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Feature

Australia's depth comes to the fore in hard-fought series win

An 11-5 points scoreline was a bit flattering to the home side, but they won the key moments

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
10-Oct-2021
Australia were without key players but overcame a tough challenge  •  Getty Images

Australia were without key players but overcame a tough challenge  •  Getty Images

In the end an 11-5 scoreline in the first multi-format series between Australia and India looked convincing for the home side. In reality it was a touch flattering on them and tough on India.
A borderline no-ball decided the second ODI, they won all four days of the rain-affected Test, and the weather curtailed a promising position in the first T20I (although Australia would have still backed themselves). India's fielding let them down and there were some tactical missteps. But after the opening ODI, which raised concerns it could be one-sided, Australia were not able to put together a complete performance while the series was alive. They needed to be tested, and they were.
That they still won key moments when it mattered (and a marginal umpiring call should not detract from the magnificent come-from-behind run chase in Mackay) is a credit to their resolve and tenacity. It is also worth remembering that they were without two key cross-format bowlers, Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen, for the whole series, and Rachael Haynes only appeared twice due to injury.
"Think it's a huge statement, the scoreline probably suggests we ran away with it towards the back end but think it was a much tighter contest than that," Beth Mooney said. "India were exceptional at times and really tested our depth and it was great to see that come to the fore."
That much-vaunted depth, certainly in bowling and allrounders, was on display with Tahlia McGrath's Player of the Series performances and the rotation of pace bowlers. A lot is made, often quite rightly, of the young talent that emerges in the Australian game, but McGrath is a prime example of someone who was picked young, didn't quite make it at their first attempt, went away to domestic level (both in Australia and overseas) and made herself into a much more complete cricketer.
"T-Mac has shown in the WBBL especially that she has totally evolved her game and become one of the premier cricketers in the country and think she has proved that this series," Mooney said. "She has come in in pretty tough conditions and scenarios for such a young player in her international career and looked like she has been out there for years and years.
"I can't speak for Tahlia but think what has really driven her is having a taste back in 2016/17 and a little bit of a rough patch after that with injury. It's a tough team to get back into so you have to be bloody good and she's shown that in spades, so really excited to see what she can do in the next six months."
The consistency of Mooney carried the batting in the white-ball components. Throughout the series Alyssa Healy had a habit of attracting some crackerjack deliveries and Meg Lanning could never quite get going after her opening fifty. The India pace bowlers were outstanding, from Jhulan Goswami's nip-backers and leg-cutters, to Shikha Pandey's magic delivery, via Meghna Singh's emergence and Pooja Vastrakar's development.
"Think the next step forward for us is playing the swinging ball a bit better than we have this series and we have been put under the pump a lot with that," Mooney conceded. "So in the next little period think we'll see the group really working hard on that. "
Ellyse Perry looked most at ease, with bat and ball, in the Test match. She was not given a bowl in the last T20I, but Lanning's plans appeared more focused in the latter two matches after eight options had been used in 15 overs before the rain came in the first game. Perry's standing means what she does or doesn't do will always attract the spotlight; it is the T20 game where most of the questions are being posed and her WBBL with Sydney Sixers will be watched with interest.
There will be some tricky selection calls to make across formats when the Ashes comes around in January. McGrath has made herself undroppable and Haynes will be a certainty to return which means room for one fewer allrounder, although the balance of the team would feel more natural for it. Whether the top order has the depth coming through of other areas is worth posing. Georgia Redmayne is next in line but didn't get a debut in this series.
Schutt's tone-setting ability was missed, especially in the ODIs and Test where new-ball control was vital, while Jonassen may well force the excellent Sophie Molineux back to the sidelines. Australia will also hope that Tayla Vlaeminck's body can withstand all formats - she was pushing 125kph in the T20Is - although Darcie Brown and Stella Campbell offer great promise.
"I'd hate to be a selector after this series," Mooney said. "Every time someone got an opportunity they absolutely stood up. To see a number of different people to do that is really pleasing."
It's mostly problems of plenty for Lanning and Matthew Mott, but England will be better in the field - and should be calmer under pressure - than India, so any slip-ups could be more costly. Then it will be all eyes on the World Cup.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo