and Litchfield have been identified as ace players in terms of potential with ball and bat, but to identify the definitive young star for the Thunder, it's difficult to look any further than last year's tournament Young Gun, Phoebe Litchfield.
Coming off a match-winning 100 in the WNCL and being one of the Thunder's key players last season, Litchfield is poised to take that extra step forward this season. Litchfield is viewed as one of Australia's best young batting talents, scoring two 50s for Australia A already at just 19 years old.
In terms of potential, the sky is the limit for young Litchfield and seeing how she develops this season will be a must-see for any Australian cricket fan.
1) Tammy Beaumont
2) Sammy-Jo Johnson
3) Phoebe Litchfield
4) Rachael Haynes (c)
5) Annika Learoyd
6) Chloe Tryon
7) Tahlia Wilson (wk)
8) Belinda Vakarewa
9) Lauren Smith
10) Leah Tahuhu
11) Sam Bates
Prediction for WBBL|08
The Thunder will be determined to bounce back this season and look poised to do so with their team moves and the return of Haynes. While making the finals would be a difficult prospect for them again this year, they will prove to be a determined and competitive team that can go toe to toe with anyone.
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