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WBBL 2023-24 – Sydney Thunder run out of steam but Heather Knight left proud by resurgent season


Captain Heather Knight implored Sydney Thunder to learn from a late season fadeout, but believed her team should be “proud” of their resurgence up the WBBL ladder.

After finishing with last season’s wooden spoon, Thunder’s bounce back season ended with a 44-run defeat to Brisbane Heat at the WACA ground in the elimination final. They finished with six losses in their last seven matches having been on top of the ladder after round eight.

“Frustrating…feels like we’ve run out of puff a little bit which is obviously annoying with the start to the season we had,” Knight said. “We just kind of lost momentum…the form dropped off a little and we looked a bit tired. But I still think it’s a season that the girls can be proud of.”

Thunder won just five games across the past two seasons in a fall from grace since lifting the title in WBBL06. But under the new leadership of Knight and coach Lisa Keightley, who led England from 2019-22, Thunder entered the season with an “underdog” mentality that served them well.

“It really helped us,” Knight said. “I think we’ve got some young talented players…Olivia Porter and Anika [Learoyd] in the middle order are developing and learning how to play in different conditions.

“We played a lot in different conditions actually, which has been quite interesting to adapt to and adapt the captaincy, so it’s been quite fun.”

The elimination final exposed a flagging Thunder, whose quicks struggled to find their lengths on a bouncy WACA surface after Knight elected to bowl. As had increasingly been the case as the season wore on, Thunder’s batting relied heavily on opener Chamari Athapaththu who was named the player of the tournament in her debut season with the team.

Athapaththu top-scored with 41 before she succumbed to a short-pitched delivery from Courtney Sippel, who along with fellow quick Nicola Hancock ripped through Thunder’s batting order.

“[We need to] make sure that we’re able to execute our skills for a little bit longer,” Knight said. “I feel like we fought really well… [but need to not] get in that position in the first place. We had to claw games back a little bit like [the Heat game].”

As expectations grew, Thunder struggled to cope and they were left to rue a defeat to crosstown rival Sydney Sixers in their final regular season game that cost them second spot and a home final in the Challenger.

“I think we just haven’t been used to being at the top…the mentality changes a little bit,” Knight said. “We probably lost a little bit of freedom, a few people maybe tensed up a little bit and that’s a really good learning I think.

“I think this team should believe that they should be in the top four. I think at the start of the season we definitely would have taken making it to the final stages.”



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