Athapaththu and Bates’ all-round record keeps Thunder in contention for home grand final

Athapaththu and Bates' all-round record keeps Thunder in contention for home grand final

Sydney Thunder 120 for 1 (Athapaththu 77*) beat Perth Scorchers 116 for 8 (Jones 37)

In-form Chamari Athapaththu claimed two wickets before powering Sydney Thunder past the Perth Scorchers at the Cricket Central ground as the race for the WBBL top spot heats up.

Athapaththu was part of Thunder’s disciplined spin brigade that restricted Scorchers to a modest 116 for 8 in the day’s match.

In response, Athapaththu took over after a disastrous departure from Phoebe Litchfield, who had replaced Tahlia Wilson at the top of the order.

Having failed to respond to Litchfield’s call at the non-striker’s end, Athapaththu made amends with her incredible 77 off 53 balls punctuated by a calculated assault on player Alana King.

Captain Heather Knight supported her well as Thunder headed towards the target in the 17th over.

Star all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt bowled for the first time this season but to no avail as Scorchers’ four-match winning streak was snapped.

It was a vital victory for the Thunder, who moved to within one point of the league leaders Scorchers.

Thunder elected to bowl first in what looked like a brave decision amid flat and sunny conditions in Sydney. They had to face a red-hot Scorchers batting order led by stars Beth Mooney and Sophie Devine, who have enjoyed rekindling their partnership at the top.

Having started the season ranked number 4, Devine excelled alongside Mooney and looked to be once again propelling Scorchers to a big total.

After a cautious start avoiding the seam move of the new ball, Devine made her move hitting seamer Marizanne Kapp on the ground for a belligerent boundary.

It also turned on left-handed hitter Mooney, who had previously struggled to pierce a stacked side field with Kapp tipping the ball toward her. She smashed Kapp for consecutive fours and hit four boundaries in the space of five balls.

Mooney, who had scored 289 runs and was dismissed only once in her last four innings, had one life on 25 when Knight dropped her at extra cover. It looked like Thunder would rue the missed opportunity, but two balls later, Mooney was trapped by Lauren Smith.

He triggered a collapse with seamer Sammy-Jo Johnson in the next claim for his 100th WBBL wicket after bowling to Devine, who failed to connect on a delivery that didn’t bounce as high as he had hoped.

Given the form of Devine and Mooney, Sciver-Brunt had not been much in demand in her five games this season. It seemed like a perfect scenario for her, but Sciver-Brunt’s stay at the crease was brief after being bowled by Smith for eight.

The Scorchers continued to lose wickets with Chloe Piparo bowled cleanly by Athapaththu in an ungainly dismissal spelling their plight. At 78 for 7 in the 17th over, Scorchers looked set for the ignominy of a sub-three-figure score before an aggressive Amy Jones made 37 off just 16 balls.

Jones in the 19th over topped the Scorchers’ first six innings and added another, but his poor total made light work of Thunder, who earned a priceless victory.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth.