World Cup Preview – Can Australia add another World Cup to their impressive tally?
If the form since the previous edition of the ODI World Cup is the yardstick, Australia’s run since 2017 can be described in a word: Dominant. But, as captain Meg Lanning and coach Matthew Mott have said before, the reputation goes out of the question once the first ball of the tournament is bowled.
The team has already suffered multiple injury blows in the lead-up to the tournament. Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux were injured during the seventh edition of Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), while Tayla Vlaeminck was ruled out of the World Cup during the multi-format Ashes series. The number one ranked team will start their campaign against the defending champions England. For Meg Lanning’s team, this is a golden opportunity to right the wrongs of 2017.
How they made it?
Australia successfully defended their ICC Women’s Championship title by winning 17 of 18 matches. Their only loss came against England in 2017, while the three-match series against South Africa in 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They gained 37 points from the Championship, clear table-toppers ahead of their close rivals, England.
What have they done in the past?
The team from down-under has featured in all editions of the World Cup since 1973. They won four out of their five matches in the first edition, when hosts England won the tournament. Since then, they have made it to the knock-out stage of every single World Cup, except in 1993. They have made it to the final of the World Cup on both the previous occasions when New Zealand hosted the tournament, winning it in 1982.
Best World Cup finish
Australia has won the World Cup six times. The last time New Zealand hosted the World Cup in 2000, Australia reached the final under the leadership of Belinda Clark, but failed to win the title in the closely-contested final in Lincoln. Australia’s last World Cup victory came in 2013 in India and they would like to add one more title to their already-impressive cabinet.
Meg Lanning (C), Rachael Haynes (VC), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
Travelling reserves: Heather Graham, Georgia Redmayne
Likely playing XI: Alyssa Healy (wk), Racheal Haynes (vc), Meg Lanning (c), Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Annabel Sutherland, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown
The 28-year-old left-hander has been a rescuer-in-chief for Australia in recent times. Whether it was her unbeaten century against India in the second ODI of the multi-format series or bailing out a struggling innings against England in the first ODI at Manuka Oval, Mooney has played several vital innings for her team. She can consolidate the innings if Australia loses early wickets or accelerate the innings to take Australia past 270. Mooney is also the backup wicketkeeper for Australia and given her form behind the stumps in the Women’s Big Bash League, she is capable of doing that duty as well.
Megan Schutt has been one of the most improved pacers in the game since 2017. Her ability to swing the new ball makes her one of the most difficult bowlers to face. Ranked second in the ICC rankings, Schutt has the experience of two ODI World Cup campaigns under her belt. Schutt is equally good at the back-end of the innings with her leg cutters. She might not be able to generate pace like Darcie Brown, but she is extremely consistent with her line and lengths. With a considerable decline in the bowling responsibilities of Ellyse Perry, Schutt is certainly the leader of the bowling attack for Australia.
It is difficult to pick the one X-factor player from the line-up. In the recently concluded series against England, Australia were able to whitewash the defending champions without any notable performances from just one player. Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy have said it previously that their ability to dig deep and fight back in difficult situations makes them who they are as a unit. Their batting and bowling depth has always been the talking point, but if there’s one thing that differentiates them from the many other teams it is how balanced the playing XI is.
Given their recent form in the ODI format, Australia will make the semi-final of the tournament. Australia have some demons when it comes to the knock-out stage, given how the semi-final against India panned out in the 2017 World Cup. Other teams have improved their game on many levels, so Australia’s stellar record in the tournament’s history will make very little impact on the overall result. Australia are amongst the teams that have enough experience to play in the New Zealand conditions. If they make the most of it, they have a real chance to add the missing piece of silverware to their cabinet.