Perry looking likely as ancient rivals face off for first time in 34 years | Cricket

Ellyse Perry is on track to avoid a second World Cup final heartbreak and take her place in Sunday’s showpiece as a specialist batter against England.

The star allrounder has missed Australia’s last two matches in New Zealand with a back issue and underwent two crunch training sessions in Christchurch ahead of the final. Captain Meg Lanning reported Perry has come through the fitness test well, and the only barrier now is how she recovers from the runout.

“We feel like we’ll have a full squad to pick from,” Lanning said. “Ellyse got through a pretty hard and high intensity session yesterday and she’s trained again today. It’ll just depend on how she pulls up sort of this afternoon … at this stage, it’s looking pretty good.”

Perry was unable to play in Australia’s T20 World Cup semi-final or final on home soil two years ago after a hamstring injury during the group stage. She hasn’t bowled in a match or in the nets since pulling up from her three-over spell against South Africa 12 days ago. But with a batting average of near 50 in the one-day format, Lanning said she wouldn’t hesitate in picking the 31-year-old solely as a batter.

“She can definitely play as a specialist bat and that’s probably the most likely scenario,” she said. “She hasn’t bowled for a couple of weeks now and it would be difficult for her to come out and bowl in a final if she hadn’t done that.”

The selectors will make a final decision on Saturday afternoon rather than leave it to the morning of the final so that players can prepare. Perry’s likely selection could mean Annabel Sutherland misses the final. It means Lanning will have six bowlers at her disposal rather than her preferred seven.

Since the first tournament in 1973, Australia (six titles) and England (four titles) have claimed all but one Women’s World Cup, however, this is their first meeting in a final in 34 years. Australia are red-hot favourites, with eight straight wins in New Zealand and an unbeaten Ashes series before they arrived. England are riding late-tournament momentum and attempting to defend their title for the first time.

Captain: Meg Lanning
Group Stage: First: seven wins.
Semi-final: def West Indies by 157 runs at Basin Reserve, Wellington

Coach Matthew Mott says he couldn’t have asked for anything more from Australia leading into the final, with eight straight wins including monster Australian totals and tight bowling performances. The most clinical was perhaps the 141-run dismantling of hosts New Zealand, when Ash Gardner belted 48 off 18 and tearaway quick Darcie Brown took three wickets. There is a sense of inevitability with this team, who boast match-winners across the entire squad.

BATTER TO WATCH: Meg Lanning. Cometh the hour, cometh the captain. Lanning has provided three huge knocks at key points in this tournament – 86 against England, 97 against India and a towering 135 not out against South Africa – and looks primed to deliver against an opponent she knows well.

BOWLER TO WATCH: Jess Jonassen. Produced final-over heroics against England in their group-stage win but was dropped against New Zealand and spoke of her mental struggle to warm into the tournament. She’s rebounded with style to boast more wickets and the best economy rate of any Australian.

Captain: Heather Knight
Group Stage: Third: four wins, three loses.
Semi-final: def South Africa by 137 runs at Hagley Oval, Christchurch

England stood on the brink of elimination after losses to Australia, West Indies and South Africa – all on the back of a winless Ashes campaign that left them looking down and out. It all turned in Mount Maunganui when they held India to just 134 and chased it down inside 32 overs. Knight’s side then produced a one-wicket win over New Zealand at Eden Park and purred home with thumping wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh. While they were lucky to make the last four, there was no doubting their performance in the semis, making 293 against South Africa and winning by 137 runs.

BATTER TO WATCH: Nat Sciver. The only woman to score a century against Australia this month, Sciver boasts technique and temperament to put together huge innings. She’s England’s leading runscorer at this tournament and top-scored in their final success last time around. Australia won’t feel they have a handle on the English top order until she’s back in the sheds.

BOWLER TO WATCH: Sophie Ecclestone. With 20 wickets in New Zealand, she stands well clear on top of the wicket-takers after 6-36 against South Africa in the semi-final. However, Australia feel like they have a handle on the offspinner after an Ashes campaign. Beth Mooney was quick to point out her figures of 0-77 in their World Cup meeting four weeks ago.

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