Australian women team would be looking for their record seventh title in ICC Women's World Cup 2017    Getty Images
Australian women team would be looking for their record seventh title in ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 Getty Images

Defending champions, Australia Women, will go into the 2017 ICC Women s World Cup with an inexperienced pace attack and two uncapped players in the 15-member squad. Sarah Aley and Belinda Vakarewa are the potential debutantes, while Rachael Haynes, the left-hand opening batter, returns to the side.

Meg Lanning, the Australian captain, is the mainstay of the batting line up. She will be supported by Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney, the left-hand opening pair, Ellyse Perry, Alex Blackwell and Haynes, the potential middle order, Elyse Villani, who is slowly settling in to her new role in the middle order, and Alyssa Healy, Australia s wicket-keeper. Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner are also useful batters.

As surprising as it may sound, it was Australia s spinners that dominated during the summer. Lanning s team went into matches with a four-pronged spin attack and only one pace bowler. Although this was mainly due to the absence of Perry, who missed out due to hamstring trouble, the spinners fared well enough, for Australia to continue with that approach. Jonassen, the left-arm spinner, Kristen Beams and Amanda-Jade Wellington, the leg-spinners, and more recently, Gardener, the off-spinner, have been instrumental to Australia s recent success.

Perry and Megan Schutt will lead the bowling attack. They complement each other well Perry s pace and movement away from the right-hander is her biggest strength, while Schutt s in-swing and accuracy with the new ball is what she brings to the table. The duo of Aley and Vakarewa, complete the pace contingent.

At 33, if Aley does make her debut, she will be Australia s oldest ODI debutant in 45 years. Vakarewa, who is at the other end of the spectrum at 19, received the nod thanks to some impressive performances with the Shooting Stars.

Previous World Cups

Much like their male counterparts, Australia Women are the most successful team in Women s World Cups, having won six of the ten editions so far 1978, 1982, 1988, 1997, 2005 and 2013. They have an 87% success rate in World Cup matches, with 64 wins in 76 games.

In 2013, Ellyse Perry (3-19) and Jess Cameron (75) headlined Australia s 114-run victory over West Indies in the final at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. Jodie Fields team overcame a surprising 8-run loss in the Super Six stage against the same opponents, to register their sixth World Cup victory.

Recent Form

Australia beat New Zealand in an ODI series played in February- March. They came back after losing the first match to clinch the series 2-1 on the back of impressive batting performances from Mooney, Lanning and Blackwell, in particular. They chased scores above 250 in successive ODIs, further cementing their position as one of the best batting sides in the world.

In the last 18 months Lanning and Perry have been most impressive with the bat, scoring 924 runs (18 matches) and 733 runs (16 matches), respectively. With the ball, Perry (21 wickets) and Jonassen (24 wickets in 18 wickets) have been the standouts.

Ahead of the World Cup, Australia had a 5-week training camp in Brisbane where they ironed out the chinks in their armour and played a few intra-squad matches. That camp was followed by a short stint in Southampton where they comprehensively beat New Zealand in an unofficial practice match, before trouncing South Africa in their first official practice match in Oakham.

Strengths

Lanning, Perry, Blackwell, Bolton, Mooney, Healy, Villani and Haynes a settled, experienced and explosive batting line-up with names that would worry any bowling side. Lanning is the most dangerous batter in the world, her aggressive intent and range of strokes making her hard to tie down for a long time. Once she gets going, the Australian skipper is hard to stop.

Perry is the most consistent player in the line-up. While she is not as explosive as Lanning, she accumulates runs quietly, at a decent pace. Twice in her career she has scored 5 consecutive ODI half-centuries.

Bolton and Mooney have settled quite nicely into their role at the top of the order. Although both are left-handers, they score in different areas, making it hard for the bowlers to adjust. Bolton, in particular, loves taking on the short ball. She is quick on her feet and judges length extremely well, giving her ample time to play her strokes.

Blackwell, the most experienced batter in the line-up with 133 ODIs to her credit, is another lynchpin in the middle order. One of Australia s best players of spin because she uses different versions of the sweep effectively, she not only know how to graft through the middle overs, but can also play unorthodox shots to accelerate towards the end of the innings.

Villani and Healy, naturally aggressive batters, will be expected to provide fireworks towards the end of Australia s innings something they have struggled to do in their last few games. Haynes, who was part of the team in 2013, is also a useful option at the top of the order. She is technically well equipped, experienced and knows how to handle the pressure of a big tournament.

If that isn t enough, Australia also have the luxury to call on the all-round skills of Jonassen and Gardener, both clean strikers of the ball.

