Tayla Vlaeminck in action. ©CA

Host Australia suffered a major blow just a day before the World Cup with young pacer Tayla Vlaeminck being ruled of the tournament with stress fractures in her foot. Off-spinner Molly Strano replaces Vlaeminck with the Victorian arriving in Sydney ahead of the squad’s final training session at the Showgrounds Stadium on Thursday afternoon (February 20).

The 21-year-old Vlaeminck was spotted at an event in Sydney on Wednesday (February 19) wearing a ‘moon boot’ on her right foot, having missed her team’s final warm-up match against South Africa the previous day, and Australia’s worst fears have since been confirmed.

Vlaeminck’s absence is a massive blow for the defending champions after her strong form in the recently-concluded T20 Tri-series, with the sheer pace seen as her major weapon. With no like-for-like replacement in the Aussie domestic circuit, the national selectors have instead turned to the spin of Strano.

“Tayla has been in brilliant form of late and established herself as one of the premier fast bowlers in international cricket,” head coach Matthew Mott said. “No one ever wants to see a player miss a major tournament in these kinds of circumstances, but I have no doubt she will bounce back from this setback and play a leading role in Australian squads for many years to come.”

“We are fortunate to have great depth across Australian cricket and Molly enters the squad in great form having recently been named the domestic player of the year,” added Mott. Strano last played for Australia during the 2017 Ashes but has been a consistent performer on the domestic stage for years and holds the record for best T20I figures by any Australian, having taken 5/10 against New Zealand in early 2017.

The leading wicket-taker in the Women’s Big Bash League earlier this summer, Strano was acknowledged as the Domestic Player of the Year at the Australian Cricket Awards earlier this month. She collected 24 scalps at 16.9 for the Melbourne Renegades in WBBL season five.

Right-arm pacer Vlaeminck had been tipped to be the breakout star of the World Cup following her performances in the T20I tri-series, where she bowled with serious heat in the three matches she played, causing problems for the star-studded top-orders of England and India.

Her speed was seen as particularly crucial for the opening game against India – Vlaeminck hurried India’s batters when unleashed at Canberra’s Manuka Oval earlier this month, unsettling their top order and collecting a career-best 3/13. The injury is another cruel setback for the talented Victorian who has endured a torrid run of injuries in her short career to date.

In the space of four years leading into 2018, she underwent two knee reconstructions and recovered from a dislocated shoulder, all before making her international debut. She had recovered from an ACL strain – her second in as many years – to take her place in Australia’s T20 World Cup squad last month.

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