Lanning promises 'feisty' final
Australian teams have a long history of talking their way to a psychological advantage over opponents and Meg Lanning, the captain of the women's team, admitted the atmosphere on the pitch would be "feisty" for their World T20 final against England.
Australia and England have played 14 times over three formats in the last eight months and the players will be well aware of each other's pressure points. Talk is cheap - as James Faulkner discovered during the group stage of the men's tournament - but Charlotte Edwards, England's captain, accepted that both teams would be in the market for it.
Lanning smiles as sweetly as any 22-year-old, though she can also give a cold-eyed stare the equal of Steve Waugh, one of the progenitors of mental disintegration. It would, of course, be naive to imagine women as the play-fairer sex. Sadly, there was no indication from Lanning as to who is the team's Merv Hughes.
"On the pitch it's feisty, to be honest, we both just want to beat each other, that's as it should be," she said. "We talk off the field but once we get on the field it's all business as usual. There's always comments, a bit of banter and I think that's how the game should be played. Everyone knows where the line is and it's just a bit of fun and trying to get an edge however you can."
Back-to-back Ashes series means their rivalry should have been thoroughly marinated. As many as 14 players from either side could contest a repeat of the 2012 final, which Australia won by four runs to retain their title; the two teams also met at the 2013 World Cup, when England were beaten by the even narrower margin of two runs.
Like two chess grandmasters, they will be studying each other closely throughout the build-up and during the game, looking for the slightest flinch, a weakness to exploit. An Australia captain comfortable with sledging might also look to muse reflectively on two apparent failures by the opposition in pressure situations but Lanning demurred from the opportunity.
"England have got a lot of experience in their side, they're well led," she said. "Both those matches were very close and could have gone either way, so both sides are confident, we've both had good paths in. It comes down to being composed under pressure so hopefully we can do that better.
"We know each other inside out, so we're able to do our planning and so will England. It's a really big stage, probably the biggest we've played on so it's about being able to perform on the day and execution, hopefully we can do that better than them."
Lanning, in her first tournament as captain, began her tenure by leading Australia to victory in both limited-overs series against England at the start of the year. England's T20 win in Hobart ensured they would retain the Ashes on points, having claimed also victory in the sole Test, but Australia finished on a high by winning the final two fixtures and are now closing in on a third consecutive World T20 success.
"We'll take a little bit out of that, we've certainly got some momentum and I think we had a great team performance in those couple of games but we're in very different conditions here now," Lanning said. "We've got slightly different team as well. So we can take a little bit out of it but it just comes down to tomorrow and being able to perform the best."
Although Australia's batting order has an air of impermanence to it - in their semi-final against West Indies they promoted spinner Jess Jonassen to open for the first time in her career - the presence of Lanning at No. 3 is the rock around which the rest is built. She struck her first T20 hundred during the group stage and leads the standings in sixes hit, one ahead of team-mate Elyse Villani. How their powerful batting fairs against Anya Shrubsole, England's spearhead and the tournament's leading wicket-taker, could be pivotal and Lanning said Australia would not be cooling their aggression.
"We've got a few options to go with up the top and that's a great position to be in," Lanning said. "Elyse Villani has really struck form and she can be a dangerous batter so that's a good position to be in going into the final. We've got a few combinations we can go with so it's about assessing the conditions and trying to find what's going to place us in the best position to win."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here