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March 7, 2009
Undoubtedly one of the tournament favourites, Australia hold both the trophy and home advantage. Two-time winner Karen Rolton leads them in her fourth World Cup, her first in charge, and likely to be her last as a player.
There may only be four players left from the victorious team of 2005, and the side may have lost doughty campaigners such as Belinda Clark and Cathryn Fitzpatrick since their 2005 victory, but fresh and exciting talent has since come through, in the form of players such as Lauren Ebsary, Emma Sampson and Ellyse Perry. Meanwhile, key performers such as Lisa Sthalekar, Alex Blackwell and Shelley Nitschke have been steadily improving their averages and will be expected to make crucial contributions. All of their players have an all-round game par excellence, including some spot-on fielding.
Also look out for new girls Jessica Cameron and Erin Osborne - Australia have acted as Australia do - and picked the form players. To this end, the two 19-year-olds, offspinner Osborne and batsman Cameron were pulled into the side for Australia's pre-World Cup duties in New Zealand. Osborne performed well in particular; having been the domestic leading wicket-taker, she took three wickets in one match.
Australia represent a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut in ODIs: they have not lost a series or tournament since being pipped at the post by New Zealand in 2000. But seemingly is the key word - they were run close by England last year and their neighbouring sisters New Zealand have given them plenty of cause for concern in recent times in their annual Rose Bowl face-off. This year New Zealand came the closest yet - taking a 2-0 lead before Australia dragged themselves back to 2-2, with the tantalising final match becoming an agonising wash-out.
And though Australia's track record would on paper suggest they should be shoo-ins for the cup, this tournament is deceptively wide open. New Zealand and England, in particular, will push them all the way. Nevertheless, Australia will expect to pick up easy carry-over points against South Africa and West Indies, and will be aiming to do their best in what will be Rolton's last World Cup.
Know your competition
New Zealand: Without doubt the toughest competition for Australia in this group. But regardless of what happens in their encounter, both sides should be comfortably into the Super Sixes.
South Africa: Have never beaten Australia and are unlikely to in their backyard.
West Indies: Too raw a talent; Australia should easily beat them.
Stars of 2009
Lisa Sthalekar - it's hard to ignore the world's No. 1 allrounder. Playing in her home state and in her second World Cup, Sthalekar is doubtless a key player. Her off spin can take key wickets, while her batting ability is excellent.
Shelley Nitschke - has also jostled to be the world's premier allrounder. Superb in all three disciplines: her batting is technically correct, her bowling naggingly accurate, and her fielding is useful.
Ellyse Perry is Australia's not-so-secret weapon. Much-hyped, the definite poster girl of the tournament, but the pin-up is worthy of the attention. Broad shouldered, slender, with a slick of sunblock, this shining star bowls good pace, fields well and bats brightly.
Squad: Karen Rolton (capt), Lisa Sthalekar, Alex Blackwell, Shelley Nitschke, Emma Sampson, Sarah Andrews, Leah Poulton, Lauren Ebsary, Jessica Cameron, Ellyse Perry, Erin Osborne, Leonie Coleman, Jodie Fields (wk), Rene Farrell, Delissa Kimmince.
Group fixturesMarch 8 - Australia v New Zealand, North Sydney Oval
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Jenny Roesler
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