Women’s Ashes: A moment of calm in a stormy build-up for Knight and Lanning

Captains Meg Lanning and Heather Knight pose with the Women's Ashes trophy with the multi-format series to get underway tomorrow in Adelaide. Image: @AusWomensCricket. Twitter

Both captains Meg Lanning and Heather Knight stood together on Adelaide Oval ahead of tomorrow’s T20 Women’s Ashes opener with a sense of calm and singing relatively from the same hymn book.

Neither team was content with the build-up and preparation despite the different circumstances and neither team was willing to give away their starting XI for the first game of the multi-format Women’s Ashes.

Lanning, who hasn’t played top-level cricket since finishing the WBBL season with Melbourne Stars said last week that she was feeling refreshed and ready to go in a big Ashes series. Particularly after missing the last home Ashes series in 2017 through injury.

However, the Australian captain has a few selection headaches to deal with on the eve of the series. None bigger than replacing opening batter and Number 1 ranked T20 batter, Beth Mooney.

Mooney underwent surgery in Adelaide yesterday after sustaining a fracture to her jaw in a Monday nets session with coach Matthew Mott.

It’s a big hole to fill. Mooney has been the world’s best T20I batter in recent times, scoring eight fifties across the last two years in the format, more than the rest of her team combined.

But Lanning was adamant that despite the loss of the world-class Mooney, she has the depth in the current squad to cover the left-hander.

“This presents a bit of a test for our batting depth,” Lanning said.

“It’ll create an opportunity for someone and I’m looking forward to seeing what pans out.”

Lanning does have plenty of options at her disposal, with her, Tahlia McGrath, the returning vice-captain Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry all options who have opened the batting at either domestic or international level.

If Lanning chooses to look outside the current Australia squad, they could call on the likes of Elyse Villani or Grace Harris from Australia A – both with International experience. Alternatively, Lanning could call on the uncapped Georgia Redmayne who is also a high-quality candidate to fill the void.

With inclement weather forecasted for the final 2 T20 games on Saturday and Sunday, it makes Thursday’s series opener even more important.

“I think it’s really important and we’ve seen that in the past in Ashes series if teams have gotten off to a bit of a flyer, they’re pretty hard to chase down,” Lanning said.

“So no doubt both sides will be looking at these first three T20s as a chance to get ahead in the series and put the other side under pressure.”

It’s just another challenge to a series in which coach Matthew Mott described preparation as “scattered”.

Australian players have slowly filtered into Adelaide over the past week all with varying levels of recent match practice under their belts after COVID-19 wreaked havoc with WNCL fixtures.

Superstar Ellyse Perry only arrived in Adelaide last night after driving from Melbourne after a COVID scare delayed her arrival with the rest of the team.

“Ellyse arrived last night, later than expected but she’s in the squad now and available for selection, so we’ve just got to see what our best line-up is and we’ll find out tomorrow,” Lanning said.

Lanning wouldn’t be drawn into the discussions regarding Perry’s place in the XI and if she was in Australia’s best T20 team, after comments from both Matthew Mott and head selector Shawn Flegler during the past week.

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Meanwhile, England captain Heather Knight is confident her side will be up for the fight and ready to build on all thier inroads in recent seasons after an “average” lead-in.

England was restricted to training only within their household and home isolation to safeguard themselves from COVID-19 in the weeks prior to departure from the United Kingdom.

Their arrival into Australia was disrupted by wet Canberra weather and an untimely COVID case in the camp among the support staff.

“There’s not a lot we can do about it,” Knight said.

“There’s no point moaning about it and using it as an excuse.

“We feel in a really good place. T20 is one of our strongest formats, so I think that will suit us quite nicely.

“A lot of us have got experience playing T20 over here as well, either in the Big Bash or previous Ashes trips.”

Knight said she was excited to lead a fresh and rejuvenated squad to Australia with many on their first Ashes tour.

She was confident that the current group would be bolstered by the inclusions of youngsters Maia Bouchier, Sophia Dunkley, and Charlie Dean to pose a challenge to the number one ranked Australians.

“I’m really excited for them” Knight said.

“I think they’ve all got games suited for Australia.

“I think Charlie Dean, in particular, has been a real find for us in the summer. She was abit of a gamble going into the summer but the way she took to international cricket has been huge.

“I think she’ll be really successful on Australian pitches”

“I’m really excited for them to see how they go and they’re really excited to know what an Ashes trip is all about.

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