Australia’s road to the World T20 begins on Saturday night, with a blockbuster match-up against New Zealand.
The three-match series will be their first since the victorious Indian tri-series in March. In that series, Australia lost just one match, and were dominant in the final, as they started to find a mix of players that will hopefully guide them to World Cup glory in the West Indies, in November.
According to star all-rounder Ellyse Perry the squad are ready to hit the ground running despite not playing through the winter,
“We’ve had a wonderful pre-season together, we’ve spent a lot of time in camp, and we’ve been building towards this for a few months over the winter,” Perry said.
“[We’re] always keen to get back at the Kiwis. They’re a great rival of ours and they’ve got some wonderful players.
“There’s a bit of unknown about their team, [with] some fresh and exciting faces for them,” she said.
The next 18 months will see Australia play an Ashes series and two World T20s (including one on home soil in February 2020), and the players know just how crucial it will be to get off to a good start.
Wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy stressed the importance of playing a strong brand of cricket in this series.
“It’s a massive 12-18 months coming up, but obviously the World T20 coming up in November is sitting in the back of our minds,” Healy said.
“I guess the next six T20 games that we’ve got coming up will be a really good opportunity to show the rest of the world how we approach our cricket.”
Captain Meg Lanning agreed, and pointed to the Indian series as a turning point in the side’s T20 fortunes.
“In the India series we did really well to nail down the style of play we want, now it’s just about injecting those young players into the squad and making sure we’re really clear on the aggressive nature we want to play with heading into the T20 World Cup,” Lanning said.
The youthful injection Lanning spoke about will come from leggie Georgia Wareham and quick Tayla Vlaeminck. They will replace the injured Jess Jonassen, batter Naomi Stalenberg and leggie Amanda-Jade Wellington from the squad that toured India.
Both Wareham and Vlaeminck had strong performances with the National Performance Squad, and impressed for the Australian under-19’s team in their recent tour of South Africa, with the latter taking 16 wickets in just six games.
Vlaeminck will miss the first game due to injury but should be available for the second match. Her sheer pace has excited higher-ups in Australian cricket and has seen her fast-tracked to the national team despite not making her WBBL debut as of yet.
Wareham appears to have leapfrogged Amanda-Jade Wellington as the first-choice T20 leg-spinner in the country, a decision that already looks shrewd, with Wareham taking 2/25 off her four overs against the Cricket Australia XI, in Australia’s first warm-up match on Thursday.
Australia won that match comfortably, chasing down 124 with nine wickets to spare. Beth Mooney ended with 54 not out, while Ash Gardner showed no signs of the concussion that kept her out of the first round of the WNCL, scoring 39 not out.
New Zealand also had a comfortable victory over the CA XI, with Maddy Green guiding them home with 36 off 23 not out.
Last time these teams met, in early 2017, New Zealand won the three-match T20 series 2-1, including a 47-run victory in the decider.
Since then, Australia’s T20 form has improved drastically, which should make for a fascinating series.
It all kicks off at 7pm on Saturday at North Sydney Oval, and will be televised on Channel Seven.