Priest powers Tigers to top of WNCL ladder

FORMER New Zealand international Rachel Priest has helped power Tasmania to the top of the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) standings, leapfrogging the NSW Breakers with a four-wicket win on Monday. Leading the Tigers’ pursuit of 198, Priest hit 84 (94) at the top of the order to lay the foundation for her side at North Sydney Oval.

Earlier, eyebrows were raised as the Breakers won the toss and elected to bat. It seemed a shrewd choice as their openers shot to 31 off five overs, but the loss of Saskia Horley (13) brought about a heavy top order collapse. Over the course of 12 overs, NSW lost 5-29 with Tahlia Wilson‘s 18 the highest score among the top six. Impressively, Maisy Gibson struck to claim three of those wickets.

An innings-high 51 (77) from Anika Learoyd helped set up a defendable target for the Breakers, supported by young gun Maitlan Brown who added 43 (65) before the Breakers were dismissed just shy of 200 off 48.3 overs. Mopping up the tail was Amy Smith, whose 3-32 off eight overs gave her the pick of the bowling figures.

Beginning their chase, the Tigers had a similar opening stand of 34 off 5.5 overs, but took the game away from NSW as experienced leaders Priest 84 (94) and Elyse Villani 44 (69) put on 93 for the second wicket. Even with both batters back in the sheds, Tasmania was in a comfortable position at 4-139 with 20 overs left to play.

The wobble came though, with NSW’s dangerous bowling attack very nearly turning the game on its head. Despite needing just three an over, a couple of cheap dismissals saw the Tigers stumble to 6-160 – enter Naomi Stalenberg. In at five, she proved the steadier to hit an unbeaten 22 (26) alongside Gibson (16no off 26) in a 43-run partnership to steer Tasmania home with 7.2 overs to spare.

While Priest’s feats earned her player of the match honours, Breakers quick, Brown pressed her claim with her batting efforts and 3-31 with the ball – including three of Tasmania’s top four batters. Sammy-Jo Johnson also claimed three poles, and made 19 (29) in an all-round effort.

The loss was NSW’s first of the season, and sees the Breakers slip to second with seven games played. In as many outings, Tasmania has now claimed two more wins and sits top of the ladder. The Tigers’ will again travel for their final game, against Victoria, while NSW will host Queensland in the final regular season bout of the 2021/22 campaign.

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