Gardner plants seeds for spin competition

Off-spinning allrounder Ashleigh Gardner part of a strong slow-bowling unit vying for spots in the starting XI as warm-up matches begin

Allrounder Ashleigh Gardner is embracing the competition for places in Australia's XI for their opening ICC Women's World Cup match against West Indies next Monday.

Selectors will have a final chance to ponder their best bowling attack for the June 26 clash in Taunton during two official warm-up matches this week against South Africa and Pakistan, where Australia will be allowed to field their full squad of 15 if desired.

Perhaps the biggest question is how many, and which, of Australia's in-form spinners will be included in that first XI, after the slow-bowling attack continued to impress during last week's practice matches in Southampton.

Off-spinner Gardner made a strong case when she tore through New Zealand's middle-order at Southampton's Rose Bowl last Wednesday, claiming the key scalps of Amy Satterthwaite and Katey Martin.

Left-armer Jess Jonassen and leg-spinners Amanda-Jade Wellington and Kristen Beams also acquitted themselves well in that hit-out, leaving selectors with a selection conundrum.

"There are four spinners here, but one good thing about what I do is I spin it a different way to the other three, so that's one thing working in my favour," Gardner said after Australia's Monday morning training session in Oakham, the ground that will host Tuesday's warm-up against South Africa.

"But there's 15 of us here, so four have to miss out every game.

"So it's just such a competitive side, which is a good thing as well."

Gardner fires one down to Blackwell at training //
Gardner fires one down to Blackwell at training //

While much of the pre-tournament talk has been about the impact seamers could have in the English conditions, Gardner believes there's also an opportunity for the tweakers to thrive.

"The wickets do turn here but they're low and slow which isn't what we're used to in Australia," she said.

"In the New Zealand warm-up game, the spinners took four or five wickets in that game which is a really encouraging sign for us."

And while the competition for spots is fierce, there's no lack of harmony in Australia's slow-bowling brigade.

"We always get to bowl with each other (in the nets) and we always congratulate each other if we do well in the nets and get the batters out," Gardner said.

"It's a really good group, the spin group, and I think we work really well together."

Pace bowlers Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt are set to lead the bowling attack, while uncapped quicks Sarah Aley and Belinda Vakarewa will also be vying for selection.

Wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy doesn't envy the selectors, but believes there will be opportunity for all 15 squad members throughout the tournament, which will see Australia play seven group matches in 20 days.

"The spin attack we've got at the moment is better than a lot going around, so for us that's really comforting," Healy said.

"I think this is probably the tightest group I've played with in a World Cup, potentially all 15 could play with ease.

"There could be a bit of chopping and changing going on depending on the conditions, which is really exciting that all 15 girls are sticking their hand up and wanting to play and competing for spots.

"That competition will only make us better."

Australia's warm-up against South Africa begins at 10.30am local time (7.30pm AEST) at the Oakham School on Tuesday, before they meet Pakistan at Leicester's Grace Road Oval on Thursday. 

Women's World Cup 2017 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

Squads: Every World Cup squad named so far

Australia's World Cup schedule

View the full tournament schedule here

Warm-up matches

June 20: Australia v South Africa, Oakham

June 22: Australia v Pakistan, Leicester


June 26: Australia v West Indies, Taunton

June 29: Sri Lanka v Australia, Bristol

July 2: Australia v New Zealand, Bristol

July 5: Pakistan v Australia, Leicester

July 9: England vAustralia, Bristol

July 12: Australia v India, Bristol

July 15: South Africa v Australia, Taunton

July 18: First semi-final, Bristol

July 20: Second semi-final, Derby

July 23: Final, Lord's

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