After six long weeks of match-play, it was Amanda-Jade Wellington once again that was given the tough task of bowling the last over of Saturday’s Women’s Big Bash Final. And boy, did she deliver.

Last year, Wellington had also been handed the ball for the final six deliveries against the Sixers at North Sydney Oval, with the team in magenta requiring 23 runs to win the game.

Instead, they managed just eight, and Wellington’s Strikers lifted their maiden WBBL trophy.

This year, the final was played on their home turf at Adelaide Oval against the Heat, in front of 12,000 fans but it was the same outcome at the end.

Strikers players huddle together on the podium with the trophy as confetti flies overhead

The Strikers celebrate winning back-to-back WBBL titles.(Getty: Mark Brake)

Captain Tahlia McGrath had already given Wellington the heads up in the 16th over that she’d be required to do the honours and by that final over just 13 runs were required from six balls.

A single, a leg bye and the wicket of Georgia Voll was a great start for the first three deliveries.

Then Mikayla Hinkley strode out to the crease …

The rule change that now requires the new batter to face the strike meant an in-touch Amelia Kerr was stuck at the other end, while Hinkley walked straight into the firing line.

Hinkley holds her bat behind her neck and looks down as she walks off

Mikayla Hinkley of the Brisbane Heat reacts to getting out for six runs.(Getty: Sarah Reed)

Still, there were a couple more twists left to come, as Hinkley smashed a six right down the ground, reducing the target to just five off two balls.

On the next delivery, for a split second, it looked as if Hinkley had done it again.

Instead, a Jemma Barsby catch in front of the rope secured Wellington’s third scalp of the night.

From ecstasy to inconsolable, Hinkley trudged off and was replaced by Nicola Hancock; now facing the challenge of hitting a six to win.

Jemma Barsby celebrates

Jemma Barsby’s catch was the end of Mikayla Hinkley.(Getty Images:  Cricket Australia/Mark Brake)

Despite a big slog, Hancock had to settle for a single, leading the Strikers to back-to-back WBBL titles.

The odds had been against them, defending a very low total of 125, but Wellington’s calm head under pressure saw her branded the hero and awarded player of the match honours.

Selection controversy 

Wellington winds up her right arm as she celebrates wicket, wearing a pink cricket uniform

Wellington claimed four wickets in the WCPL Final.(Getty: Ashley Allen)

This match-winning performance isn’t the first and won’t be the last from Wellington.

In September, the 26-year-old also snared four wickets in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Final to guide the Barbados Royals to victory in the West Indies.

That form rolled into Wellington’s WBBL season, seeing the leg spinner finish with the overall second-best economy rate (5.46) in the competition and third on the wicket-taking list (23).

All of which has reignited the debate surrounding her non-selection in the Australian team.

Wellington made her debut as a teenager in 2016 in the ODI format, picking up a wicket with her very first ball, and quickly appeared for Australia in T20Is and Test cricket not long after that.

Her “ball of the century” in the 2017 Women’s Ashes Test at North Sydney Oval made headlines around the country and even earnt her praise from Shane Warne.

Amanda Wellington is surrounded by her teammates and smiles.

Wellington’s “ball of the century” to dismiss Tammy Beaumont is still one of the all-time Women’s Ashes highlights.(Getty: Jason McCawley)

Yet, less than a year after that moment, she fell out of favour with the Australian selectors.

Those in charge have since opted to go with Victorian bowlers Georgia Wareham and Alana King, for their quicker style of leg spin as well as their “all-round” ability in the field and with the bat.

Both these players have grabbed their opportunity and provided some game-changing moments for the national side, in the meantime, Wellington has become a highly sought-after global franchise player and continued to dominate the domestic scene.

It’s been hard for fans to get their head around, considering her numbers continue to stack up and yet the South Australian can’t seem to find a break to consistently play at the highest level again.

Adelaide Strikers' Amanda-Jade Wellington celebrates a wicket during WBBL match

The non-selection of Wellington was also heavily debated in 2021, after she claimed 5/8 to record the best finals figures in WBBL history.(Getty Images: Chris Hyde)

The selectors have previously tried to explain it in the context of the team make-up, that they prefer a leg spinner that can take wickets without the risk of leaking runs, however, Wellington’s style is still getting results and her WBBL form has shown that despite bowling at a slower pace with more turn and flight, she can still be very economical.

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“My Mum and Dad always tell me I should be playing for Australia, but I constantly tell them I’m at peace with it,” Wellington told ABC Sport.

“I’m the type of bowler who tosses the ball up and tries to spin it as much as I can and I’m not going to change myself just to get selected, I’m going to keep to who I am as a player and a person.

“It’s nice to see people make comment [that I should be there] and I know it sounds bad, but it just doesn’t bother me anymore … It doesn’t hurt me as much as it used to because the reality is, we have such great depth in Australian cricket.

“Years ago, if I had a great season in the Big Bash or WNCL, I’d be down in the dumps, now it’s almost like I know I don’t need selection to justify myself as a human being or a cricketer, because there are opportunities elsewhere.”

This pivot in mindset to focus on franchise cricket and explore the world via the shorter formats has taken years for Wellington to achieve, and her positive attitude is a tribute to her character.

It might be a different career path than the one projected for her seven years ago, but there’s been a huge upside: building friendships with cricketers overseas from Sri Lanka to India and Hong Kong.

An excited cricket smiles as her teammates surround her to celebrate.

Wellington has played for multiple clubs in The Hundred.(Getty Images: Mike Hewitt)

“To be honest, I haven’t had any feedback [from the Australian set-up] within the past year or so, like I don’t even bother asking anymore to be honest because I’m not going to change myself.

“I know I’m not the best batter in the world or the best fielder, I am who I am.

“My goals have definitely changed because of that, and my goal now is to travel the world and play cricket for as long as possible, make as much money as I can to send me off into the future.”

Could Wellington play for England?

That being said, there is still another way that Wellington could pursue an international return.

Australian players sit on the bench together and watch the team play

Despite playing a back-up role to two other leg spinners and sitting on the sidelines, Wellington has managed to keep a smile on her face.(Getty: Hagen Hopkins)

“I haven’t told anyone this before, but I can apply for a UK passport,” Wellington said.

“I have ancestry on my Dad’s side from England, so if I genuinely wanted to, I would apply for that – it’s not totally off the cards, I have thought about it.

“It is in the back on my mind but making that decision would be really hard because there are some risks – for instance, it would make me an international player for the Big Bash.

“Technically the door is still open … I just haven’t really explored it that much.”

An Irish women's cricketer stares down the pitch after delivering a ball, as the umpire watches in the background.

In 2021, Kim Garth gained permanent residency in Australia.(Getty Images: ICC / Jan Kruger)

In the past year, the Australian team has had a similar narrative play out with Irish-born Kim Garth.

Whose parents both represented their home country in the sport before their daughter followed in their footsteps and made her debut as a 14-year-old, going on to play for Ireland 85 times.

With no professional contracts on offer, the dream to make cricket a full-time career meant Garth had to shift allegiances, and in 2019 the fast bowler moved to Victoria to play in the WNCL.

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Two years later, Garth received permanent residency and by 2022, she had served the necessary three-year period since her last appearance for Ireland to make her eligible for Australia.

Wellington appeared twice during Australia’s successful 2022 Cricket World Cup campaign in New Zealand (with Wareham out injured) and has often popped up in the extended Australian squad or in the Australia A development team, but her previous outings for the senior side date back to 2018, showing just how little opportunity she has had to get on the park.

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If Wellington was to follow Garth’s path, she could be eligible to play for England as early as March 2025. There are no guarantees of course, as England have their own line of bowlers, but it could be an option if the lure of international cricket is still calling Wellington deep down.

Particularly, as former Australian leg spinner Kristen Beams told the ABC’s Beamsy and Britt podcast, that this debate could rage on for another decade as she can’t see the national selectors changing their minds anytime soon.

“I don’t see [their selection tactics] changing in the short-term, but I suppose they are always looking forward and you just never know where the game is going to go next,” Beams said.

“When I think about the Australian team over time, we have seen that push for the all-rounders to come through, we’ve also seen pace bowlers who bowl fast – that’s been a focus that’s come in.

“There will be changes within the game and I think what the Australian team have done throughout history is dictate where it is going.

“I’m not sure where that traditional, slower kind of spin sits, but I would think that may well be a direction we see international cricket get back to at some point.”

Hear the Beamsy and Britt podcast via the Best of ABC Sport feed on the ABC Listen app.

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