Ashleigh Gardner has capped off her best all-round Big Bash season in style, crowned the player of the tournament for Weber WBBL|08, while young Melbourne Stars allrounder Tess Flintoff has been named the competition’s best young player.
Gardner’s performances with bat and ball have played a key role in the Sixers’ dramatic resurgence this tournament, rocketing from bottom of the table last year to top of the ladder and Saturday’s final this time around.
The Aussie allrounder took out the WBBL’s top individual honor after a campaign that saw her score 339 runs in 13 innings at a strike rate of 153, finishing the regular season fifth on the tournament runs table.
Her strike rate was the highest of any player to pass 200 runs, while she hit a league-leading 14 sixes.
With the ball, the off-spinner claimed 23 wickets to finish equal top of the wickets tally alongside Strikers star Megan Schutt.
The 25-year-old, who has extended his contract with the Sydney Sixers for a further three years, is the first local player to take out the award since WBBL|04; India’s Harmanpreet Kaur was crowned the tournament’s best last summer, while Sophie Devine went back-to-back prior to that.
Gardner has scored more runs in a single season on two other occasions, hitting 414 in WBBL|02 and 347 in WBBL|03, but her strike rate this season is significantly higher than either of those years, where her runs came at 114 and 128 respectively.
But her biggest improvements have come with the ball; Gardner has evolved into a key weapon for the Sixers in the powerplay and Power Surge, and her 23 scalps this season is a dramatic improvement on her previous best, the 11 she claimed in WBBL | 05.
“It was an outstanding season from Ash from both bat and ball,” national selector Shawn Flegler said this week. “I think she’s the fittest she’s ever been as well.
“She took some time off after the Commonwealth Games to come back and have a little bit of a break, work on her fitness and her game, and it’s just gone to another level.
“She’s worked really hard on her game for a number of years and now she’s seeing those results.”
Votes were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis by both standing umpires at the end of every match, meaning a player can receive up to six votes per match.
Gardner polled 33 votes to finish well ahead of Brisbane Heat allrounder Amelia Kerr who polled 25 votes, while Scorcher Beth Mooney, Striker Megan Schutt (both 21 votes) and Sixers captain Ellyse Perry (20) rounded out the top five.
Flintoff future shines bright with Young Gun award
Meanwhile Tess Flintoff, 19, joins a star-studded list of players to win the tournament’s Young Gun award, which bodes well for the Stars allrounder’s future prospects.
Every Young Gun winner from the first six seasons of the WBBL has since debuted for Australia: Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Hannah Darlington and Darcie Brown.
Last year’s winner, Phoebe Litchfield, was named in her first Australia squad earlier this week and could make a T20I debut in India next month.
The Young Gun award – for players aged 21 or under during the tournament – is chosen by national selector Shawn Flegler.
Flintoff took on greater responsibility with the ball this season, but it was with the bat that she generated the biggest headlines, hammering the fastest ever WBBL. half-century off just 16 balls against the Adelaide Strikers at North Sydney Oval.
Flintoff, who debuted aged 16 in WBBL|05, hit 116 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 165.71, while claiming four wickets and impressing with her athleticism and accuracy in the field.
Unfortunately, her season was cut short in Tasmania last week when she injured her shoulder taking a diving outfield catch.
The teenager has avoided major damage, however, and will look to return for Victoria later in the season.
Weber WBBL|08 Player of the Tournament
1) Ashleigh Gardner (Sydney Sixers) – 33 votes
2) Amelia Kerr (Brisbane Heat) – 25
3) Beth Mooney (Perth Scorchers) – 21
4) Megan Schutt (Adelaide Strikers) – 21
5) Ellyse Perry (Sydney Sixers) – 20
6) Heather Graham (Hobart Hurricanes) – 18
7) Alyssa Healy (Sydney Sixers) – 18
8) Mignon du Preez (Hobart Hurricanes) – 18
9) Annabel Sutherland (Melbourne Stars) – 16
10) Hayley Matthews (Melbourne Renegades) – 16
Previous winners: Meg Lanning (WBBL|01), Beth Mooney (WBBL|02), Amy Satterthwaite (WBBL|03), Ellyse Perry (WBBL|04), Sophie Devine (WBBL|05), Sophie Devine (WBBL|06), Harmanpreet Kaur (WBBL|07)
WBBL Young Guns: Lauren Cheatle (WBBL|01), Ashleigh Gardner (WBBL|02), Sophie Molineux (WBBL|03), Georgia Wareham (WBBL|04), Hannah Darlington (WBBL|05), Darcie Brown (WBBL|06), Phoebe Litchfield (WBBL|07), Tess Flintoff (WBBL|08)
The Eliminator: Brisbane Heat defeat Hobart Hurricanes by 44 runs
The Challengers: Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat | Karen Rolton Oval | November 24, 7.10pm AEDT (6.40pm local)
The Final: Sydney Sixers v TBC | North Sydney Oval | November 26 at 5.20pm AEDT
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