'I want to be involved as much as I can' - Healy still keen to keep and open in Tests
"I look forward to that challenge and test my body, physically and mentally"
Keeping wicket and opening the batting in Test cricket has been, arguably, the toughest juggling act in the history of the game, but Alyssa Healy is adamant that she wants to do the job again in the women's Ashes Test starting on Thursday in Canberra.
Healy has opened in her last two Test matches, but her returns across the four innings have given a clear indication of how difficult the task of opening and keeping is in the longest format. She made 58 in her first Test innings as an opener in the 2019 Ashes but it was the first innings of the match, giving her the chance to start fresh. She then kept 107 overs before walking straight back out to bat, and made 13 in the second innings.
In her last Test, against India earlier this summer, Australia fielded first and Healy kept for 145 overs before walking out to bat under lights against the pink ball. She made 29 from 66 deliveries and then made just 6 in the fourth innings after keeping for 37 more overs in the third innings of the match.
"There's obviously ongoing chats about it," Healy said. "I think the approach we took in that last Test match we played was we'll see how we go. I mean, if things don't quite go to plan, we're out in the field for an extended period of time and I am feeling fatigued then we make that call on the fly and maybe I don't open the batting. But I'm always going to stick my hand up and say I'm ready to go and ready to contribute whether that be at the top of the order or with the gloves, so I'm sure it will be okay.
"Hopefully, we get the full four days in and I'm out there for all four days. I look forward to that challenge and test my body, physically and mentally. The chats are being had but at this point in time, considering it's such a one-off event for us, I want to be involved as much as I can."
Only five wicketkeepers in the history of women's Test cricket have averaged more than 30 while opening the batting, with England's Betty Snowball the only one to average more than 40. Snowball is the only women's player to make 400 runs in the dual role, averaging 66.57 with one century and three half-centuries.
Only six wicketkeepers in the history of men's Test cricket have made more than 400 runs opening the batting with India's Budhi Kunderan the only one of those to average more than 40 (43.46).
Healy has had remarkable success opening the batting in the shorter formats and suggested that it remained, to her mind, the best place to bat in in Test cricket too.
"I still think opening the batting is the best time to bat in any format," Healy said. "It's going to be a little bit tricky, obviously with the new red ball, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that the England attack are going to throw at us."
Healy was keen for some time in the middle coming off one of her leanest WBBL campaigns. In her last nine matches, including in the WBBL, the WNCL and the first T20I against England, she has only reached double-figures four times and passed 20 once, scoring 51 for NSW against Victoria.
"I feel like everything's back where it should be for me at the crease, and whilst it may or may not have looked like it in the first T20, I feel like I'm in a really good place with my batting again"Alyssa Healy
But Healy does have a history of coming off lean spells and delivering on the big stage, having starred in the 2020 T20 World Cup after a horror spell in the lead-in.
"I'm actually a little bit quietly excited about the opportunities of some slightly longer-format cricket, obviously the Test match and then the one-dayers leading into a World Cup," Healy said. "I feel like everything's back where it should be for me at the crease, and whilst it may or may not have looked like it in the first T20, I feel like I'm in a really good place with my batting again.
"So I'm really excited for the opportunity to spend a bit of time out in the middle and, hopefully, get my team into a really good position to win whether it be a Test match or a one-dayer."
The identity of Healy's opening partner remained a mystery, with Beth Mooney pushing to be fit to play despite fracturing her jaw last week. Rachael Haynes has also put her hand up to open, after having missed the Test against India because of a hamstring injury.
"Absolutely no idea. We haven't even had that discussion yet. We were just trying to get through these T20s. I don't know the chat around Moons, I'm not really sure where they're at with her, whether or not she's playing, not going to play, likely to play, so I can't really answer that question," Healy said. "But I've got no doubt that we've got a lot of coverage here and obviously with the Aussie A squad around, someone would come in and do a really good job. Whoever it might be, I'll just welcome them to the crease like I did Meg [Lanning] the other night."
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo