Ellyse Perry – Australia looking to expand on their T20I gains during ‘landmark’ tour by South Africa

Australia Women are looking to press on from their successful white-ball campaign in India during what allrounder Ellyse Perry describes as a “landmark” tour by South Africa.

Having swept the three-match ODI series and beaten India 2-1 in T20Is over the New Year period, Australia will host South Africa in the first of three T20Is on Saturday in Canberra, the first time the sides will meet in the format outside the World Cup arena and the first bilateral series between them since a five-match ODI in 2016 (Australia’s planned white-ball tour of South Africa in 2020 was abandoned amid the Covid-19 pandemic). Three ODIs will follow before a maiden Test between the two nations closes out the tour in Perth in mid-February.

Perry said Australia were making good progress on finding their desired approach to T20 batting, having bounced back from an opening-match defeat in India and as they prepare to face South Africa for the first time since defeating them in the T20 World Cup final almost a year ago.

“Really pleasingly, we’re starting to nail down exactly what that looks like for us,” Perry said. “That’s broadly speaking for the team, but also for every individual within the batting line-up. Someone like Phoebe [Litchfield] had a phenomenal series over in India, both in the one-dayers and the T20s, but I think everyone took some really great strides forward and it’s a great chance again to start this series with T20 to just look at continuing to expand that.

“They’re coming pretty hungry after the World Cup final last year. It’s nice to play them again. They’re a wonderful team, they’ve got some seriously world-class players in that group. They’ve been competitive for a long period of time. We’ve had some great tussles against them, none more so than that World Cup final, so it’s nice to host them here in Australia and looking forward to the challenge.”

Litchfield notched two half-centuries and a hundred opening in the ODIs against India before posting scores of 49, 18 not out and 17 not out in the middle order during the T20Is. Australia have stuck with Grace Harris in their squad for the T20I leg of South Africa’s visit, boosting their batting firepower as they did in India, before she makes way for legspinner Alana King in the ODIs.

Meanwhile, Perry, who scored 145 off 137 balls for Victoria in a 50-over Women’s National Cricket League match against Australian Capital Territory last week, expected captain Alyssa Healy to be fit to play on Saturday despite not training fully on Thursday due to illness.

“I think Midge was just feeling a bit crook today,” Perry said. “She was cleared of Covid, so didn’t test positive for that, but probably just needs a day or so to take it easy. As far as I know, she should be available for Saturday without anything untoward happening.”

South Africa warmed up for the series with a practice T20 against Governor General’s XI at North Sydney Oval. Batting first, they lost three wickets inside the powerplay, including captain Laura Wolvaardt for a duck, before Nadine de Klerk‘s unbeaten 48 off just 24 balls lifted them to 149 for 7. Chloe Tryon, who returned to the side after a groin injury suffered during the WBBL, was the tourists’ second-highest scorer with a handy 39 from 29 balls, sharing a half-century stand with Sune Luus, who scored 31 off 28.

But the hosts chased down the target with four balls to spare. Opening the innings, captain Sophie Molineux led with 59 off 41 to take her side to a four-wicket victory despite Masabata Klaas‘ impressive 3 for 16 from four overs.

“Results isn’t the only thing to look at,” de Klerk said. “Tough loss, but I think there are more positives than negatives, so we’ll definitely take that into the first couple of games. It really put us on the back foot losing those early three wickets, but I think we bowled really well. They had a few partnerships going and I think we lost it probably a little bit towards the back end. Probably the bowlers would look to tidy up on those death plans and back end and when the batters are getting going and I think that’s pretty much it.”

She was also full of praise for the experience shown by Tryon and Luus to help South Africa to a competitive total.

“Chloe was out there for quite a while before she actually got going and I think that was what was needed on the day,” de Klerk said. “I know it is T20 cricket and you want to be expressive and really aggressive as well, and I think Chloe just took a bit of time, and the same with Sune. They both batted beautifully and laid some sort of platform for the rest of the batters to come. I think they had quite a decent partnership there. It makes a massive difference. We were 19 for 3… so it just shows that if one or two batters put their heads down and bat for just a little period, it does become a little bit easier.

“I was a bit nervous, to be honest, when I went out to bat. It looked a bit tough early on, but I just tried to take my time and obviously got some good advice from Chloe as well when I came in. So it was just about giving myself some time. It’s a great start to the series and you want to go in with a lot of confidence starting on Saturday so yeah, it’s been great fun to be out there and I’m so glad it was a good contest. I think we, as a team, got out of it what we wanted.”

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo

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