Rachael Haynes – the understated superstar in Australia’s top order  

Rachael Haynes celebrates a milestone. © Getty Images

You will often hear fans and experts rave about the likes of Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy and Megan Schutt, to name a few. But how often does one speak of Rachael Haynes in the same vein? Like Australia, the left-handed Haynes, too, has been unstoppable. In her last six ODI innings Haynes’ scores read 96, 82, 44, 63, 118 and 56 –a testimony as to why hers is one of the first names on the team sheet.

One of the senior players in the side, Haynes does not seek the spotlight, but instead, what she wants is to spend as much time as possible in the middle hitting those classic cover drives through the gaps. Having scores of 44 and 82 to kick off the series against New Zealand, the Australian vice-captain was hungry for more, and on Wednesday (October 7) she didn’t disappoint.

Given the added responsibility of leading the side in the absence of regular skipper Meg Lanning (who pulled out at the last moment due to a hamstring strain), the 33-year-old played a calm and composed innings in the company of Healy.

At the start of her innings, Haynes took her time in the middle and put away anything even remotely loose. Her gorgeous extra cover drive off Holly Huddleston that pierced the strong off side field in the eighth over was a treat to the eyes. It was a sign of things to come – she was keen to send New Zealand on a leather hunt.

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Six months out of action (due to COVID-19 pandemic) and Haynes appeared to effortlessly pick up where she left off, as she cut, pulled, swept and drove the opposition bowlers so elegantly before falling four short of her second international ton. She was particularly destructive though the offside with most of her 10 boundaries coming in that direction.

In fact, had she scored those four runs, Haynes would have the distinct achievement of scoring both her international tons on the same date. Her maiden ODI ton of 118 came against Sri Lanka last year on October 7. While she was unable to bring up the milestone, Haynes did finish the day as skipper of Australia’s record-equalling 21st consecutive win.

“It was really pleasing today that we were able to put out a performance like that even without arguably two of the best players in the world (Lanning and Perry) not walking out,” Haynes, one of four players to appear in all 21 victories, said. “It’s really nice to know our depth is there and those players are more than capable of performing on any given day.”

“The selectors, Matthew (Mott) and Meg have done really well bringing new players into that environment who are now becoming important for the squad. It’s a really positive sign for the team and what’s ahead even though we aren’t sure when the next game will be.”

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Haynes scored her maiden ODI century against Sri Lanka. © Getty Images

Haynes scored her maiden ODI century against Sri Lanka. © Getty Images

“I think that’s the standout for me, we haven’t relied on one or two players, there have been new players brought in and people have stood up at different times,” added Haynes, who deservingly took the Player of the Series honour with 222 runs from three games at an average of 74.

Haynes’ resurgence as an international cricketer has coincided with Australia’s winning streak. Recalled ahead of the 2017 Women’s World Cup in England, the left-hander has since established herself as one of the side’s most versatile and key batters in the order. Of her career total 1836 runs, Haynes has scored 1054 runs in 27 matches since 2017, including one hundred and eight half-centuries at a strike rate of 80.89. Moved up and down the order according to team requirements, she has found a way to score runs in all conditions and situations.

Haynes credits a lot of her recent success, to the batting minds that surround her and the experience that she has gained from them. “I think it has come because of the little bit of experience, to be honest,” she had said during the series. “When I was younger, I used to get frustrated a lot quicker and try and hit really big shots. I think I am a lot more confident about what my scoring and high percentage options are.”

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“I am also batting with some quality players down the other end. Players like Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, they are really good to bounce suggestions off. Even yesterday Meg could sense I was getting a bit frustrated and she just came down and suggested some really good options where I could score.”

Probably the most underrated among the current crop of batters, Haynes is leading by example. Besides the likes of Healy, Lanning, Perry, Beth Mooney and others, the 33-year-old is an inspiration for the youngsters in the team.

With international commitments for the remainder of the year seemingly done and dusted, Haynes will quietly slide into her leadership role for Sydney Thunder in the upcoming season of Women’s Big Bash League which begins on October 25. With the 2017 World Cup-winning England skipper Heather Knight in the squad, Haynes will definitely be eager to pick her mind in an attempt to secure the club’s second WBBL.