27/02/2024

The Aussies were challenged harder than ever before, but managed to pull through for a thrilling series win over India (Photo - Cricket Australia).

The Indians pushed the Southern Stars right until the end, leaving a series of talking points after some tight finishes.

Despite being severely challenged by the travelling Indian team, the Southern Stars still managed to come out on top in a tight Multi-Format series.

With many swings and roundabouts in the series, with India’s emerging stars and Australia’s new mix giving the cricketing world a lot to think about before the 2021/22 Ashes series.

The Inner Sanctum looks at the Top 6 talking points to emerge from the Multi-Format series.

India has leapt up to close the gap

For many years there’s been a battle between England and New Zealand to determine who would rise up the ranks and dismantle the Southern Stars off their perch. But this series has shown that India are right up there with them as a big 4 nation after their very solid showing against the Aussies.

It started when they managed to first push Australia right to the line in the second ODI and should have won if it weren’t for a Jhulan Goswami waist-high full toss, before ending their remarkable winning streak with a classy victory in the third game. When they then took control on the first day of the test match, India looked like they were headed to winning the series. If it wasn’t for some defiance from Australia’s experienced spine and a bout of horrid weather Gold Coast weather, then they may have taken the crucial test match points and never looked back.

But their consistent ability to push the Aussies further and further was something no other team has been able to do, nonetheless on Australian shores. New Zealand’s trip down under last year ended in heartbreak, as the Southern Stars romped to victory often, while we’ll see this summer whether England has improved to challenge the host nation. But India’s efforts on this trip have set the tone to establish themselves as the country pushing up to dethrone the Stars and end their golden era.

Five-day test matches are needed, and more often

Every game in this series, in every format, was exhilarating and provided its own unique offering to the overall Multi-Format competition. But the major talking point came out of the one-off test match, with the contest showing the need for a fifth day.

If the Queensland rain hadn’t so rudely interrupted play on the majority of the first few days then a result would’ve easily been reached, such was the even contest between bat and ball consistently throughout the test match. With India racing away to a fast start after being sent into bat at Metricon Stadium, the visitors seemed like they would never relinquish their hold on the contest.

Yet Australia’s quality all across the board meant they were always pushing to bounce back. Very rarely down in an international match, the Southern Stars fought hard with the bat in hand to level proceedings and took a risk with a bold first innings declaration. Despite the match filtering out to a draw, an extra day was suggested by both teams post-game, with the want to push for a result being an exciting prospect.

From Aussie coach Matthew Mott to the majority of players, the universal consensus was that five-day test match should become the norm in women’s cricket, especially when the weather intervenes as often as it did in the Gold Coast. But that isn’t the only change that should be made – the success of the pink ball game means test match cricket should become a staple of every international series in women’s cricket going forward, such is the quality that has emerged.

Meg has too many options

The depth of Australia’s bowling attack is admirable, especially considering the absence of Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen for the entire series. Without them, young options were given plenty of opportunities to shine on the big stage, but the Australian selection panel may have gotten it wrong by giving too many bowlers chances at the same time.

It really came to a head in the test match. In the field of 11 players who donned the baggy green for Australia, eight of them bowled. It meant the likes of leg-spinner Georgia Wareham barely got a bowl, and the limited spells afforded to each young bowler meant none of them truly settled throughout the four days.

Normally a bevy of options is a wonderful choice to have as a captain, but it also seemed to hinder Meg Lanning. In the following Twenty20’s, Ellyse Perry barely got a bowl, even when her one over in the first Twenty20 went for only three runs. It may not have stopped the Southern Stars from winning the series, but it certainly made their bowling attack look weaker and shakier when put under pressure by India’s attacking batters.

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A new McGrath for Australia’s future

She may not have the wickets and impeccable line and length that her namesake had throughout his long international career, but Tahlia McGrath’s ability to contribute strongly for Australia with both bat and ball has made her an emerging star.

When she came to the crease in the middle order at multiple occasions throughout the series, she was required to play the unfamiliar role of digging Australia out of a dark situation. She rarely faltered, leading the Aussies to victory on multiple nights to ensure the Stars won the series.

Also, a valuable option with ball in hand, McGrath’s series has ensured selection in the side for the foreseeable future, giving her preference ahead of other all-rounders such as Nicola Carey and Annabel Sutherland.

The highlight of McGrath’s series was her efforts in the final two Twenty20’s, where she anchored the Southern Stars’ innings for two consecutive nights to lead them to victory on both occasions. Without her elegant stroke play on the offside and innovation at the crease, the Aussies wouldn’t have gotten over the line in the face of some solid Indian bowling.

After her ODI debut at Coffs Harbour in 2016, McGrath has spent the preceding 5 years on the periphery of the Australian squads and called upon as a squad member as an injury replacement. After her exploits these past few weeks, she’s firmly etched her name in the team for a long time to come.

Jemimah set for a big WBBL

We already knew about the class that India possesses in terms of batting talent. With Smriti Mandhana, the young Shafali Verma, and the returning Harmanpreet Kaur all settling into the top four for the Twenty20 leg of the series, the big surprise packet came with the emergence of Jemimah Rodrigues.

After setting ‘The Hundred, alight, there were big wraps on Rodrigues and her ability to impact games in the shortest format and many were waiting to see what she could do in Australia.

To the mixed feelings of her future Aussie Melbourne Renegades teammates Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham, Rodrigues lit up the opening Twenty20 with a knock full of powerful lofted cover drives and nifty late cuts and sweeps. From the pace of Tayla Vlaeminck to the spin of Wareham and Molineux, Rodrigues looked too good for all bowlers who came her way, blasting India to a total that required the divine intervention of McGrath to chase down at the death.

Also playing another eye-catching innings in the third match, Rodrigues’ stocks are only increasing on the eve of this season’s WBBL, where she has even more opportunity to prove her talents on Australian pitches.

A wonderful swansong for Goswami

Having been a stalwart of Indian cricket for many years now, it was with mixed feelings that Jhulan Goswami returned to Aussie shores for one last time to terrorise Australia’s vaunted batters.

Goswami has long been the spearhead of India’s attack, using her pace, swing and guile to shoulder responsibility of a bowling unit that has only recently started to flourish. Always a restrictive force in limited overs cricket, it was with the pink ball in the test match where Goswami had one last laugh in the face of the Southern Stars’ top order.

Going at only 1.5 runs an over while dismissing both Aussie openers in Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney, Goswami was red hot with the new ball in the first innings of the test. It was Goswami at her rhythmic best, looking relaxed in her run up and in total control of her curving swing.

Despite not getting much chance to run through the Aussies on the final evening, Goswami still left one last impression on Healy, ripping through her defence to dampen any chances of Australia challenging for victory. Although she may not have led India to a historic victory in the Gold Coast, Goswami’s brilliance deserved to be celebrated one final time in Australia.

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