Of runs, records and astounding TV numbers

We've got everything. The biggest numbers

The first two Women's Big Bash League were based on a tight balance between ball and bat. More often than not, six per over was competitive. Not so in the explosive opening weekend to season three, where willow monstered leather like never before. The six fixtures totalled a staggering 2023 runs, with five of the eight teams making their highest-ever scores.

The party started at North Sydney, when Sydney Thunder plundered 200 for 6. The highest total in the tournament's history lasted all of three hours.

For 12 months, Ashleigh Gardner has threatened to do something ridiculous if given the leash. When Melbourne Stars invited Sydney Sixers to bat first, the leash was off. Combining raw power with a peerless eye, the No. 3 hit 10 sixes on her way to the fastest WBBL century, donging multiple bombs off the corrugated iron of grandstand roofs.

Gardner's 47-ball ton became 114 from 52 by the time she was out in the 14th over. She might have bettered Thunder's mark on her own had she batted through the innings. Added to Ellyse Perry's unbeaten 91 in 49 balls, the score was 242 for 4 when the onslaught was over, higher than anything in either the men's or women's Big Bash.

Adelaide Strikers also tallied their two best scores, at home, taking Hobart Hurricanes for 183 for 3 then 176 for 6. Suzie Bates, their new captain, was up to her neck in it, tallying a 65-ball century that looked sedate compared to the scenes in Sydney. The bowling was equally glittering, with star leg-spinner Amanda Wellington returning figures of 3 for 9 off four overs in one game.

Perhaps the South Australian franchise finally have their act together, after finishing last in both campaigns so far. The news is less positive for Stars and Hurricanes, beaten badly in both their games and a long way from sharing in the boom. Don't be surprised if recession follows.

The fastest fifties

When you have teams breaking records willy nilly, it's logical that individual ones would be part of it. Those fell thick and fast too. Gardner unsurprisingly set the fastest WBBL fifty on her way to her hundred, getting there in 22 balls. But in the chase, South Africa's Lizelle Lee briefly gave the Stars hope of an impossible result, matching Gardner's record for fifty before eventually falling for a 36-ball 64.

But neither of those would likely have been the record, had Nicola Carey got another ball or two to face. The diminutive seamer, picked in the first two seasons for her bowling, flayed ball after ball to the boundary in Thunder's opening innings. With two balls left in the innings, she did the team thing to take every run available and lost the strike. The end result? A knock of 47 not out from just 17 balls.

The biggest crowds

The burst at the batting crease was match by an eruption in onlookers. Close to 9000 people came through the gates at North Sydney Oval for the four games there, comfortably eclipsing the substantial Women's Ashes attendances at the venue earlier this season.

When Gardner was lighting it up, televisions were switched on around the nation. At its peak, the audience reached a massive 629,000 on free-to-air broadcaster Network Ten. Taken as a whole, television audiences over the weekend were 59 per cent up on the average of last year. Proof once again that if you screen it, they will stay at home.

The worst mistakes?

Of all the people watching television, it turned out the third umpire was paying least attention. Jess Duffin, who has played 117 games for Australia earlier in her career under her maiden name of Jess Cameron, was on fire for the Renegades against Thunder. But what could have been an all-time classic win was derailed by a shocker of a decision.

Chasing 200 set up by Carey, Renegade openers Sophie Molineux and Chamari Atapattu battered 67 between them to get things moving. Enter Duffin: by the time she'd laced the boundaries for 81 from 46 balls, Melbourne needed 28 off 17 balls.

At that point, Duffin reverse-swept Bates, and Lisa Griffith at short third man dived forward to catch. The fielder's appeal was unconvinced, and replays clearly showed that while there may have been a finger under the ball, there was no doubt it touched the ground as the catcher reeled it in.

The fielders went back to their marks, the batter prepared to resume, and then the big screen flashed up "OUT!" A mystifying decision, as wrong as one can be, and one that let Thunder close out a game that could have had a grandstand finish. We're still mad.

And we've got more to come.

The WBBL carnival hits four capitals cities in the week ahead, starting on Friday December 15 when the Heat host Scorchers in a replay of last year's semi-final. Back then, Perth bolted it in by nine wickets, so the Brisbane side will require little incentive to turn the tables.

In western Sydney, Thunder take on Stars on Saturday before meeting their crosstown rivals for the first time this season on the opening night of the Men's Big Bash on Tuesday.

Over the weekend in Adelaide, the Strikers have a chance to consolidate at home against Renegades, while Hurricanes need to arrest their dreadful start back home in Hobart against the rampaging Sixers on Sunday.