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Sophie Devine eyes chance to topple world champions Australia as trans-Tasman rivalry resumes

Australia captain Meg Lanning confirmed allrounder Ellyse Perry is unavailable for series opener selection

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Feelin' the tension: Sophie Devine and Meg Lanning share a light moment, Australia women v New Zealand women, Brisbane, September 25, 2020

Feelin' the tension: Sophie Devine and Meg Lanning share a light moment  •  Getty Images

New Zealand captain Sophie Devine believes there is no better time to try and topple the powerful Australians, with both teams resuming the game from a standing start following six months without cricket.
New Zealand will begin by facing a home side without allrounder Ellyse Perry who is not yet available following the hamstring injury which curtailed her T20 World Cup campaign earlier this year and required surgery. Australia captain Meg Lanning remained hopeful Perry will play a part during the series of three T20Is and three ODIs but she won't be rushed back.
"She's still working through her return-to-play plan; when she ticks off all those markers she'll be available," Lanning said. "We won't see her tomorrow but she's doing everything she can to get up and play."
New Zealand have lost their last five T20Is against Australia although the most recent was a closely fought four-run defeat in what was a knockout match at the group stage of the T20 World Cup. Before that they had secured three T20I series in a row, albeit dating back to 2013 when only a handful of the current players were involved, but the one-day record has been very one-sided with Australia holding the Rose Bowl trophy for 20 years.
"The great thing about it is we are almost level pegging: no side has played cricket for close to six months, so it will be the side that adapts quickest and can get back into the flow of playing," Devine said. "Think we are in a great position; the build-up we've had - if there's any time to knock them over it's now.
"There's been so many games against Australia where it has come down the last over, the last wicket, a handful of runs. It shows that we are close. For us it's about having the confidence and belief that we can win these games.
"We know how strong the Australians are and the success they've had and we almost need to get into that mentality that we can win from any position. We know we are close to this Australian side."
The unusual situation created by the pandemic meant that the same two teams played each other yesterday in a warm-up match which Australia won by 11 runs after a late New Zealand collapse. Both captains suggested they did not show their full hand to the opposition although Devine admitted there isn't much the teams don't know about each other.
"We probably did hold back a little bit, you don't want to show all our cards too soon, but the thing with the women's game over the last couple of years is that there's no hiding, all our games are on TV now, so you are doing well to hide all your secrets from opposition players," Devine said.
Lanning acknowledged that New Zealand had matchwinners in their team, not least captain Devine who clubbed 89 off 73 balls on Thursday, but was confident about her squad which includes some fresh and recalled faces among the expanded size of 18 players, with Belinda Vakarewa's performance on Thursday where she took 2 for 31 earning praise.
"Yesterday was a practice game; tomorrow is the real stuff and it will be a tight contest," she said. "The proof will be in the pudding over the next 10 days. They all did a good job [in the warm-up]. Sophie Devine was coming pretty hard, so it was a great to experience that.
"Belinda Vakarewa was really impressive, especially with the new ball, Suzie Bates came out pretty hard, too, and she was able to get her wicket in the end. To have new players come into the squad who haven't been involved in a while, to be able to play so well is really encouraging."
Spin is likely to play a key role in both series. Australia claimed eight wickets with it in the warm-up, including five to Sophie Molineux. "Our spinners have done a good job over a long period of time. [It] Will be tough to get that final XI picked," Lanning said.
New Zealand will be without two key spinners. Leigh Kasperek, who had to remain in Scotland due to travel restrictions, and Anna Peterson (personal reasons), are not available for the tour, but Devine took the positive form the situation.
"This series has given a chance for more players to step up," she said. "We need to expose more players to the international level. It presents a unique opportunity for players."
She was also hopeful of a little inside knowledge on the local conditions at Allan Border Field, which will stage all six matches, from the Brisbane Heat WBBL duo of Maddy Green and Amelia Kerr.
"Them being based here has certainly given them some good intel around how it can play," Devine said. "They were fantastic last year with the Heat. That's the great thing about the WBBL: the players learn so much about opposition and, as I said, there's no hiding."
There will be a minute's silence before play in memory of the late Dean Jones, and the Australian team will wear black armbands.
Australia squad Meg Lanning (capt), Rachael Haynes, Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa
New Zealand squad Sophie Devine (capt), Suzie Bates, Natalie Dodd, Deanna Doughty, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jenson, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Watkin

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo