It has been just over a week since Australia were named ICC T20 Women’s World Cup champions after defeating India in the final by 85 runs in front of 86,174 fans at the MCG.
Two games into the T20 World Cup, Australia look to be slowly sliding sideways along an ice-covered road.
Hands are at the wheel, feet hovering above the pedals, everyone in agreement as to where to go, but still unable to right the vehicle before it skids off the road.
After a sluggish performance losing against India in the opener, Australia followed it up with a paradoxical win over Sri Lanka at the WACA.
Meg Lanning and Rachel Haynes calmed the nerves with a confident and ultimately dominating partnership to steer the side to the victory, and the bowling attack, headed by Jess Jonassen, kept things tight and the scoring constrained.
But questions swirl around a team that’s been in patchy form for a little while now, but is armed with atomic bombs at their disposal in Lanning, Elyse Perry, Jonassen and Alyssa Healy – the latter two stuck in a concerning malaise.
If only they could find the keys to set up the launch codes.
Can they regroup? Is this the win they needed to jumpstart their campaign? What on earth is going on with Healy? Can their fielding improve? Are they able to deal with the pressure and expectation that has been practically non-existent in women’s team sport? For the love of God throw Perry up the order.
It’s all valid and will surely end up embarrassingly moot by the time this is over and I’ll have three-week-old scrambled egg on my face.
Make no mistake, this is a team built to lay waste in the tournament, and more likely than not they will shake off this odd, dreamlike stupor to take control of their home World Cup.
But what felt like an almost certainty a month ago has become, while not quite cause for immense doubt, a path that’s a little dark, a little more overgrown and dangerous.
Slip-ups like the loss to India can’t be tolerated. Every match from now on should be treated like a winner takes all.
And yet, with the veteran presence throughout the squad, they should be able to temper it with the knowledge that they’ve been here before.
Expectations can be crippling – God knows we don’t want a repeat of Brazil’s catastrophic collapse in the 2014 World Cup on home soil, the country was in mourning for what felt like years.
So how does it play out from here?
Australia should account for Bangladesh easily in Canberra, which puts them back in control of their destiny. A win then over New Zealand in their group match guarantees them a spot in the semi-finals.
Simple, fulfilling and satisfying. Right?
It’s possible that bringing Perry up the order to three or four could both prove an impetus and statement by the coaching staff for the line up to be settled sooner rather than later. If Perry hits some form, then suddenly the dynamic of the team changes.
It would also filter through to her bowling, which has been steady at the least.
Thankfully she hasn’t been called upon to dig them out of trouble through her bowling just yet. But if she can bring any boost of confidence from seeing more of the innings, the team as a whole is better for it.
Manuka Oval tends to be as flat as an outback highway, though that can be said for most Australian pitches these days. There are worse ideas than for Lanning to bat first if she happens to win the toss.
Get the batting in order. Give them a chance to make a statement, not just against Bangladesh, but for the rest of the tournament.
Australia is a sleeping giant, but if they slumber for too long they’re at risk of missing the party.