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Lanning the leader bats with freedom

Australia Women’s captain says spending time in the middle and picking up cues from men’s game helped her while smashing a record 126 against Ireland Women

Lanning the leader bats with freedom - Cricket News
Meg Lanning plays a captain's knock as she scored a 65-ball 126 against Ireland.
Meg Lanning was still in high school when Karen Rolton, the former Australia Women's captain, made an unbeaten 96 against England in a Twenty20 International in September 2005. On Thursday (March 27), Lanning struck a 65-ball 126 as Australia beat Ireland in Sylhet to post its second win in three matches at the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014. In the process, Lanning became the first woman cricketer from Australia to score a century in T20Is.
It was a knock that came on the back of two failures for Lanning, who became the youngest Australia captain in January. Lanning took over from Jodie Fields, the wicketkeeper, who led Australia to its last two global titles – the ICC World Twenty20 in 2012 and the ICC Women's World Cup in 2013. That those were big boots to fill wasn't an understatement. But Lanning, in her own quiet way, has managed to carve a niche of her own and create her own identity as a leader.
From a distance, it's not hard to spot who the captain is, with Lanning at the centre of activity most times, pushing her troops to give their best. She's never short of words of encouragement for her bowlers, and between overs, she isn't averse to having a chat with the senior players over possible strategies and bowling changes. It is sometimes hard to believe she’s only 22, an age where most players are carefree and express themselves how they want to.
Lanning though, doesn’t seem like a leader with too much on her plate. She’s at ease, whether striking the ball or answering questions about her role as the captain and team’s main batter.
"I don’t really think about being captain when I'm batting because there's only so much one can think about while out in the middle," she explained. "It doesn't certainly put any pressure or burden of expectation on me. I'm enjoying what it has to offer, it's a big learning experience and I learn as much as any other player in the team, really."
Those are words that have been heard before, but they begin to make an impression only when you actually watch her wield the willow. The attacking instincts automatically take over as they did on Thursday, with an innings that was a cocktail of pure timing and brute force.
When asked about her knock that consisted of 18 fours and four sixes, Lanning was modest about her striking. "Tonight, I sort of got on a roll towards the end," she said. "I was just swinging everything and it was one of those days where I hit the gap most of the times."
It made you wonder if the two failures in the previous games affected her at all. "No, not at all," she said. "I didn't give myself a chance to get in in those two games, but I knew if I spent a bit of time, it will all come good. I'm blessed with timing, it's just a question of giving yourself a chance to get in and then everything else follows."
So where do the aggressive instincts come from? "I looked up to Ricky Ponting when I was younger," she said. "He batted at No.3, where I am now. I draw a lot of parallels to the way he played. I knew I wanted to bat like him. Not just me, all the batters are naturally aggressive, our first instinct is to attack. It’s just that sometimes, you have to stick on a bit longer. Also, I watch a lot of men's T20. You sort of pick up different qualities from different players, that is something I've done, I've learnt a lot."
During the course of her innings, she also surpassed the previous highest score in women's T20I history made by South Africa's  Shandre Fritz (116*). If that wasn't enough, she also became the first Australian woman to cross the 1,000-run mark in T20Is - quite a number of records at a young age for someone whose first sport was hockey.
"Yeah, that's right," she chucked. "I started off with the Victorian state team at the age of 18, and then when cricket took over, I had a decision to make. When I was first selected for the Australian team, I knew cricket became my prime focus. No better than scoring runs for the Southern Stars, but I still play a lot of hockey in the winters. It's a good release."
It's still early days in her international career. If a list of power-hitters among the current crop of women cricketers were to be drawn up, Lanning's name would figure prominently. It's a question of focusing on consistency. But the signs are promising and that bodes well for Australian women's cricket at a time when the sport is on an unprecedented high back home.

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