Tayla Vlaeminck in action. ©Cricket Australia

Ahead of Australia’s warm-up match against England Academy, Matthew Mott, their head coach, spoke of the need to be “aggressive” and pick a team (bowlers) that can take 20 wickets to try and win the game. With much talk of the possibility of conditions in Taunton being spin-friendly, the question seemed to be more about whether Australia would go into the match with a three or four-pronged spin attack. However, with two fast and aggressive spells of bowling late on the first day and early on the second morning, it seems Tayla Vlaeminck, Australia’s 20-year-old fast bowler, has likely bowled herself into Australia’s Test XI.

“I think it’s hard not to (think about selection), but I’m just trying to enjoy actually being out here in the three-day game,” said Vlaeminck after stumps on day two of Australia’s warm-up match against England Academy on Friday (July 12). “I’m having a great time and I know we all are. Obviously you want to perform and put your name in (contention for) selection, but at the end of the day it is just good fun being out here.”

Ever since her selection into the Australian team late last year, there has been a great deal of excitement around the ‘X-factor’ that Vlaeminck brings to the table with her raw pace. She has been the reason many of the Australian batters have been jumping around in the nets.

“I faced Tay a little bit in that Junction Oval synthetic nets and that’s really really scary because she bowls quick in there,” Sophie Molineux said on Thursday (Jully 11), after Vlaeminck picked up two quick wickets before the close of play. “I can’t imagine it out there tonight when it was getting a little bit dark… It’s been so good to see her let loose, really. She’s been injured and she’s worked really hard to get back. It just looks like she’s got the confidence in her body and her bowling and it’s so good to see that she’s got batters jumping around again.”

Since her return from injury, the common belief is that Vlaeminck has gotten even quicker.

“She was quick before hand but she was pretty quick now,” laughed Molineux. “I think she’s just spent that time in the gym and gotten stronger and fitter, and she has that confidence in her body now which obviously showing in the speeds she is bowling.”

Late on the first day, with the light fading, Vlaeminck came into the attack in the tenth over of the England Academy innings, and proceeded to pick up two wickets in the space of two overs. She first had Bryony Smith caught behind for 14, after which Fran Wilson was caught by Jess Jonassen at point off a leading edge. The following morning, having been handed the ball in the first hour of play, the 20-year-old trapped Sophia Dunkley on the crease and then got Alice Davidson-Richards caught behind for a duck to reduce the hosts to 74 for 7.

As her teammates described it, Vlaeminck’s was a lethal spell of aggressive fast bowling.

“I was happy enough,” said Vlaeminck. “It was nice to get out there— just in the whites, and (with) the red ball, it was just something different and something exciting. I had a great time out there… They were coming out nicely which was pretty exciting and pretty good.”

“I think that’s my job— to just hit that back a length and to be aggressive. But I think you need to just have a little more patience and set up a few more plans to the batters (in the longer format). You don’t have to try and bowl wicket balls all the time, you can kind of be a bit more patient and set the wicket up a little bit more which is good and it’s good to know that you have a few more overs in the bank as well to produce something.”

With figures of 4 for 31 under her belt, Vlaeminck has certainly bowled herself into contention for a spot in Australia’s XI come Taunton. However, one concern the management could have is whether the fast bowler’s body will last the grueling demands of a Test match. The team’s quest to secure an outright win in the warm-up game may give them a slight clue. If England Academy manage to show the fight their lower order did on a surface that “flattened out” through the day, Australia will be in for a tough final day. For Vlaeminck, if she stands up to the challenge of bowling hard overs in the second innings, she may earn that much coveted ‘Baggy Green’.

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