There’s always real quality on show; between them, these two nations have won all but one ICC Women’s World Cups to date and are two of the favourites this time around.
The two sides boast two of the game’s finest all-rounders in Ellyse Perry and Natalie Sciver. The class-acts will face-off this Sunday and their form could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this mouth-watering contest.
At the end of the 2013 Women’s World Cup, Perry was opening the bowling for the best team in the world. She had claimed 3/19 on her way to winning her first World Cup, to accompany two World T20 titles. That’s not bad going.
But the very best are rarely satisfied. At the end of that campaign, Perry’s bowling stats – 78 wickets from 54 games at an average of 22 – were up there with the very best. But her batting record – 481 runs at an average of 22, including one 50 – didn’t justify an all-rounder tag or a place in the top six; she had batted there just once, making 14 not out from No. 4 against India in 2008.
Since then she has broken into the top six and reaped extraordinary rewards, averaging 80 with the bat since that 2013 World Cup, with 19 fifties in 31 innings – a rate of almost two every three innings. She has had one streak of six consecutive 50-plus scores, and another of five. The 26-year-old’s average and total half-centuries are both the best in the world during this period.
A la Michael Bevan, Perry is the finisher who is often in the middle until the very end, in part explaining her lofty average when she doesn’t have a single century to her name. In 14 innings chasing, she has been not out on six occasions. Australia have won every time.
There has been a slight downturn in her bowling record, as she’s had to cope with balancing both disciplines; she is averaging 30 with the ball since the last World Cup, compared to 22 before then. But considering her astronomical returns with the bat, you’d think it’s a trade-off she’s content with.
Sciver is not in the same mould as Perry but her career appears to be following a similar trajectory – she’s thrived with additional responsibility. Following the retirements of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway last year, Sciver was pushed up the batting order, a move that proved fruitful; in her second innings after the switch, she smashed 80 off just 33 balls against Pakistan. Since then she’s batted solely at No. 4 and 5, averaging 54 in that time, compared to 34 previously.
Sciver’s strike-rate is extraordinary. Her career rate of 106 is the best of anyone to have scored 500-plus ODI runs, and since the start of 2016 that number rises to 117. “She’s one of the most destructive players in women’s cricket,” says former England teammate Lydia Greenway, “and I think there’s still more to come which makes it really exciting.”
While her bowling record is excellent – she averages 24 with the ball – she may never be a permanent opening bowler for England in the way Perry is for Australia. But she is equally vital to the balance of England’s bowling attack. “She’s not necessarily going to go out and open the bowling but what she can do is offer variety,” adds Greenway.
“She’s got very good slower balls and cutters, and she’s very good in those middle overs and towards the back-end. You need that versatility from someone.”