Australia and England have won one game each against each other in the ongoing tri-series and there is little separating them as they head to the final on Thursday. Both of them won their games as convincingly as they have lost, and the fact that the team chasing has an advantage is a clear indication of that.
England, with their two successive defeats, in which they were bowled out after batting first, have shown that even their power-packed batting line-up can't pull off batting at fifth gear with much success if they keep losing wickets at regular intervals. While Australian batters have shown far greater application than that of the opposition, with everyone in the top seven, except Alyssa Healy, having at least one good outing. It is their bowler's consistency which has given them a one-up over the opposition.
Ashley Noffke, Australia's assistant coach, praised the bowlers for having executed the plans well even as the conditions didn't quite favour them. Citing how disciplined bowling by the Australians coupled with a high-risk approach to batting by England, helped them bowl out their rivals in the previous game.
"Our bowling group had a really good discussion, that was clear and concise without over-thinking it, just really good tactically coming into that second game," Noffke said. "England played with freedom - at times, they probably took that freedom a little bit too far. Our bowlers hardly bowled a loose ball in the first seven or eight overs and they really backed England into a corner. Every time they tried to take us on, they made a mistake."
There is no denying that the wickets at the Brabourne Stadium are batting-friendly. While India and England have registered their highest T20I score in this series, Australia too equaled their second-highest total. The former pacer believes the conditions are tough and there is a need to think out of the ordinary for the bowlers to be able to be effective. "You got to think out of the box," he suggested. "When you get conditions that really suit the batters, it puts a lot of pressure on the bowling group. You have to be very sure of how you're going to take wickets.
I've been very firm with my message that we have to try and take wickets all the time rather than control their totals. In these sort of conditions, it's only wickets that's going to slow their total"
Heading into the final clash on Saturday, Noffke doesn't believe Australia need to do anything out of the ordinary. "It's little swings in each game that changes momentum. As a bowling group, we'll be focusing on execution and trying to do the simple things right over and over again. When you come to the final, it's about relaxing and trusting your skill, it's not about reinventing the wheel or having tricks up your sleeve. You are trying to do basic stuff but doing it around your game."
Of everything that has worked for Australia in the ongoing series, Noffke has praised Megan Schutt's ability to control the scoring in the powerplay and forcing batters to 'do something silly', Jess Jonassen's lines and lengths, Ellyse Perry's'intent' to dig in short and also vary her pace.
"We've had a group of bowlers who have chipped in every game," he said. "We've rarely had overs where we have lost consecutive overs in a row, where Meg (Lanning) couldn't find a bowler who could do the job."
He also hailed the clarity of Meg Lanning's plans and said: "No matter to who Meg has gone, it's been a bit of a captain's dream that way. But it is also about Meg's clarity, as to when she wants which bowler, when she uses them against which batter has been her strongest point."
One of the standout features of Australia's bowling plans is the flexible manner in which bowling changes are made. Different bowlers have come on to bowl at different points in every game, often for one over spells. Even in their last game against India, after Megan Schutt had picked up two wickets in two balls, she was taken off the attack and brought on from the other end. Noffke believes to be able to adapt to this change is the way forward in the shortest format.
"It's certainly harder than traditional type of bowling. Having said that, it is the future of Twenty20 cricket. Lots of different bowlers at different times, being always ready to bowl is probably the biggest part of the T20 format. Our bowling group has adapted really well and you have to do that on these kinds of fields."
Noffke admits that with the experience of this series, the players feel a lot more confident of being able to hold their nerves when the batters are coming hard at them and believes it will hold them in good stead for the future.
"They feel more comfortable about being able to hold fire, especially on outfields like here in Mumbai, where you know you're going to go for a few boundaries from time to time. Sometimes there is going to be a bit of a pressure at the backend and the front of an over. You've got to be able to hold your nerve, slow things down and talk to the captain to make sure the plans are right.
"If you need a small adjustment in line, a small adjustment in pace, then you got to make that and go after your execution. It's more about quickly re-thinking, making sure you feel comfortable with what the captain is asking you to do," he concluded.