A talking point that often comes up regarding the state of cricket is the balance between bat and ball.
Australia are on the board in the T20 Women’s World Cup, but the scrappy overnight win against Sri Lanka further underlined top-order issues that need addressing before crunch games to come.
Experienced heads Rachael Haynes (60 off 47) and Meg Lanning (41* off 44) saw the Aussies home after a horror start threatened to end their tournament before it had barely started.
After the Sri Lankans posted 6/122, Australia capitulated at the top of the order, reduced to 3/10 through a series of sloppy dismissals.
Alyssa Healy and Ash Gardner were sent packing in almost identical fashion, bowled by the left-arm in-swing of Udeshika Prabodhani.
Both tried to cut balls that jagged back, appearing surprised by the swing on offer despite its presence when the Aussies themselves were in the field. Gardner especially had the benefit of seeing her partner’s wicket mere moments before.
Three balls after Gardner’s dismissal, Beth Mooney left the Aussies in a panic after dancing down the track to be stumped by a considerable margin.
At the very least, Gardner and Mooney’s dismissals showed a lapse of judgement – a pattern that emerged in Australia’s loss to India on Friday night.
When Poonam Yadav got on a roll in Sydney, instead of recognising the leg spinner as a potential match winner who needed to be seen off, several of Australia’s experienced top six continued to take avoidable risks by using their feet to the loopy spin.
It was a tactic that backfired considerably as the home side lost a game they seemingly had control over.
Opener Nicole Bolton (not currently in the Australian squad) said in commentary that the top order’s approach was lacking.
“There was definitely a bit of swing around, and at times we looked to play a little bit too square,” she said on Fox Sports’ coverage.
“What we know at the WACA is that anything’s that’s full you need to play nice and straight and unfortunately some of those girls might look back and think they may not have made the right decisions.”
Importantly, however, the win means the Aussies are still in the tournament; Haynes and Lanning’s tournament-saving partnership of 95 has kept the hosts’ chances alive.
Luck was on their side, too, the pair kept at the crease through botched reviews and drop catches on several occasions.
Post-game Lanning said that while she was pleased with their bowling and fielding efforts – aspects of the Aussies’ game that has remained consistent in recent times – she acknowledged they needed to do more to avoid more ‘unsettling starts’ with the bat.
“We would’ve like to have played better and we definitely need to improve heading into the next couple of games but sometimes it’s nice to just get off the mark,” she said.
While the team continues to tell media it is ‘enjoying’ the dual pressure of being both hosts and strong favourites, uncharacteristic mistakes with the bat does little to assuage the thinking that the scenario might just be playing on their mind.
Perhaps the victory in Perth, the monkey off the back, might provide the impetus for a return to the dominance we’ve seen int he last 18 months in this format.
Australia had, after all, beaten Sri Lanka 3-0 earlier this summer, by margins of 41 runs, 9 wickets, then a whopping 132 runs.
It had never lost to Chamari Atapattu’s side in 16 occasions (in T20 internationals), yet so nearly went down on Monday night. Ellyse Perry was pushed down to number seven against Sri Lanka, and perhaps a move up the order looms as Matthew Mott looks to sure-up his top order.
While the all-important victory was lodged, the missed opportunity to improve their net run-rate may come back to bite later in the group stage.
The Aussies next travel to Canberra for Thursday night’s clash against Bangladesh, who went down to India by 18 runs on Monday night.