Australia will take nothing for granted as they confront familiar foes in their first ever match against Barbados in Sunday’s Commonwealth Games double-header at Edgbaston.
Barbados have played just one sanctioned international match, besting full member Pakistan on Friday, but boast seven players with West Indies experience, including two of the game’s most damaging T20 prospects in skipper Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin.
Five of the six bowlers used against Pakistan were part of the Windies’ 50-over World Cup side that made the semi-finals earlier this year.
Meg Lanning’s team can secure their spot in the Games semi-finals with victory on Sunday evening (3am Monday AEST), but Barbados have pledged to play with freedom against the world’s top-ranked team.
“We can go out there with no pressure on us,” Matthews declared after Barbados’ win over Pakistan.
“No one’s looking for us to win the match and it gives us a really good opportunity to head out there and play some natural cricket.
Australia’s top-order will be looking for improvement after stumbling to 5-49 against India on Friday, before a rescue job from No.6 Ashleigh Gardner and No.7 Grace Harris salvaged a crucial three-wicket win.
Speaking to cricket.com.au on Saturday, Australia selector Shawn Flegler hinted there would be little change to the XI – unless necessitated by illness or injury – during a whirlwind tournament that includes three group games in six days before finals.
“In these tournaments, once you start playing, unless there’s injuries or a real match-up that you’re trying to work towards, it’s pretty hard to change,” Flegler said.
“It was a tough call, leaving Nic (Carey) out (in favor of Harris), to be honest (but) that’s probably the swinging spot there, do we go another pace option or we go a batting option?
“We went the batting option this time … but if the situation or the conditions change significantly, then we know we’ve got Nic, we’ve still got Annabel Sutherland, we’ve got Amanda-Jade Wellington, we’ve got Ellyse Perry if one of our batters gets injured or gets sick.”
With wet weather threatening to disrupt matches in Birmingham over the coming days, Flegler is particularly satisfied to already have two points on the board from the win over India.
There are no reserve days for group matches or the semi-finals, providing added incentive to finish on top of Group A and avoid a repeat of the stress that surrounded Australia’s last semi-final appearance at a major T20 tournament in 2020.
“There’s some very dangerous players (in the Barbados side) – they’ve got Dottin, Matthews – in T20 cricket it just takes one player to have a great day and momentum changes,” he said.
“And that’s what happened with us (against India).
“You can’t take anything for granted. And it’s a short tournament, we can’t afford to drop games.”
2022 Commonwealth Games
Australia’s squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda- Jade Wellington
See all the Commonwealth Games cricket squads here
Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados
Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka
July 29: Australia beat India by three wickets
July 31: Australia v Barbados (6pm local, 3am Aug 1 AEST)
August 3: Australia v Pakistan (11am local, 8pm AEST)
Semi-finals: August 6, 11am local (8pm AEST) and 6pm local (3am Aug 7 AEST)
Bronze medal match: August 7, 10am local (7pm AEST)
gold medal match: August 7, 5pm local (2am Aug 8 AEST)
All matches played at Edgbaston Stadium