Bowlers, Lanning fifty ensure Australia's juggernaut rolls on in West Indies

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Bowlers, Lanning fifty ensure Australia's juggernaut rolls on in West Indies

Meg Lanning, the Australian captain, plays a shot. © CA DIGITAL (Cricket Australia)

Meg Lanning doesn’t just bat. She breaks records. She creates records.

Her 13th half century in T20 internationals saw Australia continue their winning streak on their tour of the West Indies, beating the hosts by six wickets with seven balls to spare in the first T20I at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Saturday (September 14).

It was Lanning’s 15th score of 50 or more in the format and she moved to fifth in the list of players with most such scores. It was the first time that a player from the touring team hit a fifty at this venue. To add to that, she was the second-fastest to cross the 2500-run mark in T20Is.

Hush… So many milestones. Yet, that’s what signifies the greatness of a player.

However, the start was far from ideal for Australia, chasing 107. They lost Beth Mooney in the second over. She attempted to play the flick against Chinelle Henry, who got one to curve in ever-so slightly to beat the bat and rattle the stumps.

Shamilia Connell then got Alyssa Healy to edge one. But captain Stafanie Taylor, at slip, didn’t react quick enough to take the opportunity. However, Healy departed soon to leave Australia two down for just 19.

At that stage West Indies believed. Henry had two wickets already and she was getting the ball to swing, even beating Lanning and Ellyse Perry’s outside edge a couple of times. The experienced Aussie duo, though, displayed unwavering focus. They kept rotating the strike, largely looking at ease against the spinners.

Leg-spinner Afy Fletcher got some grip and turn, but she couldn’t make inroads, before Perry misread one. The right-hander failed to pick the wrong ‘un, lunging to play for the one that goes away. She was, thus, trapped in front and Fletcher had broken the 57-run stand.

It was the first time Perry had been dismissed in international cricket since July 2019, after a gap of eight innings.

The breakthrough came pretty late in the day for the hosts, though. Ashleigh Gardner then joined hands with her skipper to take the side closer, falling moments before the victory was achieved.

Henry’s two wickets for 15 runs in an economical spell stood tall among the ruins.

With the bat, earlier in the day, West Indies were in shambles early.

Five wickets inside the power play, including two run outs is a start no side would like to have in the sport, let alone the one that opted to bat at the toss. West Indies hadn’t probably recovered from the whitewash they suffered at the hands of Australia in the ODI series.

On the fourth ball of the match, Britney Cooper’s feet were firmly stuck as she attempted an ill-advised heave, only to get castled. That pretty much set the tone for the innings. Megan Schutt, the right arm seamer, was on the money right away - as has become a habit.

There was a halt due to an unusual reason, after the wicket fell. The circle, that should be 25 yards away from the centre as opposed to 30 yards in men’s cricket, was wrongly marked by the ground staff. Jess Jonassen pointed out to the umpires about how close she seemed to be to the boundary rope, despite being inside the circle. That’s when the measuring tapes were brought out and the error was rectified.

Soon, Kyshona Knight was run out as well, having responded to her captain’s call for a non-existent single. The hosts were two down for one in the first over itself.

Reniece Boyce, Stacy-Ann King and then Natasha McLean fell soon to leave them reeling at five wickets for 34 runs. In fact, McLean got a life when Beth Mooney dropped a sitter only one ball before she was dismissed. It was a rare blip by Australia on the field.

Schutt’s spell notwithstanding, Ellyse Perry and Delissa Kimmince, the pacers, made life tough for the home team’s batters.

Stafanie Taylor was expected to shoulder the side’s burden and carry them and that’s what she did. In a way, she was guilty of running Knight out early in the piece. However, she then failed to get enough strike and could only watch her team-mates fall at the other end. Eventually she finished unbeaten on 44 off 51 balls. Her knock featured three fours and two sixes.

In Sheneta Grimmond, she found someone, who spent some time in the middle with her. The pair added 29 runs in 45 balls - the highest partnership in West Indies' innings. However, Grimmond fell trying slog a full delivery from Jonassen. The left-arm spinner had a wicket to show for her efforts, conceding just 11 runs in her four overs.

Thanks to some lower-order resistance, West Indies first went past their lowest T20I score of 70 and then crossed the century mark to finish on 106. Schutt finished with three wickets but was a touch expensive.

Brief Scores: West Indies 106/8 (Stafanie Taylor 44*; Megan Schutt 3/31) lost to Australia 108/4 in 18.5 overs (Meg Lanning 54*; Chinelle Henry 2/15) by six wickets with seven balls to spare. PoM: Meg Lanning.