Melbourne Stars 165 for 8 (Lanning 55) beat Sydney Sixers 163 for 9 (Gardner 72, Sutherland 4-27) by two runs
Gardner, leading the side in the absence of the suspended Ellyse Perry, marshalled a stand of 84 in eight overs alongside Maitlan Brown after Sixers’ chase had slumped to 71 for 6 in the 11th over.
However, having got the equation down to 15 off 12 balls, Gardner then struck a boundary off Sutherland to make it 11 from 11 when she was cleaned up. Sutherland then sent down a big full toss that was called no-ball, but three deliveries later had Brown caught in the deep to claim her best WBBL figures which had followed an important contribution with the bat.
It left eight needed from the final over which proved out of reach for Linsey Smith and Lauren Cheatle against England allrounder Alice Capsey although the last delivery was a borderline wide.
Lanning’s innings, alongside useful contributions from Sutherland and Maia Bouchier lifted Stars to a healthy total. Her innings included a pulled six onto the hill and her trademark square drive was on display.
But she had earlier been grateful for the DRS when given out caught behind on 12 with the replay confirming she had clipped her pad. Lanning had shown good form on her return for Victoria in the WNCL with three half-centuries in four innings and continued that in the green of Stars.
After Gardner had removed Lanning, Sutherland and Bouchier gave Stars a platform for a strong finish with 42 runs coming in four overs but Sixers were able to pull things back a little despite Stars holding their power surge overs until the 18th and 19th.
Kim Garth, who had been impressive against West Indies, started the chase with a maiden to immediately apply pressure to the home side. It was 10 balls before Garth conceded a run then Bates skied her high to mid-off.
Sixers then suffered another major blow when Alyssa Healy, who two balls after sending Sophie Day for six, clothed to mid-on.
One of the notable moments of the game came when 18-year-old fast bowler Milly Illingworth struck in her first over trapping fellow debutant, 17-year-old Kate Pelle, lbw with a quick full delivery. Speaking the day before, Lanning, her Victoria team-mate, had noted her pace and the first ball of Illingworth’s over was clocked at 121kph.
Sixers’ hopes further faded when Erin Burns, who had starred as a finisher last season, fell for a duck and when Sutherland struck in consecutive overs it appeared game over. Because of Gardner it wasn’t, until Sutherland came back at the death.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo