The Sydney Sixers have turned Hurstville Oval into a fortress. And Alyssa Healy plans on keeping it that way.
The Sixers host the Adelaide Strikers for a women’s Big Bash League double-header on Saturday and Sunday looking to win their final two matches of the season to ensure they reach the finals.
The reigning champions are on top of the WBBL 03 table, though crosstown rivals the Sydney Thunder could climb to the summit should they beat the Melbourne Renegades in their match in hand in Canberra on Wednesday.
But a logjam at the top of the table means that the Sixers could still miss the finals were they to lose their final two matches to the Strikers.
Sydney continued their impressive record at Hurstville Oval on Friday when they downed the Brisbane Heat by 18 runs. It was the middle match in a busy period for the Sixers who won three games in four days including another win over Brisbane at the SCG and victory over the Melbourne Stars on Sunday.
And Australian wicketkeeper Healy told the Leader that the Sixers were keen to defend what she described as their home ground.
“This has become our little home ground for the Sixers. We love coming here. All the locals really get around it and we normally get a really nice crowd here that are really supportive. I don’t think we’ve ever lost a game for the Sixers here,” she said.
“Hopefully we get a nice wicket and quick outfield for the weekend. It’s a good size. Last weekend the outfield was perfect. It ran really quickly and historically we’ve had some really good, close games on here. For us it’s a really great place to play, it’s sort of an iconic ground here in Sydney. We enjoy coming here and the support we get is second to none.
“The support we get down here is really cool. Last Friday it was a weekday and still a heap of people came down to watch. It’s great to be able to play here on the weekend and hopefully people stroll on in and have a look and get behind the Sixers.”
The momentum built in the last week has the Sixers well placed heading into the final weekend of the regular season and on track to defend their WBBL 02 title.
“This game is all about momentum and I guess for us the last two seasons actually we’ve had some really good momentum heading into the finals,” Healy said.
“We’ve started to find a little bit of a groove in the last three games so hopefully we can capitalise on that and get two really important wins. I think the Strikers are in a pretty similar place to us, they’ll want to win both games and make sure they’re in the top four as well.
“It’s exciting. Six teams can still make the finals at this stage. From our point of view it’s a must-win for us but it’s also great for the competition and the sport that it’s so close.”
While Healy has endured a what she described as a “pretty average” season personally it hasn’t come without it’s highlights. The 27-year-old helped Australia retain the women’s Ashes after a drawn series against England in late last year.
And the popularity of that series has helped to springboard the new WBBL season which has continued to grow.
“It’s really cool. It’s exciting to see the young girls come out and see a future in the game,” Healy said.
“But also one of the most exciting things for me is the amount of young boys coming out at the SCG or local games and they know who each and every player is. It’s not just the male players, they know who all the girls are and which signatures they want which is really cool.
“It’s something I didn’t really see a couple of years back. Seeing that shift in the last 12 to 18 months has been really cool and hopefully it just continues to grow.
“It’s good for cricket in general. There was an untapped market there that no one had really thought about. So for Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW have been big supporters for a long time, to see that and see the growth in the game as a whole now that they’re reaching out to young girls is really special. And something that when I finish my career I can look back and be pretty chuffed that I was a part of.”
While cementing a finals place and helping the Sixers retain the WBBL title are the priorities, Healy, Australia’s wicketkeeper in all three formats of the game, also has one eye on the Twenty20 World Cup in November.
“I’ve struggled with the bat a bit [this season]. It’s been a bit frustrating, I’ve been hitting the ball really, really well and just sort of getting out in the middle and finding ways to get out,” she said.
“I’m a little bit frustrated at this point but there’s potentially four games left in the season that I can hopefully make an impact and contribute to a Sixers win.
“There’s obviously a T20 World Cup at the back end of this year that everyone is keeping an eye on. But from my point of view I’m just enjoying being a part of all the teams I’m a part of and haven’t set myself too many goals. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.
“Hopefully I can be a part of really successful teams and contribute. There’s a lot of other batters and keepers breathing down my neck at the moment so for me it’s just about going out and contributing and making sure that our team is winning.”
Play at Hurstville Oval between the Sixers and Strikers on both Saturday and Sunday starts at 2pm.