Alana King's move west pays dividends with gains on and off the field

Alana King continued her impressive season Getty Images

Over to you, Alana. That was the statement Amanda-Jade Wellington made on Wednesday night with her WBBL record 5 for 8 in the Eliminator for Adelaide Strikers.

The two best legspinners in the WBBL have been making their mark all season, with an Ashes spot potentially in the offing following Georgia Wareham's season-ending knee injury.

But, as the pair come head-to-head again on in the final on Saturday, Alana King isn't looking that far ahead.

"I think the higher honours will take care of itself," King told ESPNcricinfo. "I've got tunnel vision for the Scorchers. We've got one more game of the season to finish off and hopefully, we're lifting that trophy."

King, 26, has been a revelation as part of the Scorchers' revamped squad that is one win away from the title. She has claimed 16 wickets in just 12 innings, compared to Wellington's 22 in 16.

But King hasn't just had one good season to put herself into the frame for national selection. Last season, playing at Melbourne Stars, she also took 16 wickets and helped Stars reach the final. King's economy rates have set her apart, conceding 5.82 runs per over this season and 6.00 last year, while Wellington conceded 6.52 this year and 7.81 last season. King has even been more frugal with the ball than Jess Jonassen across the last two years.

Numbers alone though aren't going to get King into Australian colours, and that is part of the reasoning behind her move west this season. King was part of the National Performance Squad in 2019 where she first worked with current Scorchers coach and Australia assistant coach Shelley Nitschke. She has long been seen as a player of potential.

Even after her outstanding season last year, where she had worked with Stars' coach Trent Woodhill on attacking the stumps more and being an aggressive wicket-taker in T20 cricket, King felt she needed further growth and development in cricket and in life. She had already made the move to play her WNCL cricket in Western Australia after struggling for opportunity in Victoria and joining the Scorchers was a natural progression.

"It was just getting more opportunity to bowl and then when I made the move to go to the Scorchers it was more so working under Shelley Nitschke," King said. "To work under the likes of Soph [Devine] and Moons [Beth Mooney] and Marizanne [Kapp] it was a nice way to lure me in and base all my cricket in WA."

Two other by-products of moving to WA have probably had the biggest impact on King as a cricketer this season. Being in the WA set-up has given her access to WA men's batting and spin coach, and former Test wristspinner, Beau Casson.

"I absolutely love Cass," King said. "He's been really clinical with me in this pre-season and probably a real point of difference.

"It's nice to have someone who just breaks stuff down really simply to you. Spin is a hard craft in itself. He's someone who gets it, who bowls it, who bowled it exceptionally well in his career. I love leaning on to Cass and he's checked in over the Big Bash which has been great and fine-tuning a few things and making sure that I can control what I can control."

The pair have made some minor technical adjustments which have certainly been noticed by the batters who have faced King, with many noting the energy, pace and control she has added while still maintaining her unique ability to spin the ball hard. But King feels her mental improvements have been more important.

"It's just more my routine," King said. "We focus really on routine, when walking up to your mark, at the top of your mark, then go again. And it's repeatability. If you can control that you can control a lot of things whether you're on top of the batter, whether you're under the pump, I think they're the things that I've learned."

The other steep learning curve has come off-field. She has moved in with former Australia and WA batter and current Sydney Sixers player Nicole Bolton and there were some honest conversations over the winter about what is needed to get to the next level.

"I've learned a lot from Bolts and living with her," King said. "She's taught me a lot about more so the professionalism of the game. She's helped me understand a bit of the standards that are at the Aussie level.

"I think it's just probably a lifestyle change, now that I'm not living actually at home with family, I think you've got to be really in tune with what your body needs and that comes from a nutrition point of view, comes from a fitness point of view, so I've really tried hard in this pre-season off-season to nail a few things and it's nice to see some reward."

That hard work hasn't gone unnoticed by Australia's national selector Shawn Flegler, who praised King's progression.

"She's been great this season and has developed even more," Flegler told ESPNcricinfo. "She's always been highly skillful. I remember seeing her quite a few years ago and she was a big turning young leggie and now she's increased her pace a little, probably attacks the stumps a little more. She doesn't give much away, always asking questions.

"She's certainly improved her fielding, particularly her out-fielding, is moving across the ground a lot better. Has some skills with the bat as well, probably hasn't shown a heap of it [this season] but has in the past.

"This is where we are fortunate, we have someone like Alana and then Amanda-Jade Wellington who keeps putting up really good numbers, so we are probably spoilt for choice."

"They have both put up some good cases for selection. We'd love to have a legspinner in our team. Georgia Wareham has been an important part over the last few years and we've made no secret of that. They are valuable in any format and of the game."

Wellington laid down the first marker, but King will get the chance to make a final statement on Saturday.