Ashleigh Gardner: Rest of the world are closing the gap on Australia
Ashleigh Gardner insists the gap between Australia and the chasing pack is closing despite their convincing win over New Zealand to open the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
Gardner helped Australia roll the White Ferns for 76 to secure a 97-run victory.
It was New Zealand’s heaviest-ever defeat in T20Is and the third biggest margin of victory in the history of the tournament.
Sophie Devine’s side have been touted as the closest challenger to the five-time champions in Group A.
“As a group we always speak about (the gap), but teams are getting better now and we have to step up in every game,” she said.
“You just have to look at the way Ellyse and Allysa batted and grinded through when conditions weren’t easy.
“We fought hard for the win and it just shows how we can adapt really quickly.
“We had a simple mindset of keeping the stumps in play and we were pretty comprehensive out there.
“Conditions weren’t friendly to batters out there and you had to be really calculated in the risks that we took. We were confident coming in that we had the bowlers to defend it.
“We probably adapted a bit quicker than New Zealand and took the more calculated risks when they were on offer.”
Gardner took 5/12 in a stunning spell – only her second five-wicket haul in any format of cricket – with skipper Meg Lanning paying tribute to the improvement in her off-spin.
Lanning said: “She’s been bowling really well for a while now and she’s become a very reliable bowler for me to go to in any conditions.
“She’s worked really hard to get to this point so it’s great that she’s getting some rewards.”
Suzie Bates was castled trying to scoop Megan Schutt with the first ball of New Zealand’s reply, encapsulating a chase that never got off the ground.
“The gap to Australia is probably not as big as it looks today,” Bates said.
“They came out really strong and when you’ve got that depth in your batting line-up, they can just keep coming hard at you and we didn’t quite respond with the ball.
“They probably got 20-odd over par on that wicket and then losing two early wickets is never ideal when you’re chasing an ideal.”
Twenty-one-year-old Eden Carson’s stunning catch at backward point to dismiss Beth Mooney was a highlight for the White Ferns.
Bates said: “Eden’s one of our best little athletes, she zooms around the boundary and at points she’s gun. She loved that (catch) and she does everything with a huge grin on her face.
“To start a World Cup taking a key wicket like Beth Mooney, it really got the energy levels up out there, it was just a shame we couldn’t take more wickets throughout the innings.”