Following the drawn Test match at Taunton that saw them retain the Ashes, the overwhelming theme in the Australian camp is that there is still much left to do. Matthew Mott, Meg Lanning, and Beth Mooney all categorically stated that the job was not yet done— that Australia still had to win the Ashes; retaining it would just not do.
Coming into the series, Alyssa Healy, Australia’s wicket-keeper, had jokingly suggested that England would not win a single game. While the visitors look well on course to come good on that promise, Healy is aware that the “fickle nature of T20” means Australia cannot afford to be complacent going into the first T20I on Friday (July 26).
“T20 cricket’s incredibly fickle and we know that the Poms are going to come out really, really hard,” Healy said, ahead of the game, on Thursday (July 25). “They haven’t got a lot to lose (from what’s) left in this series, so it’s a big occasion for them. For us, we’ll just keep rolling on as we have been in T20s over the last 12-18 months and hopefully we can just keep playing well.”
“It’s a really big series and obviously we’ve ticked one box in saying that we’ve retained the Ashes, but that’s not really what we came here to do. We came here to win ‘em and that’s something we let ourselves down with in the Ashes back home, and that’s something we’re going to make sure that we try and rectify.”
“Naturally the T20 format brings teams closer together and I think we’ve seen that over the last couple of World Cups. There’s a lot of different teams beating one another. “
“We know that England are going to come out firing. They’re incredibly comfortable in their home conditions, in front of a big crowd. It’s going to be a big game and we’ll have to come out firing to beat them,” she added.
The first T20I in Chelmsford will likely be one of Australia’s biggest challenges on the tour so far. England have never lost at their ‘fortress’ and Australia have only managed scores of 122 and 131 at the County Ground so far.
“I’ve been part of two teams that have come here and lost, and it’s never been a great experience,” said Healy. “The crowd are really supportive of the English side and get right behind them. It’s great for us to play in front of a crowd like that.”
“I’ve heard there’s over 8000 people due here tomorrow night which is going to be real exciting. It’s obviously a big match for both sides and hopefully we continue the form that we’ve shown.”
Australia are a team that, in the recent past, have dominated the shortest format. Their aggressive approach in the T20I format is beyond compare. They boast of a line-up with depth in the batting and a variety of resources with the ball as well. Recently crowned T20 world champions, the visitors will be keen to stamp their authority on the series, and preferably ‘win’ the Ashes on Friday.
Australia have set the bar in terms of their attacking approach in T20I cricket. Each player has a clearly defined role which makes their job that much easier. Healy is at the forefront of this change, with the responsibility to get Australia off to a flying start.
The right-hander has shown promising form through the series with three half-centuries in five innings, and despite not being able to kick on to get a more substantial score, she is not too worried. That Australia is winning is what matters most.
“T20 cricket’s obviously a big one for team performance,” she explained. “Obviously you want an individual to bat right through, but my role within this squad is to get us off to a really good start and if I can bat deep in the innings, you know, it’s a bonus. I’m not too concerned about that (not getting a big score). If I get out for a first ball duck tomorrow and we win, I’m not too unhappy.”
With the addition of Sophie Molineux into the squad, and the left-arm spinner’s wonderful performance through the Test match, Australia have a few selection headaches ahead of the game. It is something Healy believes is a good sign for the team.
“We’ve got 15 players here now to choose from. Everyone’s in really good form and been training really well. Obviously Elyse Villani’s been over with the Australia A team and got some runs there. So, it’s going to be a challenging selection for them, but obviously a pleasing one for us. We know that the XI that’s going to be on the park tomorrow night are going to be raring to go and in good form, and it’s probably a good problem to have.”
In contrast to the visitors’ predicament, the hosts suffered a blow on the eve of the opening T20I, as Jenny Gunn, the veteran allrounder, was ruled out of the remainder of the series with a side-strain. England have decided not to call in a replacement.