15/04/2024

Australian completed a 5-0 series sweep in its ODI and T20I games against Pakistan ahead of next month's World Cup. (Picture: Australian Women's Cricket Team/ Facebook)

Australia has completed a dominant series sweep against Pakistan as it prepares for its T20 World Cup defence.

The hosts went 3-0 and 2-0 respectively in the ODI and T20 series, with a mixture of familiar and fresh faces making an impact.

As all focus turns to South Africa for next month’s T20 World Cup, here are the Top 6 talking points from the series between Australia and Pakistan.

1. Litchfield’s historic ODI debut

Welcome to ODI cricket Phoebe Litchfield!

The 19-year-old made her highly anticipated international debut in the format against Pakistan but looked like a seasoned pro with how comfortable she was at the level.

She made scores of 78* and 67* respectively in her two games, with her first performance netting her player of the match honours.

It took a seed of a delivery from Fatima Sana in the third game to finally get Litchfield out, leaving her with an incredible ODI average of 154 (currently the highest on record by 60 runs).

It caps off an incredible seven-week rise for the Orange product, who also made her T20I over in India at the end of last year.

The left-hander has been touted as a batting prodigy ever since she debuted for the Sydney Thunder as a 16-year-old and her rapid ascension wouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have watched her over the years.

It was always a question of not if but when Litchfield would play for Australia, but her performances against Pakistan surpassed even the highest of expectations.

It’s a reflection of Australia’s depth that she was left out of the squad for the T20 portion of the series and the upcoming World Cup.

The selectors now have a tough but welcome challenge of finding a place for Litchfield in the ODI line-up once Alyssa Healy returns from injury.

2. Return of the Meg

Australian captain Meg Lanning marked her return to cricket in style after spending time away from the game.

After leading Australia to an ODI World Cup championship and a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, the 30-year-old announced in August she would be taking an indefinite break from cricket.

It meant she missed the entirety of the WBBL|08 and the T20 series in India as she spent time overseas to focus on herself. But before the New Year, it was confirmed Lanning would return for the series against Pakistan. This was also importantly accompanied by the news that she would still be captaining the side.

The right-hander was great in the ODIs, making scores of 67 and 72 in games one and three respectively.

In her first game back she seamlessly combined with debutant Phoebe Litchfield for a monster 144-run partnership.

Her second knock of the series was underrated after being overshadowed by Beth Mooney’s incredible 133.

Fatima Sana and Diana Baig combined for a dangerous 10-over spell during the powerplay of that game, which claimed the wicket of Litchfield.

Mooney had struggled to get going, but Lanning came in with an aggressive mindset and quickly alleviated the pressure Pakistan had built up.

This allowed Mooney to eventually settle and launch, with her skipper adjusting into a more supportive role.

During the T20Is, Lanning opened the batting and experimented with the bowlers available to her as she led Australia to two comfortable victories.

Lanning will now look to add more silverware to her resume at next month’s T20 World Cup in South Africa.

Lanning’s return against Pakistan not only marked the return of one of Australia’s greatest champions but contributed to the wider awareness and support of athletes’ welfare.

3. Australia’s first innings dominance in the field

The majority of the games this tour followed an unfortunate trend for Pakistan, with Australia establishing its authority in the first innings.

In four out of the five games, Pakistan batted first, allowing the host’s potent bowling attack to go to work.

The visitors were bowled out on three occasions and couldn’t put up a score that ever challenged Australia. This meant Pakistan’s bowlers weren’t given a lot to defend as they struggled to make a dent into Australia’s top order.

The only time Australia was required to use more than four batters was the third ODI, which was the one game it batted in the first innings.

That game was an improvement for Pakistan after it almost bowled Australia out, but it came at the cost of giving up the fourth-highest total in a Women’s ODI (9-336).

The T20Is reverted back to form however with Pakistan opening the batting on both occasions.

The visitors put up low totals, which Australia managed to chase in under 14 overs and with eight wickets in hand both times.

The only downside for Australia with its dominance is the side’s middle order rarely got any time out in the middle. It’s a factor the team will be aware of as it prepares for its T20 World cup warm-up games against India and Ireland.

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4. Options galore in Australia’s cartel

Australian skipper Meg Lanning wasn’t afraid to flex the bowling options available to her in the side’s two T20I games. In each match, Lanning used seven and nine bowlers respectively.

The team’s victories were set up by the dominance in the field in the first innings, with multiple players making an impact.

Megan Schutt was named player of the match at North Sydney Oval for her searing five-for, while leg-spinner Alana King was player of the series after taking four wickets in total at an economy rate of just 4.5.

Jess Jonassen also claimed a wicket in both games, while Ellyse Perry impressed with her tight bowling despite only being given three overs for the entire series.

Perhaps the greatest reflection of Australia’s depth was that the ICC T20 Player of the Year, Tahlia McGrath, was only given one over in either game.

Australia’s litany of bowling options means the side can adjust to the conditions or circumstances of any game it is playing in.

It will be interesting to see how Lanning decides to balance the rotation during the World Cup.

5. Sana shines with impressive pace

While Pakistan’s tour featured some tough moments, one big positive it can take out of the series is the continued emergence of exciting fast bowler Fatima Sana.

The 21-year-old was called upon to bowl the tough powerplay overs in both the ODI and T20 games and looked dangerous whenever she was handed the ball.

The highlight was an impressive spell in the third ODI when she claimed three wickets (the most by any Pakistan player in a game this series) and created plenty of questions for the Australian batters.

Fatima became the first person to dismiss Litchfield in an ODI after she bowled an absolute peach before she cleaned up some of the tail towards the end of the innings.

While she only took wickets in one of her five games, her bowling was a point of difference in a Pakistan side lacking pace.

Fatima arguably also had the cricketing moment of 2023 when she finally got to meet her hero Ellyse Perry.

After initially asking Jess Jonassen if she could talk to the all-rounder after the third ODI, she eventually got to chat with Perry after the washed-out T20 at Manuka and ask how she managed to add extra pace to her bowling.

The ICC Women’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year from 2021, Fatima showed in this series why she’ll be a factor in international cricket for several years to come.

6. Aussies ready for T20 World Cup defence

Australia’s strong performances against Pakistan would only give it more confidence as it hits the homestretch before next month’s T20 World Cup.

The reigning champs are favoured to win their third championship in a row, with the team looking well-placed as they prepare to head to South Africa.

The player of the tournament back in 2020, Beth Mooney, returned as an opener in the second T20 game in Hobart after not batting in the first match due to soreness. The left-hander went on to be named player of the match after making 46 runs off just 29 balls.

It came after a player of the series performance from Lanning in the ODIs, which was highlighted by a 133-run power-hitting display at North Sydney Oval.

Alana King will be a major x-factor as someone who hadn’t even debuted for Australia back when the last T20 World Cup occurred.

It will be exciting to see what the leg spinner can do in South Africa after she used the stage of last year’s ODI World Cup to cement herself as a regular member of Australia’s set-up.

All-rounder Tahlia McGrath has been experiencing an incredible T20 rise, which saw her named the ICC T20 player of the year last week despite only debuting in the format 18 months ago.

Wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, who didn’t feature in the series against Pakistan due to a calf injury, is also in the squad and expected to be ready.

While Australia will not be taking its opposition lightly, the team has everything it needs to achieve World Cup success once again in South Africa.

Australia will now play T20 World Cup warm-up games against India and Ireland on Monday, February 6 and Wednesday, February 8. Australia’s World Cup campaign begins on February 11 against New Zealand.

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