Elyse Villani was in unfamiliar territory in Friday’s first T20 international, but if the Australia batter was flustered, it didn’t show as she plundered an unbeaten 73 in a player-of-the-match performance at the MCG.
Report & Highlights: Southern Stars thump NZ to take series lead
In her 40 Twenty20 International appearances for the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars before today, only once before had Villani not opened the batting.
But with Beth Mooney securing a spot alongside Meg Lanning at the top of Australia’s order after a stunning Rebel Women’s Big Bash League, Villani instead found herself at No.4 for the first T20 against New Zealand, a position she’s never batted at internationally in any format.
Making life even tougher was the fact she had to walk out with the hosts 2-20.
But Villani thrived in her new position, joining Lanning in a 110-run partnership that came off just 77 deliveries, the pair taking the match away from their fierce trans-Tasman rivals.
In the process, she became just the third Australian woman to pass 1,000 runs, and the fifth Australian overall to reach the milestone.
"I think the scoreboard looked worse than what it felt out there,” Villani said after Australia wrapped up an emphatic 40-run win.
"I guess the best thing about this team is that we’ve got so much depth with bat and ball.
"Meg and I have batted a lot together and it never changes, we just play really positively and try to score off as many balls as possible.
"I tried not to think about (coming in at No.4), you know what happens when I think too much.
"I just wanted to see the ball and hit the ball.
"It was nice to prove myself that I can bat in other places (than opening)."
Villani also surrendered her one-day international openers’ berth to Mooney last November, moving down the order to No.7 for the final two matches against South Africa.
But rather than be disappointed with the move, Villani can see the positives in her growing versatility as a batter.
"I’m just really pleased (coach) Matthew Mott sees me as a versatile player," Villani told cricket.com.au in the lead-up to the series.
"Which is fantastic for me personally.
"I guess when coming through the ranks I was pigeon-holed as an opening batter, so to see myself as a batter in the squad hopefully means there’s a few options out there for me."
It was a sentiment she echoed after her chanceless performance on Friday, which featured five boundaries and the sole six of the match.
"It gives the team more options and gives me more of a chance of playing, so I saw it as a challenge," she said.
Australia’s dominant performance secured a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, a pleasing result for Villani and her teammates after losing three of their four T20 matches against the White Ferns in 2016.
But while the Australians dominated with bat and ball, their fielding left something to be desired, with Lanning putting down three chances in an uncharacteristic performance from the Australian captain.
"It wasn’t perfect, but we’re looking to get better as we go along,” Villani said.
"It’s very unusual for Meg to drop catches, but the good thing was that it didn’t cost us today.
"I had a shocker in the field as well.
" ...while tomorrow will be an optional training session, Meg and I will be heading out there and getting a bit of volume in with our fielding, we’re looking forward to working on that tomorrow."