Alyssa Healy smashed a rollicking half-century as the Sydney Sixers opened the women’s Twenty20 Big Bash League with a six-wicket win over the Melbourne Stars with four balls to spare on Thursday.

Chasing down the Stars’ 99 for one in a match shortened to 11 overs a side due to rain, the Sixers lost Indian opener, Shafali Verma, for eight before Healy took charge at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.

The Australian wicket-keeper smashed 11 boundaries in her 57 off 27 balls before falling late in the game.

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Despite skipper Ellyse Perry also departing soon after for seven, Nicole Bolton (seven not out) and Angela Reakes (three not out) steered them home.

The win opened the seventh season of a tournament rapidly growing in popularity, with all 59 matches being broadcast this year for the first time.

But it has been a rocky ride again, with the first 20 games all being played in Tasmania state due to ongoing Covid-related travel restrictions in Australia.

Last season the entire tournament was played in a Sydney hub.

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While some top international names are missing, a big drawcard this year is the Indian contingent with eight players who recently toured Australia with the national team staying on.

They include Verma, Poonam Yadav (Brisbane Heat), Harmanpreet Kaur (Melbourne Renegades), Richa Ghosh (Hobart Hurricanes), and Smriti Mandhana (Sydney Thunder).

Last year’s champion Sydney Thunder is not only missing England’s Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont but also skipper Rachael Haynes. Haynes is on parental leave. Sydney gets its campaign underway on Saturday against the Adelaide Strikers.

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