Australia v Pakistan T20Is – Women
While it won't be a problem during their T20 series against Pakistan, Australia know the return of Alyssa Healy for their T20 World Cup defence next month will cause a selection squeeze to their formidable batting order
Laura Jolly in Sydney
23 January 2023, 06:33 PM AEST
Australia are set to avoid a batting selection squeeze in the three-match CommBank T20 series against Pakistan, but skipper Meg Lanning knows there are tough decisions on the horizon ahead of next month’s World Cup in South Africa.
Lanning will return to Australia's T20 team for Tuesday’s first match against Pakistan at North Sydney Oval, playing her first 20-over international since the Commonwealth Games after missing last month’s tour of India.
She will open in place of the injured Alyssa Healy, joining Beth Mooney at the top of the order, while Australia are expected to field an unchanged group from positions three through to six, with Tahlia McGrath, Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner and Grace Harris filling out the middle order.
But when Healy returns from her calf injury for next month's World Cup in South Africa, Lanning will shuffle down the order to accommodate her, creating a middle-order squeeze.
The addition of the powerful Harris to Australia’s middle-order alongside the equally hard-hitting Gardner has proved a masterstroke across the last 12 months; most notably in the final T20I in India where both hit half-centuries as Australia put on 129 runs from the final 10 overs.
"They're key players for us … Grace Harris in particular has come into our side and added another dimension to our batting line-up," Lanning said in Sydney on Monday.
"She can go from ball one and regardless of when she comes in, in the innings, she's able to put the pressure back on the opposition.
"To pair her up with Ash Gardner, we feel like that takes the pressure off Ash in a away.
"It's not just reliant on her to come in and accelerate towards the back end, Grace can do that too."
Both Perry and Annabel Sutherland returned to the Australia XI during the India tour after carrying drinks during the Commonwealth Games, replacing Lanning and the retired Rachael Haynes.
Now the Victorians are likely to find themselves fighting for the one spot at next month’s World Cup.
Perry’s stunning form in India, where she hit career-best knocks of 75 and 72 not out, will give her the edge, with Lanning stating the veteran allrounder – who was dropped from the T20I side 12 months ago – would play a vital role in Australia’s title defence.
"Over in India, she came out and played in a different way to what she has in the past," Lanning said of Perry.
"I think that game has always been there for her, but now she's confident to come out and dominate attacks.
"She can hit the ball as hard as anyone in world cricket.
"To see her do that over in India was great and I think she'll play a pivotal role for us moving through these three T20s and into the World Cup as well."
Australia will immediately need to make tough calls on their bowling attack, however, with allrounder Heather Graham and leg-spinner Georgia Wareham joining the 20-over squad in Sydney alongside Harris after missing out on the ODI series.
Jess Jonassen is fit after missing the final four T20Is in India and is one of three spin options alongside Wareham and Alana King.
Darcie Brown and Megan Schutt are locks in Australia’s best pace attack, but Sutherland, Graham and Kim Garth are also options.
"We haven't quite settled on the XI (for Tuesday) yet, I think it's a new wicket out there so we'll just have a look at what that means," Lanning said.
"There's plenty of options, sometimes that can make it a little bit more tricky, but it's a good thing.
"It's going to be very difficult to make a decision on the final XI in every game moving forward from here.
"A lot of it will come down to match-ups and who we're coming up against, and what we feel like is the best method there.
"But I feel like we've got such great options and depth in all the different areas so it's a good problem to have."
CommBank T20I Series
Tuesday Jan 24: North Sydney Oval, 1:45pm
Thursday Jan 26: Blundstone Arena, Hobart, 7:05pm
Sunday Jan 29: Manuka Oval, Canberra, 1:45pm
Buy #AUSvPAK T20 tickets here
Australia T20I squad: Meg Lanning (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
Pakistan T20I squad: Bismah Maroof (c), Aiman Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Ayesha Naseem, Fatima Sana, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadaf Shamas, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Amin, Sidra Nawaz, Tuba Hassan
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Lanning to open as Aussie selection squeeze looms – cricket.com.au
Australia v Pakistan T20Is – Women