Cricket: Sting in the Scorpions’ tail

Lauren Ebsary in action for the Scorpions (photo: Cricket SA)
Lauren Ebsary in action for the Scorpions (photo: Cricket SA)

The Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) and Women’s Twenty20 (WT20) kick off on the weekend of October 10-12, and the Scorpions are preparing for a competitive and confident season.

Captain Lauren Ebsary is no stranger to the big stage, and is preparing the squad for their first match against the Victoria Spirit at the Junction Oval in Melbourne on October 10.  Getting to the finals is one of the key aims of this season, says the skipper.

“We’re pretty keen to play finals; we narrowly missed out on the WNCL final last year.  We’re hoping to achieve a finals berth in both (competitions); we’ve got a couple more internationals that will join us soon to bolster last years outfit.  We were a young team last year, so we weren’t expecting major things, but we finished off last season pretty well.”

Victoria and New South Wales have set the standard over recent years in Australia, securing nine out of the last ten trophies between them across the Twenty20 and One-Day competitions.  The dynamic of last year’s WT20 has now made it “open to anyone”, says Ebsary.

“I think last year’s final between ACT and Queensland demonstrated just how open it is.  The Victorians and New South Wales have a lot of the Australian reps, but we are starting to see a spread and the dominance of Victoria and New South Wales is fading.”

With that changing of the guard, Ebsary believes the remaining teams can make a move on the trophy.

“Teams like us, Tasmania, and the ACT are starting to get a sniff, and realise that we can certainly beat those the other teams, and the fear is diminishing.  We’ve got to start really well and come home strong.”

There are just six matches in the normal season of the WNCL, and the depth of New South Wales makes them a formidable force, Ebsary believes.

Sarah Taylor from England and Sophie Devine from New Zealand will bring more than 260 matches of international experience to the Scorpions, providing a huge boost to a squad that includes names such as Megan Schutt and young Bridget Patterson.

Ebsary says the Scorpions were “pretty particular” about who they wanted to sign for the season to fill their international player slots.  The skipper has also stood alongside Devine in Wellington colours for the last few seasons.

“We knew we could have two internationals, and we think our side is growing and still developing, but we thought one more batsmen (Devine) would be fantastic, and we probably snared the best international cricketers going around.

“Sophie captains Wellington, and she’s an all-rounder, so she’s going to be there for her bowling, but more so for her batting.  We’ll be utilising Sarah at the top of the order for her high calibre batting.”

An important part of any sport team is a positive and inclusive culture, and the SACA support staff are hard at work to put that in place, Ebsary believes.  There is, however, plenty of emphasis on individual effort.

“We have got our sports psychologist, Matt McGregor who is really welcoming if the girls are struggling with anything.  We have a really tight bunch of girls that is almost like family; no-one’s on the outer, and everyone enjoys each other’s company.”

Plenty of interest has been invested into Australian women’s cricket, and much of it is thanks to new innovations from the commercial TV networks last season.  Ebsary says the increased coverage of the women’s game can help children of both genders to become enamoured with the sport.

“They’ve seen somebody on the TV that they love; I used to emulate Andrew Symonds, and it was purely from watching on TV and his ability with the bat.  I knew that’s how I got into the game, and now, especially for the girls, the more access they have to their idols the higher the participation rates may be.”

Ebsary has plenty of demand and pressure placed on her role as skipper, but the mentality of keeping a positive image for the Scorpions, she says, with the help of governing bodies, allows for game promotion that further strengthens the relationship of the women’s game with the existing and new audience.

“We want to push that we have an exciting brand, and Cricket Australia is pushing out the message of ‘Australia’s favourite sport.’  Whenever we’re talking to the media, we’re the driving the message out there and making sure we’re professional in public.”

Travelling is a staple of a cricket schedule, and the skipper has seen action overseas recently in New Zealand and England.  Having the opportunity to play in different conditions was a real eye opener, Ebsary declares.

“I played a handful of games for Middlesex, but I’ve now spent two years back and forth playing in Wellington.  The way the girls go about their cricket over there, they are a much stronger side to a lot of the Australian players.

“They go hard at any opportunity they can.  It helps to grow my game and beneficial that I can bring that experience back and share it with our coaching staff to see if there are other ways we can win.”

At state level, there is always the expectation to perform well, but the Scorpions have such a varied list of talent that picking a squad of eleven for each game there’s plenty in the pool that can stand up, says Ebsary.

“We had seven debutantes last year, and almost all of them had a breakout year.  The second year is always the toughest; but Sam Betts and Talia McGrath stand out.  They’re mainly bowlers, but we shaped Talia into a number five or six bat, and to potentially come up the order.”

Women’s cricket will continue to grow both on television and at the ground, with the Scorpions set to play two WT20 matches ahead of Adelaide Strikers home games in the Big Bash League at the Adelaide Oval.  The opportunity to step onto the hallowed turf will hopefully attract more people before the main clash.

“The girls are absolutely stoked to play on Adelaide Oval, because we’ve been pushed off the ground in recent years because of the redevelopment.  It’s a fantastic initiative that only encourages more people to come down and watch us.”

Alex Pryce might be raising a bit of mischief in the rooms though, says Ebsary of the 18 year old.

“She is an individual, and a good laugh.  She comes from a family who encourages her, and she’s grown up fairly loud and bubbly, and doesn’t mind being the centre of attention.  She’s a really good person to have around when the chips are down.”

The calibre of the players the Scorpions have signed will have the rest of the sides on the back foot to try and contain them.  Victoria won’t relent though, with a host of powerful players to face up against South Australia.

(find the standard “edition” of the article here at Upstart)


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