Australian captain’s faith in left-arm spinner is vindicated during eight-wicket win over Windies.
Given the scenes at the toss, you’d infer that Meg Lanning was very keen to bowl first against Windies at Taunton on a Monday morning with the slightest nip in the air.
Much has been said and made about the threat Australia’s revitalised pace attack holds in English conditions, after all.
So, it came as a slight surprise that Lanning stuck with Jess Jonassen, the left-arm spinner, with the new ball for their ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 opener.
Then, more surprisingly, she brought in Elyse Villani for a two-over spell of medium-pace in the 20th, before asking her to bowl again to Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin from the 34th. Villani had bowled in all of four innings from her 20 One-Day International appearances before her effort against two of the most destructive batters. No pressure then.
Villani finished with figures of none for 24 from her three overs, but Lanning, agreeing that “there was a lot of chopping and changing with the bowlers”, insisted that Villani, with two wickets in her career, was a “genuine option”.
“[Villani] provides us a good option. Medium-pace – and if you can bowl pretty straight in these conditions, you can be very successful. She hasn’t bowled a lot in her international career, but she provides a really good option for us and just something a little bit different from the other bowlers.
“She’s been working a lot on her bowling over the past year or so. She’s definitely an option for us. It just sort of depends on how the game is playing.”
Lanning is a fan of taking the pace off the ball to trouble batters. The young Belinda Vakarewa and Sarah Aley, 33, the two other pacers in the squad, were left waiting for their maiden caps as Australia went into the game with three frontline spinners.
Opening with Jonassen was a tactic she used consistently for much of the series against South Africa at home. The left-arm spinner, who was the leading wicket-taker of the ICC Women’s Championship with 31 scalps from 21 matches, has done little to shake her captain’s faith. Economical in her first spell, she returned first to have a set Hayley Matthews bowled with one that didn’t turn much, and then had Taylor caught at the death.
“Our spinners have been very successful over the past couple of years, so we’re not too fussed about playing an extra spinner as opposed to a seamer,” said Lanning. “But we are going to pick the team on the conditions and opposition.”
On the day, it was a clinical, if somewhat mixed, bowling performance – Perry, the best bowler of the game, went for 47, even with a maiden – to keep Windies to 204 and set up a strong eight-wicket win.
The captain was pleased: “We started off well with the ball. We weren’t taking wickets like we would have liked, but we were keeping them under control and we took wickets at crucial times.
“It was just being really consistent and not giving them easy four balls. We’ve seen here as soon as you get wide of the off-stump, it’s very easy to hit and it runs away really quickly. I thought we kept our lines really tight and didn’t give them too much to hit.”
Chedean Nation, who took 73 balls for her 39 at No. 3 for Windies, gave due credit to the opposition bowlers: “It wasn’t difficult batting, it was a good wicket to bat on. I think we just didn’t rotate the strike enough. We saw how the Aussies batted up front. They rotated the strike and were a bit more positive than we were … They were bowling really straight, it was difficult to get the singles that time.”