Matthew Mott. ©ICC

Since her return to international cricket in March 2018, Meg Lanning has only one score of more than fifty in one-day internationals. In 11 ODIs, she has scored 308 runs at an average of 28.00 and strike rate of 83.46. Her only hundred— 124 against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur— came in October last year.

Her numbers before the shoulder surgery read as follows:
63 matches, 2999 runs, 54.52 average, 95.57 strike rate, 11 hundreds and 11 fifties.

Compare the two phases of her career, and it seems like the Australian captain is going through a bit of a slump. In the the two ODIs of the multi-format Ashes series in England, Lanning has scored only 34 runs, but Matthew Mott, head coach of the Australian team, is unperturbed by her diminished returns.

“She got 90-odd in the practice game and looked in great nick,” he said after Australia had registered a six-wicket win in the second ODI at Leicester on Thursday. “I think today was just a ripper of a ball. I thought she looked well set, I thought her intent was excellent, she did look set for a big score. It took something special to get rid of her and that’s the nature of one-day cricket and you know runs aren’t far away for her.”

Despite the lack of runs from their captain, Australia have twice managed to sneak over the line in nervy chases. In both matches, it was the lower-middle order that stayed calm and guided Australia over the line. Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince and Georgia Wareham prevented a complete lower order collapse in the first ODI, while Jonassen and Beth Mooney stitched together an unbeaten 60-run stand in the second game to seal a second win.

Mott considers the failure of Australia’s top order to register big scores in the first two games as a “blessing.” He believes the batters have shown improvement over the two games, especially after a somewhat disastrous batting performance in the opening match of the series.

“It’s probably a blessing, you know some of those top order are just due,” he said. “The fact we’re getting over the line without them is a real positive for us. They’ll do a lot of work in the next couple of days trying to get up for it, but there wasn’t too many bad shots there (in the second ODI) so that’s the positive. We’re two (wins) up which is really important. From here on in, when the batters get set we’d like them to get some big scores.”

With two wins under their belt, Australia have now registered a  four-point lead in the series. They were in a similar position in 2017 and went on to lose the third ODI. The momentum shift saw England come back to draw the series 8-8. Although Australia retained the Ashes, their inability to ‘win’ the series “left a bitter taste in the mouth.” They will be keen to close out the series in Canterbury.

“We want to get out as far in front as we can,” said Mott. “We said at the start we had a bitter taste in our mouth after the last one when they come back and drew the series, even though we retained the Ashes.”

The third and final ODI of the series will be held in Canterbury on Sunday (July 7).

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