Even before the Women’s World T20 began, three-time champions Australia were favourites for the title in the unpredictable, shortest format. They are the most successful team in the history of the tournament, they completed a hat-trick of wins 2010, 2012 and 2014 and finished as runners-up in 2016.
In their three matches at the 2018 edition so far, they have barely put a foot wrong, with three comprehensive wins – beating Pakistan by 52 runs, Ireland by nine wickets and New Zealand by 33 runs. They have already sealed their semi-final spot and will take on India on Saturday with aim to continue their terrific – and to the opponents, terrifying – winning streak.
Of the 14 T20Is they have played this year, the Southern Stars have lost only one – to England in the tri-series in Mumbai back in March. They won the triangular series, and then blanked New Zealand and Pakistan 3-0 in their bilateral series in the lead up to the ICC event in West Indies.
Even though Alyssa Healy has won the Player of the Match in all three matches, almost every player of the star-studded team is capable of turning the match in their own way. Armed with the experience of years in the Women’s Big Bash League, the Meg Lanning-led team are dangerous in the unpredictable, shortest format of the game. They will look to maintain the momentum when they take on India, also unbeaten, in Saturday’s match that will decide the table topper.
Healy has been the star of the campaign so far, with two straight half-centuries batting at top of the order. The 28-year-old wicketkeeper has been in great touch this season with scores of 53, 56*, 48, 67*, 6, 59 in her last six T20I innings. But in the West Indies, she has flourished with the bat against the new ball, attacking in all directions of the ground.
The highest run-getter of the tournament so far, she also scored the fastest fifty of World T20 and second fastest in women’s T20Is when she smashed a 21-ball half-century against Ireland.
But the Australian batting line up after Healy is just as potent. She forms a formidable opening partnership with Beth Mooney, who have scored four straight half-century opening stands. As a result, Australia’s run rate in the Powerplay overs (first six overs) is almost nine.
The openers are followed by run machine Lanning, vice-captain Rachael Haynes, Nicole Bolton, Elyse Villani, Ashleigh Gardner and Ellyse Perry. Yes, Cricketer of the Year Perry actually bats lower down the order. Imagine the kind of batting depth they have!
Not a single Aussie batter has scored a century so far this year – their highest score is 88 by Meg Lanning – yet the batting has been the most consistent facet of the team.
The Australian bowling, compared to the batting might, is not as heavy on experience. But in World no 1 T20I bowler Megan Schutt, Australia has a genuine pace blowing spearhead. The first Australian to claim a women’s T20I hat-trick, (against India in March 2018) she can be lethal with the new ball. While Healy has lead the batting charts, Schutt has been among the leading wicket takers with six dismissals. But more importantly, she has an economy of just five despite bowling in the Powerplay and going for 30 runs against Ireland.
While experienced off spinner Jess Jonassen– who underwent a knee surgery two months back – has not been in the Playing XI, the young Sophie Molineux has done a good enough job to retain her place.
The Aussie bowling has been more of a team effort than the batting. Against Pakistan, spinner Georgia Wareham and Schutt were among the wickets while against Perry finished with figures of 2-12 to restrict them to 93 and Delissa Kimmince got two wickets in an over to derail whatever semblance of chase New Zealand had in their third match.
Overall, Australia have been the most well-balanced team in the competition so far. And in their success, there is the blueprint for doing well at the T20I level – power-hitting at the top, a strong middle-order and multifaceted bowling with a good economy.
In short, Australia’s well-rounded team and all-round performance makes them the team to beat this World T20.