Any concerns about Steve Smith’s form, fitness and ability to adapt to a new batting role have evaporated over the past three weeks as the former Australian skipper has made a sparkling return to high level cricket.
The Australian women’s cricket team have started the international summer with a bang, winning their first two matches in their T20 ODI series against New Zealand.
That means that the Aussies have managed to seal the series before the final game for the first time in a T20 series since 2012 against the Kiwis.
The first game was last Saturday night at North Sydney Oval had Australia victorious by six wickets and was played in front of a packed crowd.
Australia went into the field first and found success with their bowling attack. Ashleigh Gardner ended with figures of 2-22 and took the wickets of Amy Satterthwaite and also Sophie Devine, the latter of which was controversial as it was from a Beth Mooney catch that may not have carried. Ellyse Perry snared the crucial wicket of Suzie Bates with her first ball of the international summer.
It’s also worth mentioning the efforts of 19-year-old Georgia Wareham who made her international debut and took the wicket of Jess Watkin on just her sixth international delivery.
When Rachael Haynes came to the crease, I was deeply concerned about Australia’s ability to chase down the 162-run total set by New Zealand in their innings, particularly considering Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy, Elyse Villani and Ashleigh Gardner out cheaply leaving Australia sitting at 4/45.
Some of those faces are new to the top of the order. Australia has a new strategy heading into this summer, focusing on bringing in the power-hitters first. Fortunately though, this strategy is almost bullet proof because the Australian batting line up is so strong that even if one of the four openers doesn’t fire, stability can very quickly be brought in via Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning.
The depth of this batting line up is really highlighted when you consider that the world’s top ranked ODI batter, Ellyse Perry comes in at number seven.
Despite the collapse when Rachael came in, she managed to steady the innings with the woman that led the Australian team to an Ashes victory last year scoring a career-high of 69 not out. Rachael looks to be in fine form heading into the summer and simply picked up where she left off earlier in the week when she scored a half-century against New Zealand in a warm-up match.
Rachael reached 69 off 44 deliveries and made her intentions clear when she hit a boundary with the second ball she faced. She brought up her half century in just 30 deliveries and created havoc for New Zealand, particularly in the 16th over when she hit four boundaries.
Joining Rachael at the crease was skipper Meg Lanning, who delighted the crowd with her return from injury. Meg brought up her 12th T20I half century in 40 deliveries and ended on 56* from 44 balls and would have gotten a lot of confidence from this knock, particularly considering she revealed that during the 18 months that she spent on the sidelines she felt like an outsider in her own team.
With the 121 partnership between Rachael and Meg, Australia ended up victorious with 14 balls remaining.
Impressively, the run chase was Australia’s highest against New Zealand. The previous record was set in 2012 at 7-145. One more stat to come out of this game was that the partnership between Rachael and Meg was the highest fifth-wicket partnership in women’s T20Is.
The next game was on Monday at Allan Border Field and whilst on Saturday it was all about the batters, on Monday the bowlers stole the show in the 6 wicket win.
Megan Schutt was one of the stars for Australia in their Ashes triumph last year and in this game she demonstrated why she is one of the best bowlers in the world. Megan took 3-15 from her four overs taking the key wickets of Sophie Devine and Jess Watkin.
Sophie Molineux also gets a mention. Sophie is just 21 and prior to this series had played just three T20Is. Because of an injury to Jess Jonassen, Sophie has taken an important role in the squad in opening the bowling and returning at the conclusion of the innings. Despite not taking many wickets, she has been economical, finishing with figures of 0/21 at North Sydney and allowing just eight runs from her final 12 deliveries and taking a wicket in Brisbane.
Similar to Saturday night, Australia lost key wickets early with Beth Mooney departing for 0 and Ashleigh Gardner not long after on 16. But then came in Alyssa Healy who brought up her first T20I half century in Australia scoring 57 from 14 deliveries.
That innings consisted of 10 boundaries and made her the fourth Australian woman and the eighth Australian overall to pass 1000 T20I international runs. Elyse Villani also batted well, making her half century on the same ball which brought up victory seeing her finish on 50* off 39 balls.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the performance of former White Fern Suzie Bates in this game. Suzie managed to score 77 from 52 deliveries. Her knock included 11 boundaries and two sizes.
The final game of the series is tonight in Canberra and if I know the Australian team, they will not be content unless the series is a whitewash. If Australia win this series it will be their fifth T20I series win in a row – a feat which the team has not achieved since winning 16 in a row in 2014-2015. This all bodes very well ahead of the World T20 which begins next month in the Caribbean.
For the White Ferns, the news is not so positive. They have now lost five of their last six T20I games and will need a dramatic change in form ahead before November. Perhaps their change in fortune will come this evening.