How The Derby Eight Led The Way In Australia's Five Year Masterplan
The Derby Eight © Getty Images
“The five-year master plan has come to fruition for Australia. They have what they came for. It’s the World Cup title. They reinvented themselves after the semi-final of 2017. They have reinvented themselves into one of if not the best team we have ever seen,” Mel Jones summarised Australia’s dominance with these lines when Ashleigh Gardner took that famous catch to clinch World Cup victory for Australia at the Hagley Oval.
The reminder of the semi-final from 2017 was an acknowledgment of the watershed moment in this team’s journey. Harmanpreet Kaur’s breathtaking innings and complete bowling performance from India was a blow to the Australian dynasty. Since that rain-interrupted knockout match in Derby, Australia’s dominance has improved leaps and bounds.
The eight players who were present in Derby that day have formed the core group of the Australian squad since then. These players shared the same hurt and have raised the standard of the team. Here’s a look at how “The Derby Eight” made Australia the champions of the world in 2022.
Semi-Final 2017: 1 (5) bowled by Shikha Pandey
Strike Rate- 93.15
High Score- 125*
Beth Mooney was the first wicket to fall in the 2017 semi-final. Her wicket in the second over started the top-order wobble, which reduced Australia to 21 for three. Post-2017, Mooney was pushed down the order to make room for Alyssa Healy. The southpaw didn’t feature in the ODI leg of the 2017 Ashes series, but since their ODI series against India in 2018, she has been part of every series Australia has played.
Since that ODI series in India, Mooney has scored 1184 runs in 33 innings at an average of 62.31, the highest for the period. She has been one of the most flexible players for Australia for five years. Mooney has batted at every position in the top six during this period and maintained a healthy average at each. She also has the highest non-boundary strike rate (57.22) in ODIs since the 2017 World Cup, which means she can push the scoring rate without disturbing the momentum of the innings.
During the World Cup cycle, the 28-year-old has mostly batted in the middle and death overs. Mooney’s role in the Australian playing XI has been to either hit boundaries at the back end of the innings or to bat through the innings if there is a collapse. A statistical analysis of her 33 innings will show that she has done her job perfectly. After being pushed up the order in the World Cup final against England and she contributed with a quick-fire partnership of 156 runs with Alyssa Healy.
Semi-Final 2017: 0 (8) bowled by Jhulan Goswami
Strike Rate- 85.76
High Score- 135*
Meg Lanning entered the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup with a heavily strapped right shoulder. She needed just one run to become the fourth Australian player to go past 3000 ODI runs. Indian stalwart Jhulan Goswami gatecrashed the Lanning party with a booming outswinger that reduced Australia to two for nine in the fifth over. That was just the fifth occasion in her career when the right-handed batter was dismissed for a duck in ODIs. In the 2017 edition, Lanning was the third-highest run-scorer for Australia despite featuring in only six matches. Australia were highly dependent on their captain and her failure to score runs in the semi-final dented their chances early.
Lanning was not part of the squad for the 2017 Ashes series as she was recovering from a shoulder injury. Australia got the opportunity to test their depth in the captain’s absence in the multi-format series. Even though they just managed to retain the Ashes trophy, the foundation of future endeavors without their best players was laid. As a result, Australia could rest Lanning in the bilateral fixtures without risking her wellbeing. For example, Lanning was rested against West Indies in 2019 and New Zealand in 2020, even when the series was on the line.
Before 2017, Lanning was the centerpiece of the Australian batting line-up and the batting approach was led by her, but it has changed since then. Openers Alyssa Healy and Rachael Haynes have surpassed Lanning in the run-scoring charts during the five years, which has reduced the pressure on Lanning. She is still one of the best batters in the world, evident from her average of 50.48, along with 12 50+ scores in the period, including four centuries.
