Southern Stars set to soar in Sri Lanka
Australian cricket fans have plenty to look forward to over the next couple of months as we countdown to the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka. The Southern Stars are the defending champions and have been preparing diligently to retain their crown.
Fortunately, women’s cricket has been building a stronger profile of late, with some extra exposure last summer thanks to the Southern Stars displaying their talents on national television against the White Ferns. This is a trend that must continue for the game to gain the much needed publicity it deserves.
There have been two other World T20 tournaments for the women, with England winning the inaugural title in 2009 after defeating Australia in the semi-finals and going on to win a low scoring decider against New Zealand. The Southern Stars made amends in 2010, with a thrilling last-over victory against the White Ferns who, for the second time in a row, were runners up.
Both England and New Zealand are expected to be tough to beat again this year with the West Indies also having some players to watch out for.
The Southern Stars have had an impressive build up, with a convincing tour of India and a productive training camp in Sri Lanka to help acclimatize and hone their skills on the Sri Lankan wickets. Selectors have chosen a well-balanced squad with all players capable of contributing when called upon by captain Jodie Fields, who is raring to go after missing the last T20 World Cup due to injury.
The batting line-up has the potential to pile on some large totals, with plenty of strike power in the top order. Victoria and NSW supply the majority of the batting line-up, reflecting their dominance in the Australian domestic competitions.
Victoria’s Meg Lanning showed why she was named the T20 player of the year in Australia by consistently producing runs at a rapid rate. Fellow Victorian Jess Cameron is another consistent performer in the top order and has, not surprisingly, been shortlisted for two ICC awards.
Leah Poulton and Alex Blackwell from NSW add a wealth of experience to the side that will be invaluable in the moments that matter in the tournament. Pocket dynamo Alyssa Healy will certainly be putting her hand up to contribute if required, showing in India that she can not only find the boundary but also clear the rope.
With the ball, the Southern Stars will be relying heavily on their slower bowlers to make the most of the spin friendly conditions. Lisa Sthalekar will use her guile and experience to extract what she can from her off breaks, while young Queenslander Jessica Jonassen continues to show a great deal of promise with her left arm spinners.
In my view, the pick of the Australian bowlers of late has been Julie Hunter, who has not only taken wickets but has also proven to be very difficult to get away. We can also expect Ellyse Perry, who was player of the final in 2010, to bowl with venom and keep the top order on their toes.
There are plenty of other stars to watch out for in this squad of players who clearly enjoy representing their country playing the game they love. Many of the team will be putting their regular lives of work and study on hold to showcase their skills on the world stage and hopefully return from Sri Lanka with yet another major trophy for the cabinet.
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