Phoebe Litchfield scores half-century on debut, Meg Lanning, cricket news 2023

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For years, Phoebe Litchfield’s ODI debut has felt like an inevitability.

The left-handed batting prodigy from Orange has been touted as a future superstar of Australian cricket since footage of the then 16-year-old smacking cricket balls during a New South Wales net session went viral in 2019.

An injury to wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy opened the door for Litchfield to debut against Pakistan on Monday, becoming the 148th woman to represent Australia in the ODI format.

And the teenager didn’t disappoint, peeling off an unbeaten 78 at Allan Border Field as Australia cruised towards a comfortable eight-wicket victory.

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Litchfield combined with captain Meg Lanning, returning after a six-month hiatus from the sport, for a 137-run partnership for the second wicket, steadying the ship after opening partner Beth Mooney chopped on for 1.

The 19-year-old played defensively during the Powerplay, blocking and leaving the new ball before rotating the strike with Lanning (67 off 76 balls) throughout the middle overs.

Litchfield put the foot down following Lanning’s departure in the 28th over, with 19 runs still required for victory, relentlessly targeting Pakistan spinner Omaima Sohail. She skipped down the wicket and slapped a lofted drive over the cover boundary for six, a shot that most young debutants wouldn’t attempt, let alone execute.

Australia reached the 158-run target with more than 11 overs to spare, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match bilateral series.

Litchfield became the eighth Australian woman to score a half-century on ODI debut, but comfortably the youngest to achieve the feat. She was also just the third Australian woman to receive Player of the Match honours on her ODI debut, joining Nicole Bolton and Lindsay Reeler.

Phoebe Litchfield of Australia celebrates the victory with skipper Meg Lanning. Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The previous week, Litchfield had been dismissed for a nine-ball duck in the Governor-General’s XI match against Pakistan, fishing outside the off stump and chipping a catch to cover.

She made no such mistake on Monday, with Lanning encouraging the opener to bide her time and protect her wicket.

“I was thinking so many things over in my head last night, so for that to come off today, I’m just pretty relieved,” Litchfield told reporters in the post-match press conference.

“To get off the mark was the first job but to stick with Meg and then hit the running runs, it’s a nice feeling.

“Coming off a duck in the GG XI game, I was just leaving it early, getting through the new ball and then cashing in.

“I’d never batted with Meg or played with her and she’s just the best batting partner.

“She knows exactly what to say and whenever I felt under pressure, she either scored a four or came down the other end and gave me some words of advice.”

Litchfield, who grew up in regional New South Wales, burst onto the scene in October 2019 with a 22-ball 26 on WBBL debut at the age of 16. Her skill was undeniable, but at the time she lacked the power required to clear the boundary rope consistently .

Over the following 24 months, she developed her match awareness and increased her body strength to quickly transform into a well-rounded batter capable of excelling in all three formats.

Litchfield became a stalwart for the Sydney Thunder and the NSW Breakers while juggling school and university commitments, earning a call-up to the Australia A squad last year, finishing the three-match series against England A as the leading run-scorer, cracking back-to-back fifties in Canberra.

She scored her maiden Women’s National Cricket League century in October last year, scoring a classy 107 (105) against Western Australia at the picturesque North Sydney Oval. An international call-up beckoned, with Litchfield making her T20I debut in India last month.

“I dare say you’ll see her hopefully in green and gold in the next 6-12 months the way she’s performing,” Breakers and Thunder teammate Sammy-Jo Johnson said earlier this summer.

“She’s only a kid, but the way she reads the game is unlike anyone I’ve seen at her age.

“Obviously you don’t want to put extra pressure on the kid to perform and do all these things and play for Australia, but I just think she’s been earmarked from a young age and I have no doubt that she’ll handle the pressure of international cricket.”

The second ODI between Australia and Pakistan gets underway at Allan Border Field on Wednesday, with the first ball scheduled for 11.05am AEDT.

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