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Semi-Final 2017: 38 (56) caught Sushma Verma bowled Shikha Pandey; 9-1-40-0
Bat Average- 48.45
High Score- 112*
Best Figures- 7/22
The 2017 edition was the pinnacle of Ellyse Perry, the batter. She was Australia’s highest run-scorer at the World Cup and registered five back-to-back half-centuries in the tournament to create history. In the semi-final, India were able to send her back in time before she could accelerate after a slow start. Perry’s departure, immediately after the halfway mark, exposed the Australian lower-middle order in the steep chase.
Perry has been an active part of Australia’s success in the last five years with 1066 runs and 39 wickets. She scored her highest ODI score (112 not out against West Indies) and also recorded her best bowling figures in the format (7 for 22 against England) during the World Cup cycle. Perry has proved time and again that she is one of the most complete all-rounders in the game despite carrying multiple injury concerns since 2020.
Since her injury-enforced break in 2020, Australia have found a way to win crucial games without Perry. They have introduced the likes of Tahlia McGrath and Annabel Sutherland, who can take similar responsibility for the team. It has been a highlight of the Australian planning that they now have multiple fast-bowling all-rounders to fill the big shoes of Perry. These multiple backup plans have not deterred Perry from giving her best for the team. As evident from her match-winning batting performance against New Zealand and a cracking opening spell against West Indies during the World Cup.
Australia using Perry only as a batter in the World Cup final against England demonstrated the growth of the team over five years.
Semi-Final 2017: 1 (3) caught Mithali Raj bowled Poonam Yadav; 8-0-43-1
High Score- 67
Best Figures- 3 for 25
Despite having vice-captain Alex Blackwell still present at the non-striker's end, Ashleigh Gardner’s wicket more or less sealed the final spot for India. Gardner, playing her first-ever ICC event, was a genuine rookie in the team. In the 2017 World Cup, she was expected to hit boundaries from ball one and she tried to do precisely that in the semi-final. Her off-spin contributed with eight wickets throughout the tournament, but she was still a part-time bowler.
Since 2017, Gardner has shown immense maturity without losing her style of play. She has a strike rate of 116.41, the highest amongst the players who have scored a minimum of 500 runs in the World Cup cycle. She has also topped the chart of most sixes for Australia in this period (24) along with Alyssa Healy. As evidenced by her 42 wickets in the last five years, she became the bowling all-rounder Australia expected her to be.
Gardner’s rise has played a massive role in strengthening the depth of Australia’s batting and bowling line-up. The right-handed batter was at her explosive best with the bat against New Zealand when she hit 48 runs off just 18 balls. The off-spinner was also able to make a crucial breakthrough in the final with the wicket of Charlie Dean, who had notched up a 9th wicket partnership of 65 runs. Gardner’s rise has also showcased that Australia has backed the players they have invested heavily in despite a few lean patches in the domestic structure.
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Semi-Final 2017: 5 (10) caught Shikha Pandey bowled Jhulan Goswami
Strike Rate- 102.29
High Score- 170
Alyssa Healy’s dismissal in the semi-final did not come as a surprise. Batting at seven and with the required rate climbing up, Healy immediately tried to put up a counterattack. The wicket-keeper batter even got the early success against Deepti Sharma but, she had no answer to Jhulan Goswami’s straight delivery and ended up giving an easy catch to mid-on. Her wicket in the 29th over virtually closed the doors to the final for Australia.
Australia’s coach Matthew Mott took a bold decision to promote Healy to the opening slot in the Ashes series. The calculated risk paid dividends as she scored two half-centuries against England. The team management has kept faith in the opener throughout the five years as she has opened the batting in every single ODI for Australia. Her capacity to attack against the new ball and to maintain a 100+ strike rate has set Australia apart from other teams.
Healy’s methodical rise in the World Cup cycle was on the display in the knock-out stage of the ICC event in New Zealand. She took the game away from the opposition in the semi-final and final with back-to-back centuries. Even before her promotion in the batting order, Healy was one of the vital players for Australia. Since finding her place at the top of the order, she has turned herself into a run-scoring machine.
