ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020
'Bendigo Bullet' on target to take World Cup by storm
Fit again, fresh, fast and with a full WBBL season under her belt, Tayla Vlaeminck is ready to play her role as Australia's enforcer
Laura Jolly in Brisbane
15 February 2020, 09:25 PM AEST
There are few things Australia quick Tayla Vlaeminck enjoys more than steaming in, unleashing a bullet and getting a batter hopping around.
The right-armer is Australia's fastest bowler and, on recent form, is shaping to be the breakout star of the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Returning from an ACL strain in the recent CommBank T20I Tri-Series, Vlaeminck – who has been dubbed the 'Bendigo Bullet' by her teammates, much to her chagrin – bowled with serious heat in the three matches she played, causing plenty of problems for the star-studded top-orders of England and India.
The pace has always been there, but Vlaeminck's first full, uninterrupted season in the Rebel WBBL has armed her with far greater control, confidence and belief that she can unsettle the very best in the world.
And while that knee injury, suffered in the lead-up to Christmas, threatened to derail the express quick's home World Cup dream, the 21-year-old now believes it's ultimately proved a blessing in disguise.
"I think the couple of months off bowling has helped me freshen up a bit," Vlaeminck told reporters in Brisbane, where Australia are in the thick of their World Cup preparations.
"I was a little nervous coming into (the tri-series) but I'm feeling pretty confident now and I think that helps me, when I back myself in and play without fear, and I think I'm doing that at the moment."
Vlaeminck hurried India's batters when unleashed at Canberra's Manuka Oval, unsettling their top order and collecting a career-best 3-13.
Against England in Melbourne, she had opener Dani Wyatt rattled after a short delivery ricocheted off her bat and into her helmet, before the aggressive right-hander holed out shortly after, while their skipper Heather Knight – who has been in career-best T20I form since arriving in Australia – also looked uncomfortable, despite playing alongside Vlaeminck at the Hobart Hurricanes earlier this summer.
"That's my job for the team," Vlaeminck said, rather matter-of-factly.
"I'm quite a competitive person and I'm always running in to try and bowl at one hundred per cent.
"That's the job the captain and coach want me to do for the team, so if I can run in and hopefully put a few girls on the back foot, I'm doing my job, and hopefully the girls coming on at the other end can use that was well."
Vlaeminck was consistently clocked at around the 120kph mark during the tri-series.
There are not many quicks in the world currently able to manage those speeds – New Zealand's Lea Tahuhu and South Africa's Shabnim Ismail are two of the few who breach the 120-mark.
It brings a point of difference to Australia's attack and when combined with the other tools at their disposal, including the variations of the world's top-ranked bowler Megan Schutt, the sheer class and experience of Ellyse Perry, and the left-arm spin of Jess Jonassen, it ensures the hosts head into the T20 World Cup with a well-stocked arsenal.
"It provides something different, we've got a pretty versatile attack," Vlaeminck said.
"We've got swing bowlers, seam bowlers, a lot of spin options too.
"On Australian pitches I think (the pace) will help more as well, especially playing on pitches like the WACA."
Meanwhile Australia allrounder Jess Jonassen believes it is only a matter of time before her teammate surpasses the speeds currently hit by the likes of Tahuhu and Ismail.
"She's incredible," Jonassen said. "She was my one to watch for the World Cup and she's building nicely.
"She'll end up being quicker by the time she's the same age as those players.
"The work she's doing with our bowling coach Ben Sawyer, she's just come on in leaps and bounds in the last 12 months.
"To see where she can potentially take her bowling is really exciting – I definitely want to steer clear of her net, that's for sure."
Vlaeminck has also caught the eye of an Australian great, who in her time was considered one of her country's fastest bowlers.
After being inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame last week, World Cup-winning captain Sharon Tredrea revealed she is a big Vlaeminck fan.
"As long as they stick with young Tayla, I think they'll do really well," Tredrea said last week.
"I was so impressed on Sunday … She scared the hell out of Dani Wyatt and I didn't think she was going to make many runs after she got hit, and she scared a few others that were coming in.
"She bowled particularly quick and, unlike what we've seen on some previous days, very straight and she pitched it up. I love that.
"I'd love to see her come through, I really would. She's become a favourite."
Australia's warm-up match against South Africa will be played at Adelaide's Karen Rolton Oval on Tuesday at 10.30am local time (11am AED).
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