NZ series a World Cup audition: Healy

Young guns and old heads all looking to impress in limited-overs series against White Ferns, beginning Friday in Melbourne

Australia wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy says the pressure will be on the country’s best players as they press their cases for World Cup selection in the upcoming limited-overs series against New Zealand.

There are three new faces in the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars squad which will meet the White Ferns in a three-game T20 series starting at the MCG on Friday afternoon

A three-match one-day series will follow across the Tasman, with those matches the last chance for players to impress ahead of the 50-over World Cup in England in June.

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“They’ve picked a few new faces in the squad so it will be a good chance for them to go and test themselves at international level,” Healy said on Thursday.

“The World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport and you have to be performing well to be picked.

“We have six games of cricket before a break, so all girls will be keen to put on a show and get in the selectors’ ear that they’d like to be in the UK later in the year.”

The absence of superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry for at least the T20 portion of the series will also present opportunities for others to step up.

“She’s a fantastic player and we’ll miss her all-round ability," Healy said.

We have to make every game count: Lanning

“It presents an interesting challenge for the selectors and the girls to cover a player like that, she’s a class act on the international scene (but) it’s exciting that a young girl could now come along and put her hand up.”

The Australian squad last played together in November and the players have enjoyed a short break since the end of WBBL|02, but Healy doesn’t believe the playing group will have any problems gelling this week.

“I feel lucky to be part of this squad at the minute, it’s got a great culture and feel about it," she said. "I think the new girls will fit in easily and I think they already showed that last week in Brisbane and at yesterday’s training session.”

Healy was in outstanding form during the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League season, scoring 479 runs for the Sydney Sixers as they claimed the WBBL|02 title, while she snapped up nine catches and eight stumpings with the gloves.

Now the 26-year-old is eager to translate that WBBL form into the international arena, and having opened for Australia throughout the World T20 in India last year, it’s a position she hopes to once again fill on Friday.

However Healy faces stern competition from her in-form Australian teammates, with the top four leading run scorers from WBBL|02 – Meg Lanning, Beth Mooney, Healy and Elyse Villani – all having opened for their respective WBBL clubs.

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All four have also opened for Australia in the 20-over format during the last 12 months, leaving coach Matthew Mott and captain Lanning with plenty to ponder.

“It’s a difficult one and I don’t envy the selectors," Healy added. 

“There are four or five of us who opened for their franchises in the Big Bash and all had successful seasons.

“I guess we’ll find out at training who got the nod, but whoever it is will do a great job and the rest of us will slot in and do the job as required.

“Opening the batting is the best place in T20 cricket, so there’ll be a few girls putting their hands up.”

The three T20s will be played as double-headers alongside the men’s KFC T20I 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

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