Lizelle Lee and her ‘delayed’ T20I hundred

Lizelle Lee in action. © Getty Images

Few in cricket can give the ball a real whack and few can manage to clear the ropes as easily and handsomely as Lizelle Lee can do. The swashbuckling right-hand batter scores her runs briskly and often hits boundaries and sixes with relative ease. The ruthlessness and Lee’s ball-striking was visible for all to see when she notched her maiden T20I ton against Thailand off just 59 balls on Friday (February 28).

Those who have followed Lee for a fair while would not have been surprised by this knock of hers, as she is known to take the attack to the opposition. That she took 72 innings to notch up her first T20I hundred is a tad surprising, given that she has mostly batted at the top of the order.

Lee made her debut in 2013 and since then has made a quite a reputation of providing brisk starts. Her exploits earned her a contract in the now-defunct Women’s Cricket Super League and Women’s Big Bash League.

Lizelle Lee's fifty headlined Surrey's previous win. ©Getty Images

Lizelle Lee’s fifty headlined Surrey’s win. © Getty Images

She was part of Surrey Stars and played a pivotal hand in Surrey Stars winning the title in 2018. She blitzed her way to 104 against Loughborough Lightning in the finals of WCSL. She was just behind Natalie Sciver in terms of runs for Stars amassing 688 runs. She got her runs at a strike rate of 146 – the best among any Stars batters in the competition.

In the fifth season of WBBL, when Melbourne Stars failed to register a single win in their first four games, it was Lee’s bludgeoning knock of an unbeaten 103 against Perth Scorchers that took Stars over the line. One common factor of both these knocks was her ball-striking and her ability to score runs in boundaries and sixes.

Lee has the reputation of being a giant hitter – her T20 best is an unbeaten 169 in a provincial game for North West against Mpumalanga. She has four T20 tons as well but the one at the highest level remained elusive.

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That was about to change and Thailand bowlers suffered the wrath of her big hits.

Off the 101 she scored, 82 came in boundaries – 16 fours and three sixes. She simply pounced on Thailand’s attack by sweeping, cutting and carting the ball to all parts of Manuka Oval. Thailand employed spin for the most part of the innings and the right-hander feasted on it by using her feet well and peppering the boundaries on both sides.

Lizelle Lee hits a big shot to the on side during her maiden T20I ton against Thailand. © Getty Images

 

The way Lee switched gears after her half-century really demonstrated the power she possesses – she scored her first fifty in 35 balls and the next fifty runs came in a mere 24 balls. She was short of runs coming into the World Cup, going nine successive matches (across formats) without a fifty.

“Things haven’t gone my way since the New Zealand tour, so it was just good to get some runs on the board and get that confidence back,” said Lee after the game.
“I think every batter needs a little bit of confidence, you can’t go out there not having any. If it’s your day, you have to go out and cash in and I was pleased to do that for the team.”

With South Africa winning two games in the Group B and Lee looking in good touch, it is certainly not a good sign for the rest of the teams. Her power could be the push that the Proteas need to enter the semis for the first time since 2014.