Australia could be without superstar Ellyse Perry for Monday’s do-or-die T20 World Cup clash against New Zealand in Melbourne.
All-rounder Perry is battling a hip complaint and did not train with her teammates on Sunday, instead completing a short batting session with a coach in the nets.
Tournament hosts Australia was surprised in the T20 World Cup opener against India before scraping past Sri Lanka and cruising to victory against Bangladesh.
A clash against the White Ferns should be much tougher, though, and defeat would end Australia’s tournament.
It would be the first time that Australia has missed the knockout stage of the T20 World Cup and Meg Lanning’s side is not only ranked No.1, it is also defending champions.
“We’ll give her [Perry] every chance to play tomorrow, but we won’t be able to make a call on that until tomorrow,” Lanning said on Sunday.
“She’s the ultimate professional. She’s doing everything she can to get herself up.
“I’m confident, and given who the player is, she’s showed in the past she’s extremely resilient and able to play through things. So if anyone is able to do it, it’s Ellyse.”
Perry averages 28.50 with the bat in Twenty20 internationals and has taken 114 wickets in the format at an average of 19.24.
Lanning added that she was comfortable with the depth of the Australian squad if a replacement for the 29-year-old Perry is required.
“It would change the dynamic of the team obviously, when you lose a world-class player like [Perry],” Lanning said.
“But I said at the start of the tournament that we have 15 players who I felt could play a role at any point and that hasn’t changed.”
The mind games
Both sides have tried to play mind games in the build-up to the Junction Oval clash, with the winner to progress to the semi-finals.
New Zealand’s Katey Martin started things, insistent her side had “nothing to lose” and that Australia was the only team under the pump.
“All the pressure is on Australia. It’s their home World Cup,” Martin said.
Those comments were dubbed “fascinating” by Australia coach Matthew Mott.
“I always find that fascinating, when teams want to throw that out there,” he said.
“I mean, we’ve got just as much to lose as they have. There’s a World Cup up for grabs.
“Anyone who says it means less to them, I’m not sure where the motivation for that is.
“We’re desperate to keep doing well and to give ourselves an opportunity to get through this stage and get to a semi-final, and I’m sure New Zealand are thinking exactly the same thing.”
The lead-up form
Australia will feel encouraged after its 86-run win over Bangladesh in Canberra on Thursday, its most complete performance of the tournament.
Alyssa Healy (83) and Beth Mooney (81 not out) added 151 for the first wicket in an imposing total of 1-189.
Megan Schutt (3-21) and Jess Jonassen (2-17) then delivered with the ball as Bangladesh was restricted to 9-103 in response.
It followed a nerve-shredding victory against Sri Lanka, secured with just three balls to spare, as Australia kept itself in the tournament.
New Zealand opened its World Cup with a seven-wicket against Sri Lanka and then it lost a thriller to India by just three runs.
The White Ferns survived a big scare of their own against Bangladesh on Saturday after losing 8-25 in less than six overs to be skittled for just 91.
Hayley Jensen (3-11) and Leigh Kasperek (3-23) bowled well for New Zealand, though, as it bowled Bangladesh out for just 74.
Australia won just one of its first six completed Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand, and the win-loss ratio sits at 7-3 in favour of the White Ferns.
The sides have not played a Twenty20 international against each other since 2016, when New Zealand won a three-game series 2-1.
Australia did win the last time the two sides met, though, Perry hitting 43 and taking two wickets in a 17-run win at New Plymouth.