Semi-Final 2017: 2 (4) caught Jhulan Goswami bowled Deepti Sharma; 9-0-64-1
Best Figures- 4/26
Despite dismissing the dangerous Smriti Mandhana in her first over, Megan Schutt was the most expensive fast bowler in the semi-final. She watched helplessly as Harmanpreet Kaur smoked 29 runs off her second spell. Schutt could not add much with the bat either as she was dismissed for two, ending a disappointing outing for her.
Schutt bounced back from the horrible performance against India with 10 wickets in the ODI leg of the Ashes series that followed the World Cup. Since then, she has contributed 60 wickets across 37 matches for Australia. Her hooping inswingers have bamboozled some of the best batters in the world. Her capacity to control the flow of runs in the opening and the death overs has stood out. During the World Cup cycle, she became the third Australian pacer to go past 100 ODI wickets as well.
Schutt has admitted that the semi-final clash against India was the wake-up call for the bowling unit and it forced them to come up with multiple plans against the opposition. In the absence of Perry, Schutt has found herself as a leader of the fast bowling unit.
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Semi-Final 2017: 1 (1) run out by Jhulan Goswami; 7-0-63-0
Best Figures- 5/27
Statistics will show that the semi-final in Derby was Jess Jonassen’s worst bowling performance in ODIs. She was hit for 63 runs in her spell of seven overs. A death blow came in the penultimate over of the innings, when Kaur blasted Jonassen for 19 runs. A reliable batter in the lower order otherwise, Jonassen couldn’t add anything with the bat on the day as she was run out for just one run.
Since 2017, Jonassen has been Australia’s most successful bowler, with 65 wickets in 35 innings. Lanning has used the left-arm orthodox spin of Jonassen mostly in the middle and death overs to squeeze the scoring rate. Her economy rate of 3.73 during this period is an indicator of Jonassen understanding her role in the team and taking up responsibility with the ball. Just like Schutt, Jonassen also went past 100 ODI wickets during the World Cup, adding a personal milestone as well.
During the World Cup, Jonassen was left out in the fixture against New Zealand as Australia opted to use more pace options. It underlined the fact that Australia could drop the top-ranked bowler according to the need of the situation. From the outside, it looked like a massive risk, but as Lanning reiterated in the post-match presentation, that it was purely a tactical decision. Jonassen showed her class in the final with three crucial wickets. Jonassen also led the wickets charts for Australia, with 13 wickets in eight matches, showing her dexterity.
Semi-Final 2017: Did not play
High Score- 130
Rachael Haynes did not play in the semi-final in Derby. She watched the Australian batting unit explode against India from the sidelines. Since then, Haynes has featured in every series with the bat and as a part of the leadership group. The left-hander successfully led Australia in the absence of Lanning in the Ashes series that followed, showing the leadership depth of the team.
Along with Healy, Haynes has solidified her position in the top order. The pair started opening the batting for Australia in 2019 and they have posted 1847 runs, including seven century stands, at an average of 63.68. Along with this exceptional record, Haynes partnered with her captain, Lanning, to score 919 runs across 16 innings, including five century partnerships at an average of 61.26. These three players usually bat in the top three for Australia and contributions from Haynes have truly raised the bar.
From playing only two matches in the 2017 edition, Haynes has become the mainstay of the team. She featured in all of Australia’s matches during the World Cup, starting the campaign with a cracking century against England. She backed up that performance with three more half-centuries in the tournament. It is not a surprise that Healy, Haynes, and Lanning were amongst the top run-scorers for Australia in the World Cup.
This strong core group carried Australia throughout the five-year period. This group also enabled the easy transition of players like Darcie Brown, Annabel Sutherland, and Alana King into the national setup and gave them the platform to perform and prosper at the international level. This perfect blend of youth and experience combined to give Australia their third ICC trophy in five years.
"Seventh World Cup win for Australia and they deserve it. They are by far the best side and probably the greatest women's cricket side that has ever played the game." declared Nasser Hussain.
With the ODI World Cup trophy, Australia are now the reigning champions of the T20 World Cup, the ICC ODI Championship, and the Ashes. Will this group be happy with what they have or are they hungry for more? Only time will tell.