Healy toasts dominant Australia on successful tour – ‘We had just two and a half days of bad cricket’


Two moments at the DY Patil Stadium on Tuesday summed up the women’s white-ball series between India and Australia.

The first in the tenth over of the Indian innings. Alyssa Healy waited for Harmanpreet Kaur, on 3 off 5, to look up before ringing in the field changes. Ellyse Perry was moved to her right to deep backward square leg. Ashleigh Gardner was pushed back from the ring to deep midwicket. Harmanpreet had just faced a couple of dot balls – the first on a shortish length, pushed towards backward point, and the second on a good length outside off that she defended towards the off side.

Annabel Sutherland then slipped in a full ball on the fourth-stump line. Harmanpreet anticipated another short-length ball and moved back and across early, and ended up chopping it onto her stumps. the result – her sixth single-digit score across formats in the series against Australia.

And then the second moment, in the 17th over of Australia’s chase. Phoebe Litchfield, in after a double-strike from Pooja Vastrakar, was to face Shreyanka Patil for only her fourth ball. Spooked by her abilities to hit behind the stumps, the four fielders India had on the boundary were cover-point third, backward square leg and midwicket. It took no time for Litchfield to shimmy down and loft one over mid-off, and then again to find the gap between mid-off and cover. Eventually, Australia got to their 148-run target with eight balls unused.

After completing their 2-1 T20I series win against India, Australia’s captain Healy lavished praise on Litchfield, who finished the white-ball leg with 344 runs at an average of 86.

“I was joking sitting on the bench that I remember when I was that fearless when you come out and you have lost two wickets in an over and play a ramp over the keeper for four,” Healy said. “Unbelievable talent but at the same time she has got a good head on her shoulders and has fitted in beautifully in our squad and will play a key role for us in the Bangladesh [T20] World Cup [2024] and the ODI World Cup [2025] in these conditions in the next 18 months. She is great to watch and hopefully she is going to have a long and successful career for Australia.”

Healy also threw her weight behind Harmanpreet, after India head coach Amol Muzumdar had brushed off concerns surrounding the captain’s form by saying a form slump “happens to every cricketer”.

Harmanpreet began the T20Is against England with 26 off 21 before two single-digit scores including an unbeaten 6 in the third T20I win. She then scored 49 and 44 not out in the one-off Test against the same opposition before returning single digits in each outing with the bat against Australia.

“She got out playing the sweep shot quite a lot, which she traditionally plays quite well,” Healy said. “It might be down to some form. She has had probably had two hard series on the trot and this series has been a long one. [We had] no specific plans in place, but we know we need to be switched on when she walks out to the crease and our bowlers did a great job at keeping her quiet.”

Healy and Harmanpreet had contrasting build-ups to the series and Healy, in her first tour as full-time captain, alluded to the different attitudes they have.

“[Harmanpreet and I] are two competitive cricketers going out there doing their job. We approach it differently and that is no disrespect to her, and that’s over to her to deal with that. From my point of view there is no animosity there. If I need to be given a send-off, so be it. I am all for it, because at the end of the day, I am chirpy behind the stumps. If you are willing to dish it out, you have got to be able to cop it.”

While India won the one-off Test against Australia, they lost the ODI and T20I series comprehensively. Despite the result, Muzumdar said that the Indian dressing room “a happy space” and was “proud” of the way they played.

“Irrespective of the result, we should be proud the way we played all the games,” he said. “Apart from the third ODI, all the other games have been close, so they should be proud of what they have done. The biggest positive is the girls have responded nicely in all the formats, whether it was Test cricket – we played after nine years in India. Not many had played red-ball cricket till then. In white-ball cricket we really need to focus on our fielding and our fitness.

“At the moment it is a happy dressing room. I know we have not gotten the results we would have wanted this series, but they are in a happy space in the dressing room. That is how it should be and that is how I intend it to be till the World Cup.”

Healy was also happy with the learnings from the series and said Australia played only “two and a half days” of poor cricket on their part.

“I am just really, really proud of this group of people. We are here in India over a month that we are traditionally at home spending time with our families, and it is the first time we are away this time of the year.

“The month that we have been here, we have played two and a half bad days of cricket – one and a half days in the Test match and one T20 – and I am really proud of the group. Hopefully we can have a really successful 2024 on the back of it.”

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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