Litchfield, Lanning star in opening ODI victory

In Australia’s eight-wicket victory against Pakistan, first-gamer Phoebe Litchfield and returning skipper Meg Lanning both hit half-centuries. Australia beat Pakistan by eight wickets in the maiden Commbank ODI at Brisbane’s Allan Border Field, led by comeback kid Meg Lanning and teen wonder Phoebe Litchfield.

Litchfield Shinning from the front

Litchfield, Lanning star in opening ODI victory-1

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Lanning, who had been out for six months, and Litchfield, a 19-year-old making his ODI debut, had a 137-run second-wicket partnership as Australia reached their revised goal of 158 in 29 overs. Litchfield became the youngest Australian teenager to make an ODI half-century on debut as she ended unbeaten on 78 from 92 deliveries, while Lanning – who proclaimed herself rejuvenated and motivated to dominate coming into the game – excelled with her 76-ball 67.

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Pakistan made hard work of a reduced 40-overs total, as spinners Jess Jonassen (2-23), Ashleigh Gardner (1-15), and Alana King (1-21) helped limit the visitors to 8-160. Litchfield, fresh after being granted Australia ODI cap No.148 by opening partner Beth Mooney, was watchful early but as she relaxed, began to exhibit the fluid stroke play that had her pegged as the ‘next big thing’ at 16. She hit her maiden international half-century in 71 balls, reaching the mark with a late cut for four.

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The 19-year-old left-hander, who got a WBBL fifty in just her second game of 2019, went one better on Monday, becoming the seventh Australian woman to knock a fifty on her ODI debut, and the youngest of that group at 19 years 273 days. Lanning, on the other hand, was dropped on six and took her time getting going before finding her stride in her first game back in the green and gold after a six-month sabbatical. She hit 4500 one-day runs on her way to a 62-ball half-century before being caught behind on 67 with Australia 19 runs behind.

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Undaunted, Litchfield flipped the switch, smashing back-to-back fours and a six off Omaima Sohail before hitting the game-winning single, giving Australia a 1-0 lead in the three-game series. After Diana Baig had newly appointed opener Mooney (1) chopping on in the first over of Australia’s chase, Lanning and Litchfield put up a 137-run stand. Earlier, when rains delayed and then suspended play, Lanning chose to bowl first.

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Darcie Brown struck in the second over when Muneeba Ali (0) miscued a drive that was caught by a sprinting Annabel Sutherland at midwicket. When Pakistan’s other opener, Sidra Amin (4), spooned a routine return catch to Brown, the South Australian tearaway had a second, leaving the foreigners 2-19. Scattered rains delayed play and frustrated many attempted restarts and saw the contest shortened to 40 overs a side.

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When the players came to the field, the third wicket fell quickly, as the entrance of Australian vice-captain McGrath resulted in the dismissal of the dangerous Omaima Sohail, Litchfield who was caught at point for 12. Bismah Maroof dug in beside Dar, and it took a magnificent glovework from stand-in wicketkeeper Mooney to remove Pakistan’s in-form captain, who had top-scored against the Governor-XI General’s last Friday.

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Maroof was declared out caught behind after edging Ashleigh Gardner down the leg side, and although Mooney took a neat grab and went it upstairs for a review, replays confirmed the on-field ruling, showing the ball had rebounded from glove onto the pad before carrying through to the keeper. The awe-inspiring spinners in the world. Mooney remained in the thick of the action, stumping the powerful Aliya Riaz (11) off the bowling of King.

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Before a mix-up, in the middle, saw Dar and Kainat Imtiaz (2) left both stranded at the non-striker’s end; it required a careful examination from the TV umpire to determine which batter had made their ground first Fortunately for Pakistan, it was the set batsman Dar who survived, with the allrounder’s experience and poise shining through in her 88-ball 59. When the sides play again on Wednesday, Australia will seek to clinch the series.

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