Megan Schutt collected figures of 5-15 during Australia's convincing T20I victory over Pakistan at North Sydney Oval. (Photo: @AusWomenCricket Twitter)

An eight-wicket win handed Australia a perfect start to its T20I series against Pakistan, with the hosts capitalising on an impressive bowling display to remain unbeaten at North Sydney Oval in T20 cricket. 

Megan Schutt was the star of the show, collecting career-best T20I figures of 5-15 to condemn Pakistan to a below-par total of 118. This was comfortably chased down in reply, headlined by a classy half-century from Ellyse Perry.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the five key takeaways from the first match of the series. 

Perfect Perry yorker triggers Pakistan collapse

After a solid start from Pakistan’s opening batters, the introduction of Ellyse Perry to the bowling crease culminated in a sublime piece of skill from the champion all-rounder. 

Both Muneeba Ali and the experienced Javeria Khan appeared settled out in the middle, combining for 26 runs off the first four overs of the innings. However, Perry quickly set about breaking this partnership, executing a searing yorker to dismiss Muneeba. 

The left-handed opener had no answer to Perry’s late in-swing, failing to jam down on the ball in time before it crashed into the stumps. 

What followed was a flurry of wickets for the Australians, including a sharp caught behind from Beth Mooney down the leg-side off the bowling of Megan Schutt. Pakistan now suddenly found themselves reeling at 4-32.

Alana King grasps a screamer off her own bowling

Just as it looked as though Pakistan was beginning to rebuild its innings, a breathtaking catch from Alana King halted any momentum generated by the touring side.

King enticed the powerful Nida Dar to hit hard down the ground, who connected well with the leg spinner’s delivery. However, some incredible athleticism from King meant that Dar’s time at the crease would be brought to an end.

The 27-year-old dived full-length to her right, clinging on to a tremendous caught and bowled. She ultimately finished with figures of 2-16 off four overs, reinforcing her credentials ahead of a fast-approaching T20 World Cup. 

It comes at a time where the returning Georgia Wareham adds competition for spots in the leg-spin department.

Ayesha Naseem – A star on the rise

There weren’t too many positives for Pakistan in its comprehensive defeat, yet an entertaining knock from one of its youngsters should offer plenty of optimism. 

Ayesha Naseem was a shining light for Pakistan, hitting three glorious sixes on her way to a handy 24 runs off 20 balls. Naseem wasn’t afraid to target both pace and spin, utilising her power to clear the rope on several occasions. 

The 18-year-old opened her account with an 83m six over long-on, before swiftly pouncing on a Darcie Brown short-ball and dispatching it over square-leg.

It was a great show of character from Naseem, who had recently been dismissed for a duck during the third ODI played between the two sides. 

More Cricket News:

Five Takeaways: Game Three of Australia vs Pakistan Women’s ODI series

‘It’s East versus West’: Steve Smith vs David Warner for Sydney bragging rights

‘She’s made it look pretty easy’: Annabel Sutherland in awe of Phoebe Litchfield

Megan Schutt joins esteemed company

The ever-reliable Megan Schutt continues to enhance her reputation as one of the best bowlers in the women’s game. Schutt picked up wickets both in the powerplay and at the death, culminating in the right-arm seamer’s maiden international five-wicket haul. 

This included the big scalp of Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof, as well as the dismissal of established batter Omaima Sohail

The 30-year-old’s efforts saw her become just the fourth Australian player to collect a five-fa in women’s T20I cricket, joining Molly Strano, Jess Jonassen and Julie Hunter to have achieved the feat. 

Schutt once again looms as a key cog in Australia’s pursuit to defend its T20 World Cup crown in South Africa next month.

An embarrassment of riches

A surprise shift in Australia’s batting line-up saw Ellyse Perry partner Meg Lanning at the top of order, with traditional opener Beth Mooney reportedly managing an injury niggle.  

It’s a role which Perry assumed with consummate ease, notching an unbeaten 57 runs off 40 deliveries (including seven fours and one six) to guide Australia to a comfortable eight-wicket victory. She was also well supported by Ashleigh Gardner, who struck 30 runs off 19 balls (including three fours and one six) to add the finishing touches. 

Australia’s plethora of batting options offer Shelley Nitschke and her coaching team plenty of flexibility in the lead-up to the upcoming T20 World Cup. It might also lead to somewhat of a selection squeeze, especially given the impending return of vice-captain Alyssa Healy

Regardless, this significant depth should serve Australia well in the months ahead. 

Australia and Pakistan will next face each other on Thursday night at Blundstone Arena in Hobart. 

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