Athapaththu bludgeons Stars to help Thunder go top

Sydney Thunder 128 for 1 (Athapaththu 69, Wilson 45*) beat Melbourne Stars 123 for 5 (Sutherland 42*, Darlington 2-13) by nine wickets

Chamari Athapaththu has bludgeoned the Melbourne Stars’ attack to help lead the Sydney Thunder to the top of the WBBL table with a nine-wicket win at Casey Fields.

After Hannah Darlington was in everything with the ball for the Thunder to restrict the Stars to 123 for 5, Athapaththu blitzed 69 from 40 balls to chase down the target with 7.1 overs to spare.

Wooden-spooners last season with one win in the entire season, the Thunder now have a 4-1 record this summer and loom as genuine contenders. Darlington and Athapaththu continue to be big parts of that.

After being overlooked in the overseas player draft and only scooped up by the Thunder just before the tournament, Athapaththu has proved a point in the opening weeks. The Sri Lankan’s 69 on Saturday follows scores of 52 and 80 earlier in the tournament, to now be the competition’s second-leading run-scorer.

Given a life when Rhys McKenna missed a chance on the long-on rope on 29, Athapaththu whacked 11 boundaries and two sixes in her knock. The most damage came when she helped take spinner Sasha Moloney for 28 off one over, with two sixes over the legside and three fours through the off. Tahlia Wilson also made 45 from 33 in the chase, forming part of a 119-run opening stand with Athapaththu.

Earlier, Darlington backed up her 4 for 33 against the Renegades during the week with 2 for 13 from four overs on Saturday. The 21-year-old had an impact from the outset, going for just one in the opening over, before pulling off a direct-hit run-out moments later to remove Sophie Reid.

With the ball Darlington was then able to build up enough pressure to have Meg Lanning dismissed for 17. Hit on the pad by Darlington and given not out, Australia’s captain took off for a quick single and was sent back before being run out by Claire Moore. In her next over, Darlington bowled Alice Capsey for 17 with one that stayed low, before trapping Maia Bouchier lbw next ball.

Handed her Australian debut as a 19-year-old two years ago, Darlington is now showing that kind of form again for the Thunder.

While the Thunder are flying, the Stars have just two wins from their opening seven games and are in real trouble at the competition’s halfway mark.

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