Haynes, Carey, Strano: The heroes when the hosts needed it most
If Australia’s start has taught us anything about the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020, it’s to expect the unexpected.
- Rachael Haynes was the star for Australia on Monday, hitting 60 to help Australia avoid a shock defeat to Sri Lanka
- Nicola Carey and Molly Strano took two wickets apiece, including that of Chamari Athapaththu, to stall Sri Lanka’s momentum
- Confidence in batting depth will help hosts find momentum, says Haynes
An opening-night loss to India was never inconceivable but their close shave against Sri Lanka is the tournament scare that few saw coming.
With the hosts never losing to Sri Lanka across limited-over formats, the 5,280 fans who turned up at the WACA quickly fell silent when Alyssa Healy, Ashleigh Gardner and Beth Mooney all fell within four overs.
The defending champions were staring down the barrel of not only another group-stage defeat, but potentially the end of their tournament hopes just a few days into the competition.
You can take some things at this tournament as a given, such as Sophie Devine breaking records with the bat or Chamari Athapaththu continuing her stunning record on Australian soil.
But such an abrupt fall of the hosts’ top-order is not something many would have predicted.
Coming off 51 in the Sydney opener, Healy was out for a duck thanks to a swing delivery from the unassuming yet dangerous Udeshika Prabodani, who took her second scalp when she removed Gardner for two.
And Mooney, who played a starring role in her side’s tri-series triumph, saw her stay cut short when Shashikala Siriwardena left the hosts reeling.
If Australia do progress to the knockout stages of the tournament, we will likely see a return to form from the likes of Healy, Mooney and Gardner, but until then the unsung heroes are needing to step up.
On Monday, that hero was Rachael Haynes. Even if she didn’t feel at her best, her half-century, built in a solid partnership with captain Meg Lanning, is the reason the hosts’ tournament hopes are still alive.
"It didn't feel easy to bat out there, to be honest,” said Haynes."I felt like I mis-hit nearly every shot that I played, perhaps with the exception of one.
"I think we talk a lot about having match-winning contributions, and sometimes it requires beginnings, and sometimes it requires impactful innings in T20 cricket.
“Meg and I came together and we did that job. From my point of view, it was just really nice to share in that with Meg.
"I'm sure there was a couple of nerves today, but I hope we showed the character that has been there in the group.
“To be able to get over the line right at the end there will hopefully correct some of the momentum heading into the rest of the tournament."
Haynes’ impressive 60 was her third half-century in 44 T20I innings, but she wasn’t the only Australian hero on a difficult night in Perth.
Two wickets, including that of Athapaththu, from Nicola Carey, who was left out for the India opener and another two for Tayla Vlaeminck’s injury replacement Molly Strano, were crucial in holding Sri Lanka at 122 for six.
It may be another name up in lights next time against Bangladesh in Melbourne but if Australia have learnt one thing so far, it’s that they can’t be relying solely on their superstars.
“We didn’t get off to the ideal start with the bat, it wasn’t the ideal chase but we came for two points and got that in the end,” added Carey, making her Women’s T20 World Cup debut having been selected in three previous squads without playing a game.
“It’s been well-documented that we need to win all our games to get through the group stages, we’ve got that first one on the board and we’re happy with that.
“I’ve spent plenty of time watching the games so it was pleasing to get out there. It was a really important match for the team so to contribute to the win is really pleasing.
“It’s a relief. World Cup games are hard, it’s not like a normal series where you can drop a game here or there, each one is really crucial, so to get that one out of the way hopefully gives us a lot of confidence for the last games.”
© Cricket World 2020