Cricket’s new golden girls clash in WBBL

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Australian cricket has its two new golden girls with the rise of Ashleigh Gardner and Tahlia McGrath highlighted in the WBBL final.

Gardner this week added the WBBL MVP award to her status as reigning medalist Belinda Clark, the Sydney Sixers’ all-rounder being one of the game’s most dangerous players.

Over the past two years, she has scored over 100 for Australia in both clean-ball formats and an average of 36.15, and is also the team’s third-highest wicket-taker with 25.

She will emerge as the Sixers’ X-factor, with her 85 of 48 last week against the Sydney Thunder demonstrating that Saturday’s venue at the North Sydney Oval is far too small for her.

McGrath’s run is arguably better.

The Adelaide Strikers skipper has been named Australia’s new vice-captain for the India tour after an incredible 18 months.

Off the national team prior to last summer, McGrath is now a permanent fixture averaging 56.15 in all formats since.

Australia have long possessed one of the most trusted cores in world cricket, with Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry leading the way.

But at a time when a changing of the guard looms, Gardner and McGrath are seated up front.

“The way Ash prepares her cricket CV, she has already achieved so much but still has a lot to do,” Perry said.

“But if you look around Australian cricket, there are so many superstars at the moment.

“Look at Tahlia last year and the 12 months she had.

“Someone like Phoebe Litchfield who’s been named to her first Australian team and just the incredible potential she’s showing.”

Perry has seen Gardner develop since she was a teenager in NSW, before seeing her explode.

“That comes from continuing to mature and gaining more experience and learning more about your game,” Perry said.

“It’s really just the beginning for her. It’s scary to think how young she still is.”

Gardner is one of the reasons the Sixers will enter Saturday’s final as favorites.

While they relied heavily on marquee names such as Healy and Perry in the early years, their rebound was built on broader contributions this summer.

They also had a much easier run than the Strikers, who were forced to catch a 6am flight from Adelaide on Friday to Sydney for the final after just three hours of sleep following the win of Thursday on Brisbane.

McGrath later admitted it was “not ideal”, but was adamant nothing would stand in the way of his side after last year’s big disappointment against Perth.

“Losing a final is never easy,” McGrath said.

“We were quite disappointed last year and used that hunger to drive all season.

“We are going there fearlessly, to play our best cricket, and we really want that trophy.”

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