Published by Simon Brunsdon, 24th November 2018 on foxsports.com.au
Alyssa Healy is the name on everyone’s lips in the cricket world at the moment.
But it’s an unsung Australian teammate who could hold the key to the World Twenty20 final in Antigua on Sunday (AEDT).
Young gun all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner is the Aussie X-factor capable of tearing England apart in the trophy decider, according to legend Alex Blackwell.
The 21-year-old has posted scores of 10 (13 balls), 20 (19 balls), and 14 (10 balls) in her past three digs but is capable of hitting a big ball and can score at a rapid rate.
Australia moved her down the batting order in the semi-final against West Indies on Friday, but Blackwell says Gardner must be promoted back to No.3 to give Australia the best chance of taking the England attack to task.
“What I’d like to see Australia do is put Gardner in at three and with a complete license (to play shots),” Blackwell told foxsports.com.au.
“She got her 14 off 10 or something, which was good in the context of the game. I think we should get her in early to do something similar, and who knows? She might absolutely smash it and get 20 off 10 or something.
“Then the other batters can stick to what they’re doing.
“I was a bit bemused as to why Gardner didn’t continue to come in at three.
“It looked like they were a bit tentative again and went back to their best batters in (Meg) Lanning to come in. I think get Gardner in there and give her the freedom … nothing lost there, especially on a slow wicket.”
Gardner may be the X-factor but there’s no doubting who Australia’s most dangerous batsman is at the moment.
Healy is in some serious purple form. She was woman of the match in Australia’s semi final win over India on Friday, hitting 46 and backing it up with some stellar work behind the stumps.
In her most recent innings prior to that she’s scored 48, 56 not out, and 53.
Her efforts in the semi final were particularly impressive given she had to pass a fitness test before the game, having been concussed in the previous match.
“Healy is sort of unstoppable at the moment. Even after a massive head knock she comes out and bats in career-best form,” Blackwell said.
“All areas of her game – she’s as fit as ever, she’s added in the leadership side of her game as well, she’s great around the group, she’s just having a blast.
“She’s relishing that faith that’s been given her, she’s cemented in that opening spot and she plays with no fear.”
Australia has plenty of big guns in their line-up but Blackwell knows England are just as strong.
Natalie Sciver scored an unbeaten 52 to lead England to victory over India in their semi final.
“Sciver is easily the danger player, with both bat and ball and in the field,” Blackwell said.
“She will be on a high coming off a half century in the semi, and her form has been strong for a very long time.
“I saw her when I was coaching and she was absolutely outstanding for Surry. She was outstanding in that tournament and she seems to be continuing that form.”