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Australia coach Matthew Mott wants his charges to be “first-innings champions” when they tackle England in this week’s blockbuster Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Test in Sydney.
Having watched on from the sidelines for three days in frosty Canberra as Australia drew their sole pink-ball practice match against an ACT Invitational XI, Mott saw his batters collapse from a position of strength at 3-223 to 8-272 declared on day one after recalled Queensland opener Beth Mooney retired on 118.
It’s an area where Mott wants his batters to be more ruthless and is his most significant takeaway from the week spent in the nation’s capital.
“Batting big in the first innings is a big one for us,” Mott said.
“We had an opportunity to push on from a good, solid start and we probably messed that up a little bit.
“We probably played a little differently because it was a three-day game.
“What we are looking to do, and speaking to Rachael (Haynes, captain) then, is to bat really well in that first innings, almost pride ourselves on being first-inning champions.
“I think that then sets the whole game up.”
Australia weren’t the only culprits to not put a commanding score on the board batting first in the past week.
In Blacktown, England were bowled out for 231 on day one of their day-night tour match against a Cricket Australia XI, with Lauren Winfield’s 82 the only score above 30.
Both sides, Australia and England, are novices when it comes to playing the pink ball having never done it before while featuring in a long-format fixture is just about as foreign as the fluorescent projectile they’ll encounter at North Sydney Oval from Thursday.
It’s why Mott and his coaching staff, who are well versed in the art of four-day cricket, have stripped all strategy back to what their players know, and that’s the 50-over game.
“We said it before the last Ashes campaign (in 2015) that we wanted to play a brand of cricket that’s attractive,” Mott said.
“It actually suits us to play quite aggressively and I don’t think our plans have changed that much from our 50-over cricket.
“We want to set a foundation with the bat and someone to go on and get a big score.
“With the ball we want to create pressure and take every opportunity that comes our way.
“The plans are pretty similar so we try and relate all plans back to what we’re most familiar with.”
It’s not only the batters who have to adjust to the new ball, format and playing conditions.
Australia’s bowlers found the going tough once the ball lost its shine and shape in the air as Angela Reakes posted a wonderful century on day two alongside South Africa international Marizanne Kapp, who made 61no.
Following that innings Australia reviewed, analysed and recalculated their tactics and delivered a much better performance in the fourth innings of the match to keep the hosts to 3-68 from 41 overs when the competitors called the match a stalemate 30 minutes before the scheduled close of play.
“I think we made improvements throughout the game,” Mott said.
“Our bowling in the first innings was pretty ill-disciplined, we leaked a lot of fours.
“I know we weren’t under that much pressure this (Sunday) afternoon but we definitely improved our lines and lengths and didn’t give away any freebies.
“We did see improvement over this game but once again it’s about creating those opportunities.
“The good thing in the field we created two run-out opportunities, which when wickets are hard to come by that’s a real big one for us to be able to switch the momentum of the game.
“With the bat it’s about batters getting big hundreds, simple as that, not wasting our starts.”
While almost every Australian squad member got something out of the game, Mott singled out a few standout performers from the three days at Manuka Oval.
To allow each member of the 15-player squad to play, three players – Tahlia McGrath, Jess Jonassen and Belinda Vakarewa – played for the ACT, and it was McGrath who made the most of her unique opportunity.
In the space of four balls, the tall right-arm medium pacer removed Elyse Villani for 70, Haynes for 25 and then Ellyse Perry edging behind for a golden duck to put her name up in lights when it comes to Test selection.
“I think McGrath from the opposition was outstanding,” Mott said. “She changed the game today (Sunday).
“It was meandering along and we were cruising along pretty well and then in the space of two overs she turned the game on its head. That was impressive and something we like seeing.
“I thought with the bat it was good to see Villani back in the runs and batting quite well before she threw it away a little bit (caught on the mid-wicket rope).
“She’ll be disappointed she didn’t go on and get a hundred.
“Beth Mooney in the first innings was brilliant. She showed what four-day cricket is all about, going through the gears with the bat.
“And it was good to see (leg-spinner) Amanda-Jade Wellington this afternoon hitting some really good areas and asking a lot of questions of their batters.”
The Australians travel to Sydney on Monday to finalise their preparations for the historic day night Test match, which will be live streamed on cricket.com.au and the CA Live App.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT