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News Analysis

Australia's takeaways: the summer of McGrath and enviable depth lays down challenge to the rest

Next stop New Zealand, and Australia are well placed after a season of overcoming challenges

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
08-Feb-2022
Tahlia McGrath has had a season to remember while others have confirmed Australia's resources

Tahlia McGrath has had a season to remember while others have confirmed Australia's resources  •  Getty Images

It started in Mackay and ended in Melbourne. The summer of cricket for Australia's women's team brought just one defeat in 14 matches - a loss which halted a world-record winning run in ODIs - and was capped off by the first undefeated Ashes series of the multi-format era. There have been numerous injury challenges to confront along the way, some tricky match situations to overcome not to mention the Covid-19 protocols. As they prepare to head across the Tasman for the ODI World Cup, the one missing piece of silverware from their cabinet after the semi-final exit in 2017, here's a look back some of the talking points from the 2021-22 home season.
Mind the gap
There remains daylight between Australia and the next-best. And it's because of the depth available. It had often been spoken about but this season it has been on show. At various times they have had injuries to Rachael Haynes, Beth Mooney, Sophie Molineux, Jess Jonassen, Georgia Wareham, Tayla Vlaeminck as well as the absence of Megan Schutt. Three of them - Wareham (ACL), Molineux (foot) and Vlaeminck (foot) - are absent from the World Cup squad while Hannah Darlington has also withdrawn for mental health reasons. There is a chance that the double loss of Wareham and Molineux could be felt at crunch moments in the World Cup, but Alana King has slotted into international cricket impressively while Ashleigh Gardner's offspin was barely needed in the ODIs against England. Annabel Sutherland, player of the match in the last Ashes one-dayer, is far from a certain starter at the World Cup. A look at the Australia A team that went unbeaten against England A is reminder of those who can't get in the main squad.
They can be beaten, but opportunities must be taken
However, they are human. In a number of matches against India and England they were pushed. India could have won the ODI series but were beaten in the second game by Mooney's brilliance and a damp ball. They held their nerve in the next match to inflict Australia's first one-day defeat since 2017. They also dominated the pink-ball Test and should have lost the corresponding fixture against England. And that's the crux. Opposition sides cannot afford to let any chance to beat Australia slip away. Heather Knight may forever rue her team not being table to get 45 off 10 overs with seven wickets in hand. In the ODI a few days later Australia were 152 for 7 before finding a way to 205 which proved enough to defend. There will be times during the World Cup when an opposition team will be on top. But are they good enough to make it count?
The summer of McGrath
Tahlia McGrath was not an incumbent in any of the formats at the start of the summer. She finished it with two player of the series awards. It spoke volumes of her development as a cricketer and of the professional system now in place in Australia which allowed a player who had a previous taste at the top level to go away and return better. Her 74 in the second ODI against India - just her sixth innings in the format - was as crucial as Mooney's hundred. She has yet to earn an average in T20Is with scores of 42 not out, 44 not out against India and a magnificent 91 not out against England. It was that latter performance that she earmarked as her standout moment of the summer, which came alongside three wickets, on her home ground in Adelaide. There was a maiden Test fifty for good measure. "I've just got a real confidence, a plan about my game at the moment and just simplify everything," she said. "I try to take the scoreboard out of it, take the situation out of it and just back my game and my strengths with bat and ball.
The Ellyse Perry debate
There was a fascinating narrative during the Ashes where Ellyse Perry, the greatest allrounder the game has seen, was dropped from Australia's T20I side. It was another marker in how the sport is developing in Australia with talk of more role-specific selection in the format. There was never any risk to her positions in the other formats, but it was still noteworthy that she finished the ODI series producing some of her best cricket since before the serious hamstring injury she suffered at 2020 T20 World Cup. Her bowling looked back to somewhere near its best and with the bat she was in her element marshalling a couple of small chases. It will be interesting to watch her bat in a situation with run-rate pressure but she looks ready to have a big say in New Zealand.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo