A high-scoring shootout looms when Australia begin their three-match T20 series in South Africa on Friday.
On Thursday morning the Australian squad was announced for the upcoming T20 Tri-Series and ICC T20 Women’s World Cup, set to begin on 21 February in Sydney and with games across the country.
On paper the squad is extremely impressive, particularly when you consider what some of the women in this squad were able to achieve last year.
Ellyse Perry was of course named – she’s the current international women’s cricketer of the year and ODI player of the year after taking out both awards at the ICC Awards last year. Joining Perry is Alyssa Healy, who claimed the Twenty20 award on the same evening, and Meg Lanning, who was also honoured that night.
Megan Schutt will no doubt spearhead the bowling attack, and there is a positive mix in this squad of experienced players, including Jess Jonassen and Beth Mooney, paired with youth like Tayla Vlaeminck and Georgia Wareham.
Sophie Molineux has also been named in the squad after taking some time away from the WBBL in January to focus on her mental health. She returned to cricket earlier this month, playing for Victoria in the WNCL.
The big surprise was the naming of Annabel Sutherland, an 18-year-old all-rounder from Victoria. Sutherland comes from a family well known in cricket – her brother Will plays for the Melbourne Renegades and her dad James is former CEO of Cricket Australia. Annabel told the media yesterday that after she shared the news with her parents her mum told her that that was the first time she had seen James moved to tears in 54 years.
While some may be shocked at Sutherland’s selection, this experience will be invaluable to her, especially since many see her as having the potential to have a long career in the green and gold. Her selection also comes off the back a positive showing in the WNCL and also for Australia A.
But I think the real strength of this squad and the visible demonstration of the quality of women’s cricket in this country right now is even more obvious when you consider some of the players that missed out on selection.
Women that were unlucky to miss out include the likes of Elyse Villani, Belinda Vakarewa, Sammy Jo-Johnson, Amanda Jade-Wellington, Tahlia McGrath and Molly Strano. Strano in particular must have been knocking on selectors doors after the WBBL season, which she finished as the leading wicket-taker with 24 wickets, just ahead of Jess Jonassen on 21 and Belinda Vakarewa on 20. She proved herself to be a consistent bowler and calm under pressure and is no doubt a future leader at the Renegades.
The other woman missing is Jess Duffin, who made herself unavailable after announcing her pregnancy. Duffin was named captain of the WBBL team of the tournament after a break out year with the bat, scoring 544 runs as captain of the Renegades.
After looking at that team it seems clear that form in the WBBL was not a make-or-break criterion for selection into the team. This Australian team has been very successful over the last two years and essentially Matthew Mott has kept it the same.
Rachael Haynes and Ashleigh Gardner would have been disappointed in their form over the WBBL. Haynes scored 166 runs in 12 games with a high score of 36. Gardner ended with 275 runs from 13 innings with a high score of 54. But both these women have been part of the Aussie set-up for many years. Haynes is the vice-captain of the team, and given how fickle T20 cricket can be, no doubt the selectors are hoping both players can come back into form.
Speaking of Mott, women’s cricket was also bolstered earlier this week when it was announced he had extended his contract and will now be head coach of the team until at least the end of the 2021 ICC Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.
Mott has been in the role since 2015 and under his watch the team has achieved tremendous success, including No. 1 rankings in both the ODI and T20 formats and successive Ashes victories on home soil and in the United Kingdom. Most importantly, though, he has been a leader during a period women’s cricket has achieved tremendous growth, and he has helped create a team culture that demands excellence, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field.
There’s still some WNCL to be played over the coming weeks. The next round begins on Tuesday and the final will be held on 16 February. But ongoing preparation for the World Cup for the Aussie women ramps up now. I’m expecting big things.