'Second-best in the world': The cheeky dig before historic Test

Ask Alyssa Healy where English superstar Sarah Taylor ranks among international wicketkeepers in the women's game and she will provide a typically cheeky response.

"Number two," Australia's star glovewoman and chief agitator says.

Many global cricket experts regard Taylor's glove work as the best in the world - in the men's or women's game.

Thursday's historic day-night Ashes test pits Taylor against Healy, the two finest wicketkeepers in the women's game and two key pillars in a match that offers Australia a chance to retain the urn with a win.

While Australia's men's team is no closer to settling on a wicketkeeper for the first Ashes Test this month, the women have no such problem.

Healy is always one of the first few names marked on the Australian team sheet. In some ways she's a cross between Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill, the two men vying to keep wicket during the men's Ashes this summer.

Her keeping is superb, her chirp behind the stumps is unparalleled in the women's game - similar to what Wade offers from that post - and her batting can take cricket games away from opposition teams in the blink of an eye, be it at the top of the order or in its lower reaches.

Much like Nevill, she is a seventh member of the batting order.

This week's Test will be the 27-year-old's third in Australian colours, to go with 55 one-day internationals and 72 T20s. Only Alex Blackwell and Ellyse Perry are more experienced.

Taylor, on the other hand, less than a year older than Healy, is about to play her ninth Test to go with 113 ODIs and 81 T20s. Those heavy numbers are despite spending more than a year away from the game to battle anxiety.

"She's an incredible cricketer, she's someone that especially someone like myself has watched throughout my career and someone that's pretty inspirational on the field," Healy said.

"Just the way she goes about it with the bat and plays her natural game and then her hands behind the stumps are second to nobody.

"She's a pretty cool player to watch in that sense and hopefully we can limit her damage with the bat and limit her opportunities with the gloves as well, try to keep her out of the game somehow."

Healy has promised her typically aggressive approach in the potential Ashes clincher, not only with the bat but from behind the stumps.

Last month she vowed to "bring the bitch back" and England's batters can expect a constant barrage of Healy's witty observations throughout the Test while they're at the crease.

"I'll probably just be the same old 'Midge' as you've seen in the last couple of weeks," Healy said.

"We'll try and get on the front foot in whatever way we can. Both sides have got a pretty potent new-ball attack and both teams will look to attack whether they bat or bowl first.

"If there's any chance of a little bit of banter here or there to get on top, then there's no doubt someone will exploit it.

"Some players are a little bit more chirpy than others. Hopefully a couple of the other girls perk up a bit and throw a little bit of banter around, it makes a long day go that little bit quicker if we're all enjoying one and other's company out there."

Australia's aggressive approach will be underpinned by a formidable pace attack, including at least three seamers.

Perry, one of the few written on the team sheet before Healy, and the in-form Megan Schutt will both take their place.

Lauren Cheatle and all-rounder Tahlia McGrath are also in the frame for their Test debuts. Australian coach Matthew Mott hinted on Wednesday at picking a four-prong pace attack.

"The question we keep asking ourselves is how we're going to get 20 wickets, that's the biggest thing for both teams," Mott said.

"Both batting teams are really experienced and set up really well, but the unknown is how those teams are going to construct 20 wickets over four days.

"From what we can take out of previous matches in pink-ball cricket, there'll be lulls in the game where bowlers have to be really disciplined, and when you get that opportunity to cash-in and take some wickets that's what's going to separate the two teams."

This story 'Second-best in the world': The cheeky dig before historic Test first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.