New Zealand, take note: Ashleigh Gardner is poised to take her explosive exploits with the bat to the next level this summer, Australia coach Matthew Mott believes.
Australia will meet New Zealand in three T20Is beginning September 29 at North Sydney Oval, the same ground where Gardner made headlines and highlight reels across the country when she struck the fastest century in WBBL history last December.
In 52 balls of pure entertainment, Gardner cleared the ropes 10 times on her way to 114 in Sydney Sixers’ season opener against Melbourne Stars.
The 21-year-old off-spinning allrounder has yet to replicate that sort of form at international level, with a high score of 35.
But the Sixers star has threatened several times with high-octane cameos, including 33 off 20 in a tri-series final against England in Mumbai in March.
Now, Gardner is installed in the Australian T20 XI’s top four alongside fellow big hitters Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney and Elyse Villani and Mott feels the added responsibility will see the allrounder step up a level.
“I really think after some of the work she’s done back in Sydney in the off-season, you’ll notice a difference in the way she’s playing,” Mott told cricket.com.au.
“I think you’ll see her make some bigger contributions.
“She’s made some great cameos and shown us how damaging she can be, but I think there’s some even better stuff coming.”
Speaking to cricket.com.au this week, Gardner said she’d been working hard on her shot selection and (relative) patience in order to make the most of her promotion up the order.
“(I’ve been working on) just going out to bat realising I have more time than I think,” Gardner said.
“T20 cricket is quite a short format but if I get out there with 18 overs to go, there’s so many balls to play.
“That’s something I’ve tried to focus and work hard on, being patient and picking my balls to go, as well as playing straight for as long as I can.”
The T20 series against fierce rivals New Zealand begins with a blockbuster Saturday night match at North Sydney Oval on September 29 that will be broadcast on the Seven Network and Fox Sports immediately following the Australian Football League grand final. That match will be followed by games at Brisbane’s AB Field (October 1) and Canberra’s Manuka Oval (October 5).
The series will serve as crucial preparation ahead of the World T20 in the Caribbean in November.
CommBank T20 INTLs v NZ
Australia T20 squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
September 29: First T20I, North Sydney Oval, Sydney
October 1: Second T20I, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
October 5: Third T20I, Manuka Oval, Canberra