Before the start of the Women’s World Cup, the talk was all about pace.
Seam, swing and the fast bowlers who might benefit from it formed the centre of much discussion, but approaching the middle of the group stage it’s become increasingly apparent Australia’s ‘spin to win’ approach can still prove very successful in English climes.
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After a slightly wayward performance against Sri Lanka on Thursday that allowed their opponents to rack up 9-257 on a flat wicket, a much-improved showing on Sunday kept New Zealand to 9-219.
With left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen returning to the XI, Australia again fielded a three-pronged spin attack.
And once again it was a slow-bowler leading the way, Jonassen taking 3-8 in the space of 16 damaging balls to tear the heart out of the Kiwi batting line-up on a deteriorating wicket that was offering more for the bowlers than it did during the run-heavy clash against Sri Lanka.
Off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner and leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington also picked up a wicket apiece, while there was still something there for seamer Megan Schutt, who swung the ball early and picked up a couple of late wickets to finish with 3-39.
Even New Zealand, who boast a potent new-ball pace pairing in Lea Tahuhu and Holly Huddleston, changed their approach on Sunday as they opened with the gentler pace of Sophie Devine and the off-spin of Anna Peterson.
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“Today was a really great performance,” allrounder Ellyse Perry, who led the Australian chase with 71, said after the match.
“Jess Jonassen, it was really nice to have back her in the side, I thought she bowled outstandingly well.
“The fact we managed to restrict them to 220 which was a bit under par today on that ground was in large part due to the great efforts of our bowlers.
“I thought the spin unit was really good and Schutt (who took 3-39) was really good in her role as well.”
Australia have reaped the rewards of their spin-heavy approach over the last couple of years, strangling opposition batting line-ups and taking the pace off the ball.
Jonassen was the top wicket taker from any team across the three-years of the inaugural ICC Women’s Championship, leading a top-10 wicket-taking list that featured seven tweakers including teammate Kristen Beams.
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“It’s no secret that slow bowling is the way forward for women’s cricket,” Australian opener Beth Mooney noted last week.
“We can’t generate as much pace as the men and we like the pace coming onto the bat as well.”
And with four world-class spinners to choose from, Australia’s slow-bowling options have them well positioned heading into the business end of the tournament.
It also left skipper Meg Lanning and the selectors with a conundrum heading into Sunday’s trans-Tasman clash.
With Jonassen fit after missing the previous game due to a niggle and Wellington also available after recovering from a finger injury, they had to figure out who to leave out of the team which had cruised to an eight-wicket win on Thursday.
It meant leg-spinner Beams, who had taken 2-30 and 2-49 in two matches, was forced to sit on the sidelines with selectors instead opting for the more aggressive, wicket-taking approach of her fellow leggie.
“Jess Jonassen came back in, she’s been one of our best bowlers for a number of years now,” Lanning said on Sunday.
“Wellington was also available for this game and we wanted to go with an attacking option.
“It was tough to leave Beams out because she’s been bowling really well.”
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With a depth of bowling options to choose from – quicks Belinda Vakarewa and Sarah Aley are also sitting on the sidelines – Lanning said further changes to the XI could be expected as the tournament wears on.
“I suppose we’re in a really good spot as a squad, we’ve got 15 players who we feel can come in and play a role for the team and we saw that today,” Lanning said.
“We’ve done this for each of three games we’re played, we’ll pick the team based on the conditions and the opposition.”
Women's World Cup Guide
Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.