The form of Australia’s best batters during the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League has left Southern Stars coach Matthew Mott and captain Meg Lanning with a pleasant sort of a dilemma.
The top four leading run-scorers from WBBL|02 – Lanning, Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy and Elyse Villani – all opened for their respective clubs.
All four have also opened for Australia in the 20-over format during the past 12 months, leaving Mott and Lanning with plenty to ponder as they work out the best top-order combination to take on the White Ferns in Friday’s first T20 International at the MCG.
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The wealth of batting form in Australia’s squad for the T20s – even without superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry who is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the late stages of the WBBL – is a welcome problem for Lanning.
"The squad of 13 was hard to pick in the first place and it’ll be even harder to get it down to 11,” Lanning told cricket.com.au.
"We’ve been able to add some new players to the squad as well, so there’s a good mix of experience and new players coming in who deserve the opportunity.
"We’ve had a little bit of a discussion (about openers), we’ve got four or five openers in the team so we haven’t decided where to go yet.
"The good thing is all of those players can also bat in the middle order as well, so it’s not like anyone has to open.
"We’ve got good variety in our batting which we’ll need in the T20s, especially."
Mooney, named WBBL|02 Player of the Tournament after scoring 482 runs at 43.81, was elevated to the top of Australia’s 50-over order in November last year and it’s a role she’s also keen to perform in T20s.
"I love every opportunity I get to play for Australia and to open as well, so hopefully they’ll send me out there and give me a go,” Mooney told cricket.com.au.
"As the Australian team we talk about the style we want to play and the aggressive nature of how we want to go about it, so hopefully I can transfer (my form) to this group as well.
"It’s nice to see the players in the Australian squad are batting well at domestic level, showing the next generation that to play for Australia you have to be a standout in domestic competition as well."
Healy, whose big-hitting antics proved the perfect foil for Perry’s more patient game for the Sydney Sixers, has also declared her preferred place would be at the top of the order.
"I’m happy to bat wherever I’m needing, but if it’s up in the top order I’ll look forward to that,” Healy said.
"It’s the best place to bat in T20 cricket because you’re allowed a little time before you go explode, but if you’re in the middle order you’re expected to go from ball one.”
Meanwhile Villani, a force to be reckoned with for the Scorchers with 442 runs including five half-centuries, says she is happy to prove her versatility anywhere in the order.
"I feel like I can fill lots of different roles,” Villani said.
"When I was coming through the ranks I was pigeon-holed as an opening batter, so to see myself as just a batter (who can bat anywhere) in the squad means there’s hopefully a few options out there for me."
The other conundrum facing Australia’s selectors is how best to use the wealth of spinning talent in the T20 squad.
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Left-arm allrounder Jess Jonassen and leg-spinner Kristen Beams are certainties to play on Friday, while allrounder Ashleigh Gardner – who bowls handy off-spin – presents another option.
Off-spinner Molly Strano and leggie Amanda-Jade Wellington are the other two slow-bowling options battling it out for a spot in Friday’s XI.
"The good thing about all our spinners is they’re all different to each other, no two are the same," Lanning said.
"It’s important we have variety and all the spinners are in good form and have had good WBBL performances, so we’re looking forward to getting the combinations that we want together and seeing how they perform."
The three T20s will be played as double-headers alongside the men’s KFC T20 INTL series against Sri Lanka, with all three matches to be broadcast live on Nine’s Wide World of Sports.
Australia v New Zealand T20s
17 February: MCG, Melbourne, 2.05pm AEDT
19 February: Kardinia Park, Geelong, 2.35pm AEDT
22 February: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, 2.05pm AEDT
Australia v New Zealand ODIs
26 February: Eden Park No.2, Auckland, 9am AEDT
2 March: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT
5 March: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT