Australia’s cricket captain bounced the ball twice, and then played a few cricket shots – perfect cover drives – wafting the football in the empty air.
She cut a lonely figure, but that’s the way Lanning wanted it. Deep in her own thoughts, the world’s best batter – raging after a couple of low scores with the bat and three back-to-back losses for the Melbourne Stars – was plotting a revival.
Quick single: Red-hot Heat detail Cane train
Budding cricketers of the world take note, because whatever Lanning was doing, it worked.
Yesterday, in front of a crowd of 12,901 and with the nation’s cameras focused upon her, Lanning edged her fifth ball through to the wicketkeeper for just two.
Watch: Highlights from the Renegades’ big derby win
Her wicket precipitated the collapse to end all collapses, as the Stars slipped to 4-8 and finally 9-85 against local rivals the Melbourne Renegades.
It was a humiliating defeat on the biggest domestic women’s stage to date – in a game watched by an average of 372,000 people on Network Ten’s main channel – and a bitter pill to swallow for a Stars outfit, who on paper and tournament form, should have easily swept aside the Melbourne Renegades.
This tournament, when Lanning has fired the Stars have fired. Her failures have resulted in their defeats. So when Lanning hit back with an unbeaten 77 on Sunday, it came as no surprise the result fell in the Stars’ favour – albeit with a late scare thanks to an explosive 29 from 16 from Molly Strano that threatened to snap the trend.
It’s a funny game, cricket, and none more so than Twenty20, a format which has a tendency to surprise and thrill in equal measure. Yesterday, it did just that.
Winning the toss and stubbornly opting to bat once again, this time around Lanning and her opening partner Katie Mack (21) were adamant yesterday’s performance wouldn’t be repeated.
They started cautiously, scrambling to just 16 runs off the first six. Crucially however, they hadn’t lost a wicket. At the same point yesterday, the Stars were 4-15.
One of Lanning’s greatest assets, superior strokeplay and timing aside, is her ability to remain unflustered. After 12 overs, Lanning was on just 19 with one four to her name. Eight overs later, the Stars captain departed the field unbeaten on 77 after nine fours and one six, no small feat in the mighty cauldron of the MCG.
Importantly, she had guided her side to 4-120, vastly improved on the previous day.
Quick single: Wyatt steers Renegades to Melbourne derby win
Every batter goes through a dry patch, it’s what makes cricket so nauseously addictive. Not every batter, however, has the resilience and mindset to bounce back when they’re needed most. Lanning does.
Today’s eight-run win, although a relief for the Stars, will continue however to fuel that uncomfortable truth; when Lanning scores runs, the Stars win. When she doesn’t, they lose.
In a game like cricket such statistics, where a team heavily relies on just one performer, lead to a roller-coaster ride in any tournament.
Both the Perth Scorchers’ Charlotte Edwards and the Stars’ Lanning lie, along with the Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney, at the top of the tournament batting averages and runs scored. Both Edwards and Lanning’s teams are touch-and-go for finals spots; the Scorchers certainly will struggle to get through.
By contrast the Sydney Thunder and Hobart Hurricanes, with a few big names but no one standout performer, are numbers one and two in the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League ladder. Teams win consistently, individuals on occasion.
Today’s win brings the Stars up to fourth in the ladder and the likelihood is that they will, probably, make it to finals. If they want to win the tournament however, they’ll need to show that the team, not just Lanning, has what it takes to do so.
With ball in hand at least, the Stars might argue they’ve a few contenders.
Defending their 4-120 on Sunday, Emma Kearney (2-19), a tricky, skiddy fast-medium opening bowler, got the Stars’ fielding efforts off to the perfect start, bowling the Renegades’ South African international Dane van Niekerk first ball.
It was a ripping delivery, hitting the top of off, and from there the tone was set. The Stars, so determined to avenge yesterday’s defeat, continued to put the Renegades under pressure.
Jenny Taffs went for eight before a partnership of 38 between England international Danni Wyatt and Renegades skipper Sarah Elliott looked to make things interesting. After 10 overs, the Renegades had 49 runs on the board, 11 more than the Stars at the same stage.
However when Elliott (19) was bowled by Gemma Triscari after an uncharacteristic hoik across the line, the game was all but up. Wyatt (25) continued the resistance but clinical bowling from the Stars seamers, especially Triscari (2-15) and New Zealander Hayley Jensen (3-29), was enough to see off the Renegades, who could only muster 112 from their allotted 20 overs.
The two Melbourne outfits therefore finish on even terms after the two back-to-back derbies. Unless they face off again in the knock-out stages, that’s how this duel ends.
The Renegades, with two wins and five losses, have it all to do to make finals. The Stars however, with five wins and four losses, will hope their demons – and batting collapses – are but a distant memory going forwards.