Lanning, Healy spearhead Australia squad for women’s World Cup defence

MELBOURNE (AFP): Australia named a powerhouse squad Tuesday to defend their women’s Twenty20 World Cup title, spearheaded by Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and a fit-again Alyssa Healy.

The five-time champions are heavy favourites for the tournament in South Africa next month with their ranks boosted further by the return of leg-spinner Georgia Wareham after a long injury-related layoff.

Wicketkeeper Healy has been struggling with calf problem suffered in December in India, but was also named in the 15-women squad and is expected to play

Australia crushed India by 85 runs in front of more than 86,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to win the T20 World Cup in 2020.

Lanning once again leads the side after ending an indefinite months-long break late last month, allaying fears that she had played her last international.

The record-breaking 30-year-old announced she was stepping away from the game in August, to “focus on myself” after leading Australia to a hectic string of successes.

“It’s always tough to narrow a squad down to just 15 players, but we’re confident we’ve picked a well-balanced side,” said national selector Shawn Flegler.

“Seeing Meg and Georgia back in action for Victoria has been exciting. Both bring a wealth of experience to the group, which is always crucial during major tournaments.

“Georgia in particular, has had a tough run of injuries, but she’s shown a great deal of resilience and her return is a real boost for the side.”

Australia will begin their World Cup defence on February 12 against New Zealand before pool games against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Australia will warm-up with home T20 and one-day series against Pakistan before travelling to South Africa.

Australia squad: Meg Lanning (capt), Alyssa Healy, Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham