Made for the Games
The Aussies have come for gold. That is their stated mission and you can be assured they are as focused for this event as they were for the World Cup earlier this year.
The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics are events that all Australians look up to. Win a gold medal and you’re on a breakfast cereal box for the next decade. To get this opportunity – first time ever for the women cricketers – is something this group of fifteen Aussies will cherish.
You can see it all over social media, the players mixing with other athletes as part of the 430 strong Australian presence. It’s the biggest Commonwealth team in Australia’s history and the cricketers are soaking up the atmosphere. Meg Lanning and her team love being in Birmingham as part of the Australian push for gold.
As if this world champion team needed any more incentive. They’ve come for gold and they are rightly considered one of the favourites.
Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington
The strength of this playing group can be judged by the quality of the bench. Allrounders Ellyse Perry, Nic Carey, Grace Harris and Annabel Sutherland may not get a game at all. Likewise the spin bowler Amanda-Jade Wellington.
None of these high quality players can be guaranteed a spot in the final eleven, yet every one of them would be a first up pick in any other national team. It’s extraordinary. The strength of the bench says it all.
You just know Alyssa Healy will stand up, don’t you? I would not like to be bowling to her in the gold medal match, such a force to be reckoned with in the big games. Her opening partner is such a brilliant player, a great judge of the situation, a card-carrying member of the Hitting Singles Club, Beth Mooney is one of the best in the world.
The crazy thing is that if Mooney’s out injured, Australia simply promote regular number four, Rachael Haynes, to the opening spot and it’s as if it’s business as usual. Haynes is such a chameleon that she will fit into any role required for the team. If they asked her to open the bowling, I’m sure she wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Captain Meg Lanning is the best number three in the world, by a country mile. It is such a pivotal role in a batting lineup and she has no equal. Assuming Haynes is at four, following that you have Tahlia McGrath who hits the ball a mile. She got out in Ireland for 70 against the home team – finally she has a batting average – it’s 247.00.
The Aussie bat deep, but doubtless most will not even pad up, but you’d expect Ashleigh Gardner to slot in at six. Jess Jonassen and Alana King can both bat. It tapers off a bit from there but rare is the day when Megan Schutt gets a hit.
Attack From All Angles
The fact that Healy is the team’s keeper means the Aussies have the luxury of playing another specialist bowler and they have no shortage of both quality and variety.
Megan Schutt will make the ball sing at Edgbaston, her in-swing likely to cause all manner of strife. Perfect foil at the other end, pace ace Darcie Brown who showed that not only can she be fast, but has found a level of accuracy that has eluded her before. This makes her far more dangerous.
Jess Jonassen and Alana King will be the main act with spin, off-spin and leg-spin respectively. Both were in excellent form in Ireland, even given the reduced playing time. King has a bowling average in this format of 8.22. She has done everything asked of her since joining the national team. Jonassen regularly swings in and out of the number one spot of the ICC rankings. They’ll be backed by Ash Gardner.
From the bench I’d back Nicola Carey to get a run somewhere. Her skiddy style of bowling should work in these conditions, plus she is so good in the field. Bats a bit too.
There is no better fielding team in the world. Their presence, confidence, ability and agility give the impression there are more than eleven players on the field. I doubt there has been a better fielding team in the history of women’s cricket.
From Mooney in the gully to Haynes at point, to Lanning at cover and McGrath at mid-off – scoring through the off-side is problematic. You have Gardner, Brown and King patrolling the outfield, with Healy calling the shots from behind the stumps.
If you watch this team for nothing else, just watch them in the field.
Path to Gold
We can talk excellence all we like, but not everything goes to plan. The Aussies, like every other team looking for a path to medal contention, need to win two games of their three pool games.
The big test, and in my mind the gold medal match, is the first one against India. They’ve met them 22 times for 15 wins, but in the back of the Aussies’ minds will be the opening match of the World T20 in 2020 where India were triumphant. This is the most important pool match for both teams.
Following that match is Barbados on the 31st, then Pakistan on the 3rd. I doubt either team will trouble the Australians. They are favourites for the gold medal and you can mark them down right now as a medal contender.