Wednesday, February 8, 2023

ICC: Australia – A team of superstars ready for shot at glory

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Ranked number one in the world and the most successful side in ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup history, Australia have lived up to the billing once again.

On Sunday, the six-time champions will bid to complete a World Cup double against rivals England, add the 50-over trophy to their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 crown and cement their status as the best ODI team around.

Eight wins from eight matches suggests they will be tough to stop but England, the team tasked with doing so, know what it takes to win World Cup finals. The 2017 winners have steadily grown into this tournament and have momentum behind them after a slow start.

When they first met all the way back on March 5, England pushed Australia hard in the highest scoring game of the World Cup. But Australia showed then, and have shown subsequently since, exactly why they top the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s ODI Team Rankings.

They are a team of match winners but no Australian has dominated this World Cup. Looking at the leading run-scorers and wicket-takers in the competition, there is not one player leading the way. 

Vice-captain Rachael Haynes sits second on the most runs list, her 429 just four fewer than South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt has scored. But her skipper Meg Lanning (384) and opening partner Alyssa Healy (339) occupy third and fourth and are one big knock away from catching her up. 

Among the bowlers, Jess Jonassen is the only Australian bowler to have reached double figures, sitting in joint-seventh with ten wickets. But fellow spinners Ashleigh Gardner and Alana King are just behind on nine, while Megan Schutt is the most successful seamer with seven. 

Ellyse Perry collected back-to-back Player of the Match awards against New Zealand and the West Indies, taking three for 22 in the latter. But she will only play as a specialist batter if selected, following a back injury that kept her out of Australia’s last two games. 

In Perry’s absence, the star quality of youngster Darcie Brown has continued to rise with the 19-year-old taking six wickets and even scaring her teammates with her pace and talent. 

Schutt said: “She’s way better than what I was at her age, bowls a bit quicker too. But she’s just a fresh face. 

“She’s a breath of fresh air and someone who just comes in and bowls fast with a smile on her face and that’s crazy. I’d kill for that.  

“Someone like Darcie is paving the way for young kids around Australia and the world.” 

The impact this Australia team is having, not only on Australians but also cricket more widely, cannot be underestimated and it is one recognised by Schutt’s teammate Beth Mooney. 

Mooney has been a reliable middle-order batter for Australia throughout the tournament, stepping up to number four with Perry not available and steering her side home against Bangladesh when they slumped to 70 for five.

Her return of 268 runs sees her just outside the top ten but she leads the way with her batting average with a staggering 134.00. Lanning is next best with 64.00. 

Mooney said: “Every game I get to play for Australia is pretty special, I certainly don’t take these opportunities for granted. 

“I think where I feel really privileged to be part of this Australian team at the moment, it is with some absolutely world-class players that are going to be remembered for a long time.  

“Just to be out here in this World Cup, obviously we had to wait a year for it, has been really special.” 

A central part of what has turned Australia into the all-conquering team of women’s cricket is their captain Meg Lanning. 

The 30-year-old took over the captaincy in 2014, leading Australia to three ICC Women’s T20 World Cup triumphs but has yet to skipper a one-day World Cup win. 

She is often described as ruthless and robotic in her pursuit of victory, but her favoured cut shot requires a soft and deft approach and the smiley celebrations of her team’s stunning catches this World Cup shows she is starting to enjoy her cricket in real time. 

What remains to be seen is whether Lanning will be smiling tomorrow but, with this team behind her, she has every right to feel confident of success.

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