Australia could throw a World Cup bolter into their biggest women’s match on home soil in history after Tayla Vlaeminck was ruled out on the eve of the competition.
The Australians will open their campaign against India in what is likely to be a packed out Sydney Showground on Friday night, with unprecedented interest in the home tournament.
Victorian spinner Molly Strano was on Thursday rushed into the squad after Vlaeminck was ruled out with stress fracture in her foot. The injury could have one of several implications for Australia.
Teenager Annabel Sutherland could be thrust into the Australian’s’ first-choice side, after only making her debut in a tri-series against England and India earlier this month.
At 18, she is generally regarded as the next quickest bowler in the squad alongside Ellyse Perry and could now figure as an extra pace-bowling allrounder in the tournament.
“That is the bonus of the tri-series, we got to plan Annabel in a few of those games,” captain Meg Lanning said. “She looked pretty comfortable at that level with both bat and ball. She could potentially play a role for us.
“We haven’t settled on a line up yet but it could potentially bring in another pace bowler for us. If Annabel was to play a little bit more of a role with the ball, I would certainly be very comfortable with that.”
Strano herself could be an option to be parachuted straight into the XI. Jess Jonassen will play as first-choice spinner and other turning allrounders Erin Burns (knee) and Sophie Molineux (cork) are both expected to be available along with the fit Georgia Wareham.
But Strano comes with her advantages. She has removed dangerous Indian opener Shafali Verma five times in seven games for Australia A and the Governor General’s XI this summer. The 27-year-old Strano, who played five T20 games for Australia in 2017, was also one of the form bowlers of the Women’s Big Bash League.
“She’s definitely in contention to play tomorrow, as everyone is,” Lanning said. “She does have a good record against Verma. It’s something we will be thinking about. We will just have to have a good look at the wicket and decide what we think will be the best combination, and a lot of that will be down to match-ups.”
Vlaeminck’s injury is almost one of the worst possible blows for Australia, given there is no other bowler in the country who can bowl at the speed she does. It comes as the Australians desperately want their most dynamic bat – Alyssa Healy – to return to form after she was player of the tournament in their 2018 success.
“There’s no real like-for-like replacement for Tay, no one does what she does,” Lanning said. “It’s a massive loss and she is obviously pretty shattered with the timing of it. She was set for a big role for us. I’m pretty devastated for her.”
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