Key Players

As Australia s skipper and the No.1 ranked batter in the world, Meg Lanning will carry the major burden of the Australian batting on her shoulders. In 57 ODIs, the right-hander has scored 2671 runs at a spectacular average of 52.37 and strike rate of 96.01.

Lanning s attacking style of batting means she has the ability to almost single-handedly bat the opposition out of the match. While her drives off the front foot are clinical, her play off the back foot through the point region is exquisite. She is not afraid to take the aerial route against pace and spin alike, and brings her strong bottom hand into play when she is looking to assert herself.

Appointed captain in 2014, at 21, Lanning became Australia s youngest captain. She is the only woman to score 10 ODI centuries a number that is likely to rapidly increase considering she is only 25 and scores runs for fun.

In the 2013 World Cup final, it was Ellyse Perry s quick-fire 25 with the bat and incredible opening burst of 6-2-8-3, when she accounted for Kycia Knight, Stafanie Taylor and Natasha McLean, that turned the match squarely in Australia s favor. Going into her third 50-over World Cup, Perry s all-round skills will play a crucial role in her team s campaign once again. In 83 ODIs Perry has accumulated 1,899 runs and taken 113 wickets.

Although she started her career as a bowling all-rounder when she made her ODI debut as a 16-year-old in 2007, Perry s batting quickly took centre-stage. Since January 2014, the right-hander has scored 1,344 runs (close to 71% of her career tally) in 23 matches at a Bradman-esque average of 84 with 17 fifties.

Having cemented her place in the top order, Perry often holds the Australian innings together, while her more aggressive teammates bat around her. In recent times she has worked on expanding her scoring areas and being more aggressive. She is a classical batter who plays each ball to its merit, rarely looking to manufacture a stroke or try something unorthodox.

As the most experienced bowler in the line-up, Perry s bowling too will be of utmost importance. She shapes the ball away from the right-hander and is effective at the death as well. She has almost always bowled the pressure overs for Australia, and this tournament is unlikely to be any different.

One to Watch

Megan Schutt took the world by storm when she finished the 2013 Women s World Cup as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 15 scalps. The right-arm seamer went into the mega event with only two ODIs under her belt, but played an instrumental role in her team s success. She bowled tight lines and kept the batters quiet, and catching them off guard with the extravagant amount of swing. Since then, Schutt has established herself as one of Australia s premier fast bowlers, picking up 42 wickets in 33 ODIs at an average of 25.33.

Although her performances dropped off slightly in the last year or so when she was struggling with a knee injury, Schutt is now back to her best. With a shortened run up, more power through the crease and the ability to move the ball both ways, she is expected to be back to her wicket-taking ways. In conditions that are expected to help swing bowlers, Schutt will be a key member or Australia s bowling attack.

She is definitely seaming it around, said Bolton, Australia s opening batter, about Schutt. She s back to her old ways which is really great to see. She s done a mountain of work up in Brisbane, so it s just really great to see she s bowling her best.

Schutt s bowling aside, her athleticism in the field, which saw Australia beat England in the 2016 World T20 semi-final, adds another string to her bow. She is one of the team s best outfielders and has a very strong throwing arm. When the ball is hit in her direction, the two is rarely on.

Expectations

As winners of the inaugural ICC Women s Championship and defending champions, Australia go into the World Cup as firm favourites. While they may not be the unquestioned leaders of the women s circuit any more, with other teams breathing down their neck in recent times, the team possesses enough quality and star power to be a major threat in the tournament. Their experience in world tournaments alone will hold them in good stead only 4 of the 15 never having taken part in either a 20-over or 50-over World Cup but Lanning is aware of competition her team will face.

“It’s not just two or three teams now leading from the front anymore, said the Australian skipper. It will be a very tough tournament and there are a number of teams who can win. We’re very aware of the challengers ahead of us.”

Australia have a strong, settled and experienced batting line-up that has found a way to score runs all over the world, and a bowling attack that boasts of variety. While their pacers have not been in the best form recently, Matthew Mott, the head coach, insists that after the camp in Brisbane, his team is well prepared for the World Cup.

“We ll have to play our best cricket and we ll be looking to attack every game, to make sure we re fully prepared and have got that resilience and accountability when it counts, said Mott. There s certainly no easy games in that draw. There will be zero complacency from this group, we were stung by (last year s) World T20 loss.”

Squad: Meg Lanning (captain), Alex Blackwell (vice-captain), Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachel Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wicket-keeper), Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

Australia s fixtures:

June 26: v West Indies, Taunton

June 29: v Sri Lanka, Bristol

July 2: v New Zealand, Bristol

July 5: v Pakistan, Leicester

July 9: v England, Bristol

July 12: v India, Bristol

July 15: v South Africa, Taunton