Aussie bowling spots still up for grabs: Mott
The hosts boast an array of options for Friday's T20 World Cup opener against India, with conditions set to influence the final XI
Laura Jolly in Adelaide
17 February 2020, 12:57 PM AEST
Australia have yet to settle on their best XI for Friday's blockbuster T20 World Cup opener against India in Sydney, with coach Matthew Mott expecting to make some late, tough calls.
The hosts and defending champions are playing their cards close to their chests just days out from the start of the tournament, with their final warm-up match against South Africa in Adelaide on Tuesday.
Relaxed rules allow a flexible approach for practice matches, and Australia could be expected to use as many as 13 of their squad members in that match at Karen Rolton Oval.
"That first XI, we're still tinkering a little bit and we genuinely feel there's still 15 players in contention for that first game," Mott told reporters in Adelaide on Monday.
"We had a trial on that (Showgrounds) wicket a couple of weeks ago, we've got a fair idea of what it will look like and how it will play but our last XI we'll probably decide once we get to Sydney.
"There's still a (few spots) up for grabs."
Tuesday's game will give players a final chance to impress ahead of Friday's match at Showgrounds Stadium but one player who is almost certain to again miss out on precious game time is allrounder Erin Burns.
Burns has yet to play a competitive match this year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone fragment from her knee in January, with several setbacks delaying her return.
Mott expects the off-spinner and handy middle-order batter to be available by Friday, but Burns looks unlikely to get the opportunity to prove her form ahead of the tournament.
"She's still got a niggle, we've still got some return-to-play protocols to get through, but she should be available for the first game in Sydney which we've been planning for the whole time," Mott said.
"(Lack of game time) is a little bit of a concern for her own peace of mind, but she's an experienced player, she's played for a very long time.
"She's shown a lot of resilience through her whole career, she's battled through injuries and come back and played really well and I don't think it'll be very different."
Meanwhile, a call on Sophie Molineux's fitness will be made ahead of Tuesday's trial game after the allrounder missed the recent CommBank T20I Tri-Series final with a corked thigh.
"She's close, she's going to train today but we'll be pretty conservative with her – if she's not 100 per cent, she won't play tomorrow," Mott said.
Australia's top six of Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Rachael Haynes and Ashleigh Gardner is expected to remain stable, but it is the make-up of the bowling attack that will give selectors food for thought across the next three weeks.
The world's top-ranked T20I bowler Megan Schutt is a lock, as is experienced left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen, but other options include fast bowler Tayla Vlaeminck, pace-bowling allrounders Annabel Sutherland, Nicola Carey and Delissa Kimmince, and spinners Georgia Wareham, Molineux and Burns.
Unlike Australia's 2018 T20 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean, where Australia made just one change across the entire tournament, which was played across two venues in similar conditions, Mott expects to utilise the versatility at his disposal as the hosts play their four group games in Sydney, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne across 11 days.
"I've said from the start, I think we will change up our team quite a bit, we've got quite a bit of travel, and we're playing on a lot of different surfaces," he said.
One point of concern for Australia has been the form of opener Healy, who failed to reach double figures in the tri-series.
It's been a surprising change in fortune for a player who has dominated limited-overs cricket across the last two years – and who was named the world's best T20I player of 2019.
But Mott said Healy would continue to attack from ball one, confirming he would not be asking her to change her approach and give herself more time to get her eye in.
"She knows she plays a game that's high risk and it's not going to come off all the time," he said.
"With quality players like that, you've just got to keep backing them in as they can win you matches.
"We've got a lot of depth … so if someone's not firing and we've got four or five genuine match-winners there, you'd hope someone else would step up on that particular day."
Australia's first scheduled warm-up match against West Indies in Brisbane was abandoned on Saturday due to a waterlogged outfield but after five tough matches through the tri-series earlier this month, Mott said it may almost have been a blessing given the gruelling schedule ahead.
"Normally you'd be a bit worried by that but I think it actually freshened us up quite a bit," he said.
"We had some hits indoors, the batters got some volume so we're actually pretty happy with our prep at the moment."
Australia were relieved of any cabin fever they may have had following their indoor sessions at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane when they hit the nets in the Adelaide sunshine at Karen Rolton Oval on Monday morning.
2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
February 18: Australia v South Africa, Karen Rolton Oval
February 21: Australia v India, Sydney Showgrounds
February 24: Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Ground
February 27: Australia v Bangladesh, Manuka Oval
March 8: Final, MCG
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE
* All matches will be broadcast on Fox Cricket and Kayo, while Australia’s matches will also be broadcast on the Nine Network