Australia's batting dominance brings challenges for under-used players
After a 40-hour journey back from the Caribbean and a few days to adjust their body clocks, Australia's women will be back in action at the weekend with the start of their home season against Sri Lanka, which concludes with the defence of their T20 World Cup title.
Following a clean sweep against West Indies, an unchanged squad has been named for the T20Is against Sri Lanka with Erin Burns dropping out of the squad for the ODIs. One of the challenges facing the team the desire to maintain their dominant form - and not take their guard down against Sri Lanka, who they haven't played since the 2017 50-over World Cup in England - but also ensure enough players are getting time to hone their skills, especially with the bat.
The last two T20Is in the West Indies were won by nine wickets and there are a number of players who enter the start of the home summer a little starved of time in the middle. Matthew Mott indicated last week that there might be some tinkering with the batting order in the T20Is, which may give more exposure to some of the middle-order batsmen.
Among those is vice-captain Rachael Haynes, who has only batted twice in her last six T20Is, against England and West Indies.
"It would be nice to get up the order in T20s, I've only batted once or twice across the last two series simply because our top four has been so dominant," Haynes said. "I think a lot of our batters would like an opportunity at some stage throughout this series. It's probably a great indication of how well our team is doing and how dominant we have been that some people are a little lean on time in the middle, but on the same token I think they'll be opportunity throughout this series."
While Haynes has been short on time with the bat of late - her three innings in the ODI series against West Indies also brought just 32 runs as she opened the batting - she was required to take on the captaincy at the last moment when a back spasm ruled Meg Lanning out of the second of the ODIs. Australia will be hoping that injuries do not strike during next year's T20 World Cup, but having the chance to prepare for such scenarios could be valuable.
"I was completely unware that Meg was struggling at the time then I got a tap on the shoulder a couple of minutes before the toss saying that I'd better get changed," Haynes said. "All those types of things are situations you could face in a big tournament and I thought the team dealt with it really well, they just got on with the business of the match. I think it's a great reflection on where we are as a group where you can have one of the best players in the team have to withdraw at the last minute and they just get on with the whole process."
The three T20Is against Sri Lanka and a tri-series involving India and England at the end of January provide the main preparation for Australia ahead of the big event, but the upcoming standalone Women's Big Bash League, which begins on October 18, is also being viewed as a key period especially for those whose opportunities in national colours might be limited.
"We've seen over the last six to eight months that opportunities within our batting and bowling orders have been quite hard to come by so for a number of girls in our squad the WBBL will be a nice break to get in there, get in among the runs and wickets," Alyssa Healy told ESPNcricinfo. "I think it's crucial for our squad, there's 14 who have been selected for this series but there are probably 20 who will be putting their hand up for the World Cup. It's one of the more competitive competitions around the world and it's an incredibly high standard so it will be a really good one to warm up for the T20 World Cup."
The three Sri Lanka T20Is take place at North Sydney Oval from September 29 before the tour moves to Brisbane for three ODIs. Sri Lanka will prepare for a match against a Cricket Australia XI on Friday.
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (capt), Rachael Haynes, Erin Burns (T20Is only), Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Heather Graham, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
Cricket Australia XI: Tahlia McGrath, Heather Graham, Darcie Brown, Stella Campbell, Hannah Darlington, Josie Dooley, Nicole Faltum, Charli Knott, Phoebe Litchfield, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Annabel Sutherland, Tahlia Wilson