This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
After a 12 run win over England in their first match of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, Australia made it two from two with a seven-wicket triumph over Pakistan on Tuesday
Leading into this game, the first between the teams since 2018, there were a couple of changes to the Australian side.
All rounder Tahlia McGrath missed this match with a sore heel and Darcie Brown was also given a rest, with coach Matthew Mott foreshadowing she would be rotated in and out of the team throughout the tournament to manage her load.
Nicola Carey and Amanda-Jade Wellington came into the squad with this being Wellington’s first game at an international level since Australia’s tour of India in March 2018.
Plenty of positive signs for Pakistan with the batAdvertisement
After winning the toss, Australian captain Meg Lanning elected to bowl. No doubt the Australian team and coaching staff would have hoped to have taken all 10 Pakistani wickets.
But the likes of captain Bismah Maroof and Aliya Riaz saw that that didn’t happen.
When Maroof scored her half century she pointed her bat towards her seven-month-old baby Fatima who was watching alongside her Pakistani team mates.
Diana Baig also showed good intent with the bat, scoring 7 not out off 4 balls. Pakistan may decide to elevate her up the order for their next match against Bangladesh.
Currently, vice-captain Nida Dar is the only woman in the Pakistani team that has played in WBBL but after watching Pakistan today, I certainly hope she is not the last.
Whilst Australia would have been pleased to restrict Pakistan to a modest score of 190, I wonder whether the squad was disappointed they did not take any more wickets and whether a change to the bowling attack will happen ahead of Australia’s next game.
The good news for Australia is that they have options including Annabel Sutherland, Heather Graham and Nicola Carey. Whilst the spin of Alana King was very successful in Australia’s first game, it was the quicks who stood up today, early with quick wickets to Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt which left Pakistan struggling at 2-11.
Pakistan’s fielding woes
For countries which are on the journey towards making their female cricketers professional, an area where dramatic improvement takes place is with fielding. Fielding requires fitness, practice and the opportunity to play under pressure at the highest level.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s fielding let them down today, especially given they were defending a modest total.
Riaz dropped Alyssa Healy on just nine runs and a couple of overs later Dar dropped Rachael Haynes on 26. I wonder how different the result would have been if those catches had been taken.
Fortunately, the dropped Haynes catch wasn’t too costly with Haynes being dismissed shortly after for 34 thanks to a catch by captain Maroof.
If this the innings that Alyssa Healy needed?
Leading into this series, Healy was under pressure. Despite being one of Australia’s best batters, there were questions during the most recent Women’s Ashes series about whether she was best suited to opening.
One thing I love about Healy is that whenever she is facing criticism, she usually aims up. Today she scored 72 runs and I wonder if that innings will give her the confidence to continue on with these types of scores during the World Cup.
Cricket leading the way for women’s sport in Australia
Tuesday is International Women’s Day and it seems fitting that I spent the day watching cricket. Two years ago I was doing the same thing and was part of a crowd of 86,174 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground cheering on the Australian women to a victory in the ICC T20 World Cup against India. That day showed us what is possible when administrations dream big about women’s sport.
That day holds even more significance now given that the world completely changed a week later.
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate how far we have come and when it comes to changing the game for women in sport, cricket continues to be a leader. The dominance of the Aussie women comes as no surprise, given that the states and Cricket Australia have continued to invest in the women’s game to ensure that athletes have the opportunity to focus on their craft full time.
The WBBL is now the fourth-watched sporting league in Australia and has given fans across the world to see the best female cricketers competing in one competition, learning from each other and improving together.
Given the conversations currently happening in other sporting competitions about professionalism, other sports should look to cricket as an example of what is possible with proper investment and support of female athletes.
Australia’s next game is on Sunday against host country, New Zealand.