Australia head coach Matthew Mott is focusing on the positives after losing his best player for the upcoming Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes series, believing the absence of Meg Lanning presents an opportunity for the country’s other top batters to grow.
Australia captain Lanning underwent shoulder surgery last week and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight months, ruling her out of the multi-format series against England which begins on October 22.
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Heading into an Ashes series without the world’s best batter is a huge blow, but Mott believes his squad has the depth to cover the loss of Lanning through the likes of Beth Mooney, Nicole Bolton, Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Rachael Haynes.
Runs aren’t the concern for Mott after strong performances at the recent World Cup in England, where three batters – Lanning, Perry and Bolton – finished inside the top 10 overall run-scorers, while Alex Blackwell (203 runs at 50.75) was also impressive in her five innings.
But improvement must come to the scoring rate if they are to adequately cover the loss of Lanning, he believes.
Where Lanning’s 328 runs came at a strike rate of 92.13, the remainder of Australia’s top four – Bolton (77.82), Mooney (70.73) and Perry (77.54) weren’t able to score their runs at the same impressive pace.
“As an Australian team for the last few years, we’ve been able to rely quite heavily on Meg,” Mott told cricket.com.au. “Not only does she score big runs, she scores them at a quick pace which puts pressure on opposition teams.
“So across the board I think that puts more onus on all players to find that spark and a little bit extra strike-rate that can make up for losing such a strong player.
“We had Rachael Haynes on the sidelines for most of the World Cup, and in my opinion she’s a world-class player.
“Certainly the depth there in the batting can cover (Lanning), but when you take a great player out of any team it’s always hard to fill that void.
“Across the board, if everyone can find just a little bit extra – and the beauty is there’s onus on everyone to do it – the batting unit as a whole can grow from the experience of not having Meg there day in, and day out, to rely on.”
Haynes is the frontrunner to replace Lanning in the playing XI – and quite possibly even captain the side in her place – having filled in for the Victorian in the two World Cup pool matches she missed.
The experienced NSW batter only returned to the international fold earlier this year after three-and-a-half years on the outer, but Mott is backing the 30-year-old to make the most of her second coming in the Australian team.
“She’ll certainly come into contention and be a strong player for us across all formats,” he said, revealing he’d considered to keep Haynes in the XI during the World Cup alongside Lanning.
“It was tempting throughout the tournament a few times to see if she could come in and play a role, but the batting unit was holding up quite well and she was the unlucky one.
“She’s certainly got a lot to give Australian cricket over the next few years and she will be welcome in that batting mix.”
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Despite Australia’s shock exit at the semi-final stage of the recent World Cup in the United Kingdom, when they were blown away by an unbeaten 171 from India star Harmanpreet Kaur, Mott isn’t expecting many changes in personnel when they meet England in three ODIs, one Test and three T20Is this summer.
“I’m catching up with the selectors in the next few days,” he said. “But that’s what happens in knock-out tournaments, we got to a semi-final and we felt like we were going quite well and then we were suddenly out.
“It’s not like anyone had a chance to play themselves out of the team. I don’t think we’ll look too far outside (the World Cup squad of 15), but the Ashes is across three formats so there will be some flexibility among the squads.
“There are a few players just outside pushing for selection, but there certainly won’t be massive changes.”
One player who is hopeful of breaking back into the Australian squad is left-arm quick Lauren Cheatle.
The 18-year-old missed the World Cup due to shoulder surgery but revealed to cricket.com.au earlier this month that she had resumed bowling.
“She’s going really well,” Mott said. “She’s been working hard. She’s a highly-rated bowler and we’d dearly love to have her back swinging the ball for us and taking some early wickets.
“She’s definitely in the mix and tracking well."
First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22
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Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
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Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
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