All-conquering Australia walk into another competition as firm favourites

Australia are favourites to win CWG 2022 © Getty Images

It’s that time when people talk about the favourites in the build-up to any global event, and Australia are always the perennial choice for all the experts when it comes to these competitions. Regardless of their form, game time, and a thousand other things, it will be a surprise if Australia are not the ones to pick up the Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) come August 7.

If we are to talk about stakes, then this can be considered a new challenge for this Australian side as they have won everything under the sun in the last few years. A new competition is just what they want and skipper Meg Lanning has already made it clear that they won’t settle for anything less than gold.

How they made it?

On April 26 last year, The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced that the top six ICC T20I ranked teams as of April 1, 2021, will join the hosts in the CWG 2022 women’s cricket competition in Birmingham. With consistent performances over the years, Australia have kept their number one spot in the ICC T20I rankings, so they were the first side to join England in the event.

They are grouped alongside India, Pakistan, and Barbados in Group A and will play the opening fixture of the competition against India on Friday (July 29).

ALSO READ: India look to brush aside disappointment of ODI World Cup in Commonwealth Games

What have they done in the past?

Australia are the undisputed leaders as far as the T20 World Cup is concerned, having won the trophy five times from the seven opportunities they have had. The inaugural edition of the event was the only time they failed to make it to the final of the tournament.

They have played the second most number of matches in the format after England and also have the second-best Win/ Loss ratio after them.  They have a positive record against all the teams with 18 wins and 18 losses against England being the worst among them.

How has their recent form been?

In the last four years, Australia have won 39 of the 52 matches they played, losing only seven of them. In the last ten completed matches, they came second best only twice and both of them were against New Zealand. Their last outing in the format was the half-rained out Tri-series in Ireland, where they lifted the trophy after staying unbeaten throughout the tournament.

It’s not like they haven’t had their set of challenges. Their long time head coach Matthew Mott left the setup to join the England men’s side, but they are in the capable hands of Shelly Nitschke, who was named as the interim coach for the event.

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Squad

Australia retained the same squad that won the World Cup 2022 in New Zealand for the CWG. With the trio of Tayla Vlaeminck, Sophie Molineux, and Georgia Wareham not recovering from their respective injuries, it was an easy decision to make for the Lanning-led side.

Although Jess Jonassen missed two matches during the Ireland Tri-series owing to COVID-19, she joined the squad and also featured in the tournament since then, leaving the side with all the options they need. They have almost all bases covered with a bunch of allrounders, pacers, and two good leg spinners, with the newly crowned number one ranked T20I batter as their skipper.

The only contention for Australia in the format has been the repeated omission of Ellyse Perry from the playing XI. The talismanic allrounder has been kept out by players who are deemed more suited to the format.

Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington

Likely Playing XI:

1. Beth Mooney 2. Alyssa Healy (wk) 3. Meg Lanning 4. Tahlia McGrath 5. Rachael Haynes 6. Ashleigh Gardner 7. Nicola Carey 8. Jess Jonassen 9. Alana King 10. Megan Schutt 11. Darcie Brown

ALSO READ: Australia: The invincible clan 

Key Players

Alyssa Healy

At the risk of sounding repetitive, Alyssa Healy is one of the most destructive batters in the world. Despite her poor form in the format – Healy has scored only 99 runs from 12 innings at an average of 9.90 and a strike rate of 81.81 since that great knock in the final of the T20 World Cup 2020, Healy will be one of the most feared players once the competition commences.

Australia will be hoping for their opener to find some form and give them good starts. They have the batting to post imposing scores or chase them down once that happens.

ALSO READ: Alyssa Healy, pacesetter on and off the field

Tahlia McGrath

With so many allrounders in the mix, it’s difficult to stand out as one if you are an Australian. And that’s exactly what Tahlia McGrath has done. Ever since her return to the squad, she has been the ‘player to watch out for’ in the star-studded lineup. She has won four ‘Player of the Match’ awards for her four innings in the format so far and averages a whopping 247. She has also picked up four wickets from the limited opportunities she has got with the ball to usurp Perry to become the leading pace bowling allrounder in the side.

Once again, Australia will be turning to the South Australian when it comes to a crisis – be it to give that breakthrough or take them to safety and beyond with the bat.

ALSO READ: Tahlia McGrath: Australia’s ace in a star-studded pack

X Factor

A fan will probably argue that all the players in Austalia lineup can qualify to provide that X factor. But it’s their varied bowling lineup that gives them that key point of difference. And there are two young bowlers in the squad, who have stood out with their timely interventions.

Alana King

Since making her debut this year, King’s rise in international cricket has been so rapid and she has already become an integral part of the Australian setup that doesn’t like making a lot of changes.

King has played only six T20Is but has already picked up nine wickets at an incredible average of 8.22. Although leg spinners are expected to be expensive, she has been very frugal, giving away runs only at 4.57 without losing her wicket-taking potency. She ended the Ireland Tri-series with the Player of the Series award.

Alana King © Women's CricZone

Alana King © Women’s CricZone

Darcie Brown

Darcie Brown is one of the fastest bowlers in the women’s game and she can bowl a mean bouncer. But that’s not the only thing about her, Brown also has the ability to swing the ball. Batters from all over the world have struggled to face her and they will once again be challenged at the prospect of playing swing deliveries coming at a higher speed than the ones they are generally used to.

At 19, Brown is mature beyond her years when it comes to her bag of tricks on the cricket field and complements the ever-reliable Megan Schutt if they are paired to bowl with the new ball. Like King, she is also very young in her T20I career, having played only five matches so far in the format. But given her ability, Australia will be looking to unleash her in this short-sharp competition.

ALSO READ: Darcie Brown: Not just another tearaway fast bowler

Prediction

Where they will finish: Silver

Like many said, something has to really go wrong for Australia to not walk away with the Gold at the Games. England have the potential to knock the world champions off the perch considering their recent performances. But you wouldn’t know that until they come across their arch-rivals.

If everything goes as expected, Australia will be facing England in the final of the competition – India and New Zealand would want to ensure that’s not the case. It would be a bold prediction to bet against the Kangaroos, but to make this a little more interesting; it would be great for the game if the hosts can get one up against Australia.