This story was first written and published for The Roar.
The Australian Women’s Cricket team has one more pool match – against India on Sunday morning at 2am AEST – before they progress to the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s World T20 which is currently being contested in the Caribbean.
The Aussies have been in exceptional form. They beat Pakistan in their first pool match by 52 runs, comprehensively defeated Ireland in their second game by nine wickets and then on Wednesday beat New Zealand by 33 runs.
While there have been many stand-out moments from the Australian team including the two direct-hit wickets in the second game (one by Georgia Wareham and the other by Delissa Kimmince to remove Isobel Joyce and Gaby Lewis respectively), the bowling of Megan Schutt has been stellar.
However, I want to focus on the form of one woman in particular, and that’s Australia’s opening batter and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy.
Alyssa is currently Australia’s most in form cricketer.
Alyssa has spoken over the last couple of weeks about the hard work she has put in in recent months. After the 50 over World Cup last year, Alyssa took some time to review her game and in particular her diversity of shots. She noticed that there was an area of the ground that she was not accessing. In response, she developed a sweep shot, which she has been using effectively down the ground.
Her form with the bat as of late is unrivalled and she has scored more runs than any of her teammates as of late. Since the beginning of October, Alyssa has scored six half centuries in eight innings (and this included the innings where she fell just short of 50, scoring 48 against Pakistan).
In the game against Pakistan, Alyssa found the boundary five times in ten deliveries and was sitting on 31 runs off 16 balls. It was her innings that helped place Australia in a really strong position for their innings, sitting at 0/58 off the power play.
The 48 might have been impressive in game one, but Alyssa upped her game in the second game against Ireland. She hit four boundaries in seven balls and scored her half century off just 21 deliveries. That speed made that half century the fastest ever at a Women’s World T20 and the second fastest in Women’s T20Is – second only to Sophie Devine back in 2005 against India – it only took her 18 balls. Alyssa ended up on 56 not out off just 31 deliveries.
In the third game, Alyssa scored another half century, scoring 53 off 38 balls and scored her third woman of the match award in as many games for Australia.
During the Ashes last year, some fans were also critical of some small errors that begun to slip into Alyssa’s game behind the stumps. Interestingly, Alyssa has also commented that she felt like she had gotten lazy when it came to her keeping.
This is also an area that she has focused on recently, particularly in her pre-season with the NSW Breakers a team which she has recently been named captain of. The focus for Alyssa has been on staying low and using her legs more – crucial for any successful wicketkeeper.
Since arriving in the Caribbean, Alyssa has been doing session after session behind the stumps to acclimatise so she is able to handle the conditions.
This has included countless balls from all the Australian coaching staff and even recruiting the team camera man to take footage of Alyssa behind the stumps so she can review and improve.
It has certainly shown too. In Australia’s first game against Pakistan where Alyssa assisted in a run out, she also took two stumpings and two catches.
There have been a couple of key talking points during this World T20 which I also want to touch on.
The weather has been erratic at best, with one match already being rained out due to monsoonal conditions in St Lucia.
It is Group A that will most likely be affected – given all the games for this pool are scheduled in St Lucia.
The ICC will continue to monitor conditions and it may be that some games will be moved to Antigua (the venue that will host the semi-finals and the final later this month).
Additionally, despite following cricket for many years, even I have seen something new this Tournament and that is the use of pitch penalties.
In Australia’s second game against Ireland, the Aussies started with a five-run head start after Ireland captain Laura Delany was penalised for running onto the protected area of the pitch.
Pakistan were also docked ten runs for doing the same thing twice in their game against India. Interestingly, as soon as Laura was penalised, you could see Meg Lanning rallying her team and issuing them with a very stern warning to stay away from the protected zone.
While this might take some adjustment for the players, given that three games per day are being played on the respective pitches, I can understand the need for the umpires to do everything they can to preserve the playing surface as best they can.
Australia are now guaranteed to play in the semi-finals and have the chance to finish at the top of their pool. We will know their opposition in the semi-finals after the group stages are completed this Sunday.
And if you can’t sleep on Sunday morning, be sure to tune in for the Aussie’s last game against India at 2am AEST.