"We have so much experience and wealth in our team" says Gardner

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All-round brilliance from Gardner leads Australia to whitewash

Ashleigh Gardner in action. ©Cricket Australia

Australia won their ODI series against Pakistan 3-0. For the Australians, Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner stood out in the last match. Gardner was adjudged the Player-of-the-Match, for her quick-fire 62* off 37 deliveries before she also took three wickets.

Cricket.com.au spoke to the all-rounder following her impressive performance. The win meant the Australian's whitewashed Pakistan in a series where all three matches were fairly one-sided.  On her personal performance,  Gardener commented, "It was very good to seal the series three-nil. I was fortunate enough to score some runs and take some wickets. When I got out there, there were only 10 overs to go so, I got to play my natural game. Luckily for me, today it came off."

Coming in at number seven, Gardener's job is to score runs rapidly towards the end of the innings. Usually coming to the crease when there are only the last few overs remaining, Gardener takes the time she does have to settle in. "Six balls," she says, "I think is long enough. The shorter you're out there, the less balls you get but, it's just finding the middle early in the innings."

Healy's 97 off 75 balls set the tone for Australia's innings, giving them the confidence to go score runs at a faster rate than previously. They finished on 324-7. About the importance of Healy's knock at the top of the order, Gardener said, "She set a really positive platform and showed that there were runs to be scored out there. Pity, she threw away her 100. She got so close. But, she's been batting really well so, it's a really good thing going into the World Cup."

Gardener also reiterated what her teammates had said about the conditions in Malaysia. "It's really hot, so that's one thing that you need to overcome. The wickets, in particular, are not turning as much as I thought they were going to. Just bowling tighter lines. Trying to adapt and playing it by ear when you actually get out there." Sophie Molineux made similar comments in her post-match interview about the wicket not being as "spin-friendly" as they had thought they were going to be.

This series has seen three players debut for Australia. In the first ODI, both Molineux and Georgia Wareham earned their maiden caps, while the last one saw Victorian quick Tayla Vlaeminck make her debut. In her first international match in the green and gold, Vlaeminck took her maiden ODI wicket; that of Pakistan's captain, Javeria Khan. About the 19-year-old quick, Gardener said, "She's been really good. It's really good to see a fresh face in this group. She brings quite a rawness in the bowling attack. She showed today how quick she can bowl and that she is a pretty good bumper bowler, as well."

Australia have a batting line-up that, to their opposition, would look never-ending. In Twenty-20's, the world's top-ranked ODI batter, Elyse Perry comes in at number seven. Apart from that, hard-hitters Ellyse Villani and Delissa Kimmince sat on the sidelines during the series. This shows the remarkable depth Australia possesses. With the World Twenty-20 around the corner, this depth will be a major source of confidence for the squad, and Gardener agrees. "It's awesome," she reflects. "We showed what we can do against New Zealand, not that long ago. Going into the World Cup, we have so much experience and wealth in our team. The likes of those girls to come back in our side is a really positive and amazing thing for us."

Because they whitewashed the ODI series, Australia have added six points to their tally in the ICC Women's Championship. They now go clear to the top of the table, with 16 points to their name. In the same number of matches, New Zealand, who sit second on the ladder, have 12 points. The hosts' and the top four other teams earn direct qualification into the 2021 World Cup, which makes every match of the championship important. On the importance of it, Gardener expressed, "Definitely. We want to be Number one in every format that we can. I guess coming up against teams that are probably a little weaker than the other teams, I don't think that changes our mindset. We treated Pakistan the way we treated England. So, I think to follow our values, whenever we're playing cricket, is a massive thing for us."

Pakistan is not an opposition Australia is familiar with. The two have not engaged in many bilateral series' against each other so, facing Pakistan, especially in the foreign conditions of Malaysia, was a difficult challenge for Australia. About her oppositions, Gardener commented, "I think they're one of the best bowling attacks, to be honest. It's nothing like what we've faced back at home. They're very different to what we do. They bowl quite slow and just skid the ball on when they are bowling. When they came out with the bat, (in the match) it was quite impressive to see them actually have a crack. One of the girls (Aliya Riaz) made a 50 and she was pretty pumped by it."

With the ODI's done and dusted, the teams move on to the Twenty-20 leg of the tour. The Twenty-20's serve as preparation for the fast-approaching World Twenty-20. When asked how the change in format would affect Australia's approach to the game, Gardener replied, "I don't think, for our team, it really changes a lot. The way we play the brand of cricket is quite fearless. I don't think we shy away from that too much with 50-over cricket and Twenty-20. I don't think there's much of a focus change to what we do. Obviously, you have less balls to face, but just playing the attacking cricket that we're best at."

The last ODI brought many milestones for members of the Australian team. Vlaeminck made her debut, Gardener scored her maiden ODI fifty, but for Perry, the match marked her 100th ODI and the 200th time she appeared for Australia on the international level. Debuting for Australia in 2007, Perry has been an integral part of the side since. "I think she's one of the best athletes I've ever come across," said Gardener. "Just her work ethic and the way that she goes about her game. No matter if it's training or the game, she puts in the exact same effort. I think that's something young girls tend to look up to and I think she's an amazing athlete. Obviously, juggling two sports for ages (cricket and soccer) and now focusing on cricket. She's just an idol, for anyone, not just cricketers. "

"That's a massive part of batting, you really need to believe in yourself," said Gardener. Australia lost five wickets in the opening match of the series while chasing 95. The batting performance probably was not up to their standards initially in the tour but, the belief in the squad is what helped them turn it around towards the end of the series, leading them to break the 300-run barrier. She further added, "You need to believe in yourself and back your strengths. I feel the top-order hadn't really done that this series. Midge (Healy) just bat the way she bats and Meg (Lanning) and Rach (Rachael Haynes) did that last game. So, I think we're in a really positive mindset and backing our own abilities."