Cricket

Lanning’s fairytale rescues Aussie girls

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She may have fallen just short of a dream Ashes 100, but Meg Lanning’s rescue act has gone a long way to an Ashes series victory, says Ken Piesse:

For the girl known as the megastar, there has been one inexplicable glitch in the distinguished record of Meg Lanning …. until Thursday.

So keen has Lanning been to finally excel at the ultimate level, that she even walked away from several new year matches, wanting to be at her freshest for England this week and the one-off Ashes Test at leafy Manuka Oval.

All her first 16 centuries for Australia had been at white ball level, where her mastery from No. 3 is unrivalled.

Coming into this match, a highest score of just 57 seemed like a misprint until a close check of her magnificent CV reveals that this week’s one off Test is only her sixth in almost 15 years at the top.

Known for her unrelenting focus and a fierce practice regime which rivals any of her male counterparts, Lanning’s desire to score a maiden Test 100 was ultimate in her New Year wish list.

Held back in the order to No. 5, she was shadow batting on the grass in front of the Bradman Stand at the first drink’s break. She looked cool and composed and strode to the wicket soon afterwards after Elysse Perry’s demise immediately after the first break.
Even the champions take time to settle and there were several play and misses and a squeezed four past second slip to begin one of the most satisfying innings of all.

With her deputy captain Rachael Haynes offering polished support and reassurance, Lanning blossomed in mid afternoon, having been missed at slip right on the point of lunch from the fourth ball bowled by the classy finger spinner Sophie Ecclestone.
Typically, the majority of her runs came square on the offside. So damaging was she that her counterpart Heather Knight employed a permanent boundary rider at point.
Lanning was just 14 when Knight fumbled the catch which was to blight England’s whole day.
Forty-three of Lanning’s first 60 came square and behind the wicket on the offside.
She and Haynes hustled so many short singles, they reminded of Simpson and Larry at their zenith from the swinging 60s.

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Haynes was rock like and while she also gave a chance, soon after lunch, she batted time, played some flashing pulls and cuts and also deserved three figures.
Had England held their early catches, Australia could have been five for under 100. Instead, by tea, as Haynes and Lanning excelled, the Aussies were at a near impregnable 3-199 on their way to 7-327 at stumps.
Lanning was the aggressor, outscoring Haynes 37/20 in the first hour after lunch and 32/27 in the second.
Even Ecclestone, one of the game’s greatest one day bowlers, was expensive, conceding more than four runs an over early before being withdrawn in place of Charlie Dean, a 21 year old finger spinning debutant.
Most of the 3000 fans present sheltered in the shade amidst the ever intensifying Manuka heat.
The pitch was greenish and bouncy, surprising several of the early top order specialists including Beth Mooney, batting with a broken jaw.
With rain forecast for the weekend, it could be that the stellar 169 run partnership between Australia’s most senior players will be the highest of the match.
Haynes’ previous Test best score was 99 and like Lanning she seemed on song to reach three figures before becoming one of Katherine Brunt’s three wickets with one which inexplicably climbed from just short of a good length.
Having been sent into bat, any score in advance of three hundred was always going to be a win for Australia. Thanks to Lanning and Haynes, the locals again have the high ground and are unlikely to be seriously challenged from here.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. His latest book, Favourite Cricket Yarns, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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