A small change to Kristen Beams’ bowling approach is paying off in a big way, according to Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars bowling coach Joe Dawes.
The Australian leg-spinner has claimed nine wickets in the three one-day internationals against Sri Lanka at the scarcely believable average of 5.66 to lead the tourists to an unassailable three-nil series lead with one match to play.
Just as impressive is Beams’ economy rate of 1.9 to highlight just how dominant and consistent she has been throughout the matches in Dambulla and now Colombo.
The 31-year-old had never made an ODI appearance in Asia prior to this tour, but she has certainly made up for lost time on the turning surfaces, to the point where she jokingly enquired about applying for a passport with one of the team’s assistant coaches.
After a summer in which Beams could only manage two wickets in six ODIs against India and New Zealand, Dawes says a minor adjustment has seen the leggie thrive in the subcontinental conditions.
"She’s had a really good off-season and worked really hard on a few things," Dawes told cricket.com.au on the team’s rest day in Colombo.
"You can see it’s coming to fruition for her now.
"We’ve got her in a bit closer (to the stumps). We found during the New Zealand series she was right out wide which messed with her angles a little bit.
"We’ve got her into the stumps and just attacking off-stump more.
"She’s worked really hard on her slider as well. She’s confident, she’s got some poles and she’s put the strangle on these guys throughout the series.
"She’s up and about which is great because she’s worked so hard."
The latest effort from Beams in Friday’s third ODI – 2-20 from 8.5 overs – doesn’t immediately stand out as anything remarkable, but the way in which she combined with off-spinner Grace Harris to apply the brakes after a surprisingly attacking start by the Sri Lankans was most impressive.
The spin twins claimed 1-25 from their 15 consecutives overs operating in tandem, before Jess Jonassen’s left-arm orthodox ripped through the home side to set up another win for the Southern Stars.
Following a frugal – yet wicketless – spell earlier in the morning, Beams returned later in the innings to clean up the tail and collect her reward for the prior hard work.
"Three games into the series we knew they were going to come hard at some stage," Dawes said of Sri Lanka’s fast start.
"For the girls to pull that back and put the squeeze on, then take wickets to bowl them out for 102 was really pleasing considering our effort in the second game."
Apart from the starring role played by Beams, coach Dawes says the other pleasing factor on the Sri Lankan tour has been the depth of the touring bowling attack.
Experienced duo Rene Farrell and Erin Osborne currently find themselves on the sidelines – the latter making way for Harris in Friday’s encounter – while rising star Lauren Cheatle was forced to miss the tour of Sri Lanka due to her year 12 commitments.
It all adds up to a welcome headache as the reigning world champions look to settle on an attack to defend their title at next year’s World Cup in England.
"You always weigh your bowling attack up by those who aren’t getting a game," Dawes said.
"Grace (sitting out) in the first two games and then having someone with the experience of Rene Farrell sitting out and contributing the way she has is really pleasing.
"She’s been a real leader off the field, although she hasn’t got on the field yet."
Australia will be out to make it an ODI clean sweep when the fourth and final ODI begins at R. Premadasa Stadium from 2:20pm AEST today, while Beams will again be hoping to make herself at home in the spin-friendly conditions.
Fourth ODI*: R. Premadasa Stadium, 25 September at 2:20pm AEST
T20: SSC Ground, 27 September at 6:30pm AEST
*ICC Championship matches