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Healy hits straps in her new home

Australia's 'keeper-batter relishing role at the top of the order in ODIs against England

The decision to drop incumbent opening batter Beth Mooney and promote Alyssa Healy in her place for the start of the Women's Ashes was perhaps the toughest choice Australia's selectors have had to make so far this series.

Having committed to playing an extra bowler to solve the sixth-bowler issues that plagued Australia in the Women's World Cup this winter, the selectors had no choice but to drop a batter and it was Mooney who made way to allow Healy to open alongside the rock-solid Nicole Bolton.


That decision was vindicated on Friday when Healy dusted off the disappointment of a wasted start in Brisbane with 56 from 55 balls and the quick-fire innings the Australians wanted against England's stellar new-ball attack.

Australia assistant coach Tim Coyle explained the rationale behind the batting order reshuffle on this week's episode of The Unplayable Podcast.

"The move to put Alyssa Healy to the top of the order was probably a little bit about trying to counteract their opening bowlers," Coyle said.

"They have a very structured set-up in how they go about their first 10 overs and we see that as an opportunity to try and disrupt that a little bit.

Healy hammers half-century in Coffs

"That's what Alyssa does, she's a good stroke-maker and she plays well against fast bowling, not that Beth Mooney doesn't.

"Two left-handers (Mooney and Bolton) against the left-hand, right-hand combination (Bolton and Healy), with Healy's strength against the pace bowlers probably just got her over the line.

"But in saying that we've committed to trying to play an extra bowler. Tahlia McGrath comes in to provide us with that bowling back-up, so obviously we lose a batter.

"There's a combination of a few things and Beth will play a part in this series, there's no doubt about it, she's in great form, she's working really hard on her wicketkeeping."

Prior to this series, Healy had not opened the batting for Australia in ODI cricket since August 2014, against Pakistan in Brisbane.

But on Thursday it looked as though she'd been in the role for years, punching her first ball through cover for four, then easing back the reins before unleashing when her eye was in and her feet were moving.

Facing the medium-pace of Nat Sciver in the 14th over, Healy lofted the bowler high and handsomely over long-on for six before helping herself to two more fours.

A brace of boundaries against left-arm spinner Alex Hartley followed three overs later as her fifty rapidly drew closer as England appeared to be just as rapidly running out of options.

When the 27-year-old scored 63 not out against Pakistan in the World Cup in July she broke a five-year drought without a half-century, and with ominous rain clouds circling Coffs Harbour International Sports Stadium, she wasn't going to let another streak develop.

Australia crush England in second Ashes ODI

But moments after she passed ODI fifty number three to the applause of teammates and selectors watching on, she was dropped at short cover, then bowled looking to cut a straight one from Sophie Ecclestone to end her fine stay.

It wasn't the complete innings Healy was after, but having had a few cracks taking on the new ball in the 50-over format she says she's comfortable in her new home at the top of the order.

"When Rach (Haynes, Australia skipper) came and knocked on my door and told me I was opening I was genuinely excited and thought now is the time, I felt I was ready," Healy said after play.

"I knew I was hitting the ball really well and it was just about giving myself time and actually enjoying it out there.

"That was a big one for me. I'm feeling ready and I feel like I'm playing my best cricket.

"I knew if I gave myself time out there I could build an innings."

Which is why Brisbane's whirlwind knock was so frustrating for the right-hander, who hit three fours in the opening over against England spearhead Katherine Brunt before being caught at mid-off attempting a lofted drive off the same bowler.

"I think I just got a bit carried away," Healy said about her innings at Allan Border Field.

"I got so excited that I was opening the batting and the new ball was coming on nicely and I probably took a risk I didn't need to take and brought Brunt back into the game.

"That's one of my roles, to take her out of the game.

"(I was) pretty disappointed with how I got out but pleased how I'm hitting the ball nonetheless."

Haynes, the messenger of good news last week, praised her top-order tyro on Thursday evening after Australia wrapped up the ODI series with a match to play.

"I thought she batted really well today," she said.

"She's been teasing performances like that for a little while now, so it was really great to see her up there with the new ball and to get that score today, I thought it was excellent."

Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes

Australia lead England 2-0

Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Schedule


First ODI Australia won by two wickets

Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26

Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29

Coffs Junior Cricket Association Partners: Coffs Harbour District JCA, Nambucca Bellingen JCA, and Clarence River JCA

Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12

First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17

North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation

Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19

Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21

Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT