Stars embracing spin for Sri Lanka tour

The Southern Stars identify spin as a key factor for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour while Meg Lanning has recovered from a shoulder injury

Souther Stars’ vice-captain Alex Blackwell believes spin could work to their advantage when they face a much-improved Sri Lanka on their home turf next month.

The side will play five matches – four ODIs and one T20 – against Sri Lanka, with a 14-player squad for the ground-breaking series announced on Wednesday.

Blackwell said the Southern Stars could ill-afford to take the eighth-ranked hosts likely, and had plenty to play for.

Australia thrash Sri Lanka to win series

“They’re a much-improved side,” Blackwell said at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday. 

“We’ve seen them topple England in World Cup games and really put pressure on the higher ranking sides. We’re going to have a real challenge over there against them.” 

A focus for the side has been preparing to play spin in sub-continental conditions, the likes of which Australia's men have had to contend with on their ongoing tour of the island nation.

Blackwell acknowledged it would be a challenging environment, but is confident it’s one the side can adapt to and thrive in.

“We’ve been doing that up in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, we’ve got some wonderful facilities at the National Cricket Centre – specific to practicing against spin,” she said. 

“We do our best with what we’ve got, and we’ve also got some of the best spinners in the world in our team. I’m confident that we’ll go over there and be able to play their spin reasonably well and come away with a series victory.” 

Quick Single: Harris, Bolton join Southern Stars squad

Grace Harris and Nicole Bolton return to the Southern Stars squad, while captain Meg Lanning has recovered from a shoulder injury in time to lead her side in Sri Lanka – with a point to prove.

“It’s coming along really well. (I’m) just sort of working up to 100 per cent fitness, but really looking forward to heading over to Sri Lanka and getting back into games again,” Lanning said.

“It feels like it’s been a fair while – finishing (with) that disappointing game in the (T20) World Cup, so we’re looking forward to getting over there and starting the series well.

“Nicole Bolton and Grace Harris come in, so that’s very exciting for the group.

“Grace Harris is a very good X-factor for us, who provides something a little bit different which is great, and Nicole Bolton’s got a very good record in one-day cricket for Australia. (It’s) a very balanced squad, who we think will do very well over there.” 

Quick Single: Schutt, Jonassen cleared for SL tour

Both Lanning and Blackwell were at the SCG on Wednesday, as Cricket Australia announced an additional $500,000 in funding this year for the Growing Cricket for Girls Fund.

The funding boost comes in response to a huge appetite for cricket for girls and women, and will help to establish, expand and support all-girls’ competitions and teams right across the country.

Lanning said it was a “really important step forward” for women’s cricket.

“It’s really important to be able to grow the next generation of women’s cricketers coming through and give young girls the opportunity to play in teams – all-girls teams and all-girls competitions,” she said.

“I grew up playing a lot of boys’ cricket because there weren’t many opportunities to play in all-girls teams. It’s great now that young girls coming through have got the chance to play in those all-girls teams and really enjoy their cricket coming through.

“Hopefully one day (they) get all the way through to play for Australia.”