Women’s Big Bash League 2023: Schedule, format and England stars to watch

The Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) returns on Thursday with the ninth edition of one of the world’s leading franchise tournaments.

Eight teams make up the Australia-based tournament, and the women’s competition takes place separately from the men’s, in contrast to The Hundred in the UK.

Several England stars are involved, but some players from New Zealand and South Africa will only be available for part of the tournament because of international commitments that clash with the early stages.

Here is everything else you need to know about the 2023 WBBL.

When is the 2023-24 Women’s Big Bash?

The tournament begins on Thursday 19 October, with Sydney Sixers taking on Melbourne Stars at the North Sydney Oval.

The group stage comes to an end on 26 November, with the final taking place on 2 December.

What is the format?

The group stage format is simple, with all the teams playing each other twice, but that does make the group stage very long, with 56 matches to be played.

The team that finishes top of the table will progress straight into the final, while the teams that finish third and fourth will play in an eliminator.

The winner of the eliminator then plays the team that finished second in the group stages in the challenger for a place in the final.

This year’s WBBL also saw a player draft take place for the first time in the competition’s history, a process that also happened for The Hundred and the inaugural Women’s Premier League in India.

Each team was able to sign up to three overseas players, and there were no longer any restrictions on how many Cricket Australia contracted players that they could sign.

Who are the defending champions?

Adelaide Strikers will be looking to defend their title, having beaten Sydney Sixers in 2022 to earn their first WBBL triumph.

The Sixers finished top of the table in last year’s edition after winning a record 11 group-stage games but the Strikers were inspired by former West Indies all-rounder Deandra Dottin, whose half-century and two wickets led them to a 10-run victory.

But the Sixers, who are two-time WBBL champions, will be keen for redemption particularly under the leadership of former England batter Charlotte Edwards, who is building a reputation as one of the most sought-after coaches in women’s cricket.

After leading the Sixers to last year’s final, she has since won the WPL with Mumbai Indians at the first time of asking and won The Hundred with Southern Brave.

Which England players are involved?

There is plenty of England involvement, with some playing in the tournament for the first time and other big names missing.

Reigning champions Strikers have recruited English domestic player Georgia Adams. The 30-year-old all-rounder is uncapped internationally but a regular star performer on the regional circuit – a top-order batter who was also the leading wicket-taker in this year’s Hundred.

Strikers have also signed all-rounder Danielle Gibson, 22, who made her international debut during this year’s Ashes. Gibson is primarily a seamer but provides lower-order aggression with the bat.

Brisbane Heat will have the services of England leg-spinner Sarah Glenn for the early part of the tournament until New Zealand counterpart Amelia Kerr returns from international duty. Glenn is joined by youngster Bess Heath, a powerful batter who made her England debut against Sri Lanka in September.

Opening batter Bryony Smith, who has represented England but struggled to nail down a place, will represent Hobart Hurricanes.

England regular Tammy Beaumont will look to further press her case for a spot in the T20 side, which has one eye on the World Cup in Bangladesh in September 2024, by playing for Melbourne Renegades. Beaumont is in fine form after scoring the first women’s century in The Hundred in August.

Melbourne Stars boast the most England players with Sophia Dunkley, Alice Capsey and Maia Bouchier in their ranks. It is Dunkley’s first experience of the WBBL while Bouchier and Capsey have both been involved with the Stars before, in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

England wicketkeeper Amy Jones will represent Perth Scorchers, and they are also coached by former England spinner Becky Grundy. Danni Wyatt was originally drafted by the Scorchers, but she withdrew because of her workload.

Finally, England captain Heather Knight will lead Sydney Thunder, and is reunited with former England head coach Lisa Keightley. Seamer Lauren Bell has also been picked by Thunder.

World number one spinner Sophie Ecclestone will not feature as she recovers from a dislocated shoulder, with fellow internationals Kate Cross and Issy Wong going unsold in the draft.

Who else should I look out for?

One of the biggest headlines in the competition is the return of Australia captain Meg Lanning, who is set to return to cricket after missing the Ashes because of medical reasons.

Lanning has been named as Stars’ captain, having missed the competition last year when the side struggled and finished sixth.

Another of the world’s in-form players has been given captaincy duties in West Indies all-rounder Hayley Matthews, who will lead the Renegades.

Renegades also drafted very well to retain the services of star batter Harmanpreet Kaur, the only India player involved.

One of the world’s quickest bowlers Shabnim Ismail will represent the Hurricanes. Ismail recently retired from international cricket but remains one of the most exciting bowlers in the world game.

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