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Five Ashes questions for Australia

Plenty to ponder for Australia before the Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes get underway in Brisbane on Sunday



Where will Rachael Haynes bat?

Acting Australia captain Rachael Haynes comes into the Australian XI in place of the injured Meg Lanning, who generally bats at No.3. When Haynes filled in for Lanning during the Women’s World Cup earlier this year, it was Perry who came in at first-drop, with Haynes coming in at No.4. But the captain previously opened during her first stint in the national team and she currently opens for both her state and for the Sydney Thunder – a position where she scored 103no and 83 in the Women’s National Cricket League earlier this month – so she could also be an option higher up the order.

Australia head coach Matthew Mott says: She’ll most likely be in the middle order, which she has done for us before.

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How will Australia fix the sixth bowler issue?

During the World Cup tournament, Australia fielded five front-line bowlers – allrounder Ellyse Perry, seamer Megan Schutt and spin trio Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen and Kristen Beams – relying on Elyse Villani's part-time seam when a sixth option was required. It left Australia with few options during India star Harmanpreet Kaur's match-winning 171 not out in the semi-final and addressing that balance will be a major focus throughout this week. If Australia opt to retain their three-pronged spin attack and include either allrounder Tahlia McGrath or left-armer Lauren Cheatle, it means one of the top seven will need to make way – unless they decide Haynes’ part-time left-arm mediums will suffice as an extra option. Haynes did bowl two overs during the World Cup, taking 2-12.

Mott says: I think we need that sixth bowling option and that’s probably why it’s going to be the hardest decision in terms of our team balance. 

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What’s going to determine which spinners and how many play?

Australia have opted for spin-heavy attacks of late, with left-armer Jonassen routinely taking the new ball. They’ve played three spinners in their past 12 ODIs and despite coach Mott expressing a desire to add a third seamer to the XI, it seems unlikely that will happen at the expense of a slow bowler. Jonassen is the world’s third-ranked ODI bowler and is a lock to play, while Gardner seems to have cemented her spot in the Aussie XI with her off-spinners since debuting in February. The fact she turns the ball in the opposite direction to Australia’s other three spin options also works in her favour. Leg-spinner Kristen Beams was Australia’s top wicket-taker at the World Cup, with her wrist-spin counterpart Amanda-Jade Wellington sitting on the sidelines. Beams bowls tight lines and is an economical option, while the aggressive Wellington is a proven wicket-taker, so there’s a big decision to be made there.

Mott says: It is literally horses for courses. We’ll look at each of the conditions.

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Can Ellyse Perry break through for that maiden international century?

Perry is averaging 83.23 in ODIs since the last Ashes series in Australia and has an incredible 22 half-centuries from her past 32 one-day innings. That includes four scores in the nineties – three of those unbeaten. But Perry is yet to score a century at international level and given Australia are without Meg Lanning this series, a triple-figure score or two would come in very handy to say the least. It is worth noting that Perry, who is likely to take Lanning’s spot at No.3, scored a century in that position during a World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand in June.

Mott says: She’s not far off. You can’t keep getting that close and not get there.

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Can both ‘keepers play in the same XI?

If Australia do try to squeeze either McGrath or Cheatle into the XI as a third seamer and retain three spinners, one of the top seven will have to make way. All have their strengths and would be desperately unlucky to miss out, but with two wicketkeepers in the XI – long-term ‘keeper Alyssa Healy and Queensland glovewoman Beth Mooney – one option selections may consider is leaving one out of the side. Both bring very different strengths with the bat; Healy’s powerful batting means she has been seen as an impact player lower down the order, instructed to score runs quickly later in an innings. She has admitted she has underperformed with the bat at international level, averaging 15.96 in ODIs, but she scored a career-high 63no during the World Cup and her runs came at a strike rate of 148.48. Mooney has been opening alongside Nicole Bolton since last year’s ODIs against South Africa and the pair have formed a good relationship at the top of the order, with the Queenslander scoring one century and four fifties for her country so far in 2017. If she was to make way, it would leave a hole at the top of the Australian order and given England boast the world’s best new-ball attack in Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, it could be risky to mess with the opening partnership in the Ashes.

Mott says: I think they both can exist in the same side but that’s one of the selection dramas we’ll have over the next couple of days about getting our top six batters right.

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Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes

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 Allan Border Field, October 22

Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust

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