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Defending WBBL to be tougher for Thunder

AAP logoAAP 7/12/2016 Scott Bailey

Winning the inaugural Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) title was tough enough for the Sydney Thunder - but defending it will be even harder.

The success of the competition last summer has brought with it not just an increase in television coverage and live streaming, but also an influx of overseas stars in 2016-17, with almost every team benefiting.

While last summer representative players were littered around the competition, 45 of the 112 women named in the top squads this summer have already played for their country - equating to more than 40 per cent of players and a 25 per cent increase on last year.

"The opportunity to play with internationals and play against them helps us showcase the best of women's cricket," Thunder offspinner Erin Osborne said.

"The really exciting thing is it gives young kids the chance to play, and play with them as well."

Osborne, who has played 121 matches for Australia across all forms, was part of the Thunder team that combined those working parts best in 2015-16.

While a number of NSW's bigger names headed cross-town to the Sydney Sixers, Osborne and NSW captain Alex Blackwell partnered with West Indian star Stefanie Taylor to nurture the likes of Naomi Stalenberg and Lauren Cheatle into the big time.

The plan worked so well that by the end of the summer the two youngsters were named in an Australian squad and the Thunder had beaten the likes of Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy at the Sixers in a nail-biting WBBL final.

A result Osborne doesn't believe those in magenta would have taken too kindly to.

"I'm sure Sydney Sixers didn't like playing second-fiddle to us last year," she said.

"I know they'll be out for revenge this year, but hopefully we can keep them at bay for another year."

It's not just the Sixers that Osborne expects challenges from though.

While the Thunder have only added Indian allrounder Harmanpreet Kaur to an otherwise unchanged squad, Adelaide's recruitment and retention has seen them name nine players with international experience.

Meanwhile Perth, who will start this summer's tournament with the first match of two triple-headers at North Sydney this weekend against Hobart, have recruited England's two opening bowlers in Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole.

"I think the biggest threat is probably Perth," Osborne said.

"They're two of the world's best bowlers at the moment."

The Thunder open their campaign against the Melbourne Stars as part of the triple-header at North Sydney on Saturday night, before 59 matches - all live streamed and 11 televised - culminate in the final, on January 28.

And Osborne admitted that while they had become the hunted, there was reason to believe in the squad that got the job done last season.

"We're under no allusions - we have to play pretty good cricket," she said.

"But I think we've got depth.

"When you look at the other squads they've got some really good stand-out players but I think where we can get the edge on them is purely in our depth."

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