Australia's opener channeled Meg Lanning in last night's ODI run chase and has one more match to surpass one of her early markers
Classy Litchfield hits form as shot at history awaits
Just a week after her tour of India started in the worst possible fashion, Phoebe Litchfield issued a reminder of why she is one of the world's brightest young talents.
The 20-year-old opener, whose first Test innings in India saw her run out for a diamond duck, top-scored as Australia pulled off the second-highest run chase in women's ODI history overnight.
Her superb 78 from 89 deliveries, which helped lay the foundation as Australia reeled in 8-282 with 21 balls to spare, was a breakthrough moment for the left-hander from Orange.
It was her fifth 50-plus score in international cricket, but her first in India, and her first against a top-tier rival.
It followed back-to-back debut fifties in her first two ODI innings against 10th-ranked Pakistan in Brisbane in January, a maiden one-day century against Ireland in July, and a record-equalling 18-ball T20I half-century against West Indies in September.
Litchfield made her international debut during a 20-over tour of India last December, and since missing a spot in Australia's squad for the T20 World Cup in February, has gone on to entrench herself in their best XI across all formats.
She has struck 422 runs at 52.75 from 11 ODI innings in her first calendar year of one-day cricket, and 597 across all formats for 2023 at an average of 45.
Only one Australian woman has hit more ODI runs in a calendar year before her 21st birthday – Meg Lanning, who plundered 484 runs in 2012 – and Litchfield has one more innings in which to better her former skipper.
Most ODI runs in a calendar year by an Australian woman before turning 21:— hypocaust (@_hypocaust) December 28, 2023
484 Meg Lanning, 2012
422* Phoebe Litchfield, 2023
226 Meg Lanning, 2013
223 Meg Lanning, 2011
166 Zoe Goss, 1988#INDvAUS https://t.co/hMphyqESnu
"It's been a challenge, to put it bluntly," Litchfield said of her first year in international cricket.
"I think the Ashes was a really big learning curve for me and then to score runs in Ireland was enjoyable.
"But I think Indian conditions are a whole different beast and it's a really good challenge but also enjoyable, so pretty happy with the score."
Litchfield's dismissal on 18 in the second innings of last week's one-off Test at Wankhede came when she was bowled attempting a reverse sweep.
But the shot was her friend on Thursday night, as she worked through the gears against India, starting slowly before unleashing to bring up fifty off 66 balls.
"In the Test match, it probably wasn't the greatest scenario to bring out the reverse sweep and I definitely learnt from that," Litchfield said.
"I think if we were 200 runs ahead, (I could) bring out the reverse sweep, so we've had chats about that.
"But it's a strength of mine and I like to play it, so I brought it out today … it's probably one of my 'get out of jail' shots.
"If I need to score a four or release the pressure, I usually go to that shot if there's some space there."
Thursday's result was also a notable win for Australia as they enter the post-Lanning era – never had they chased down more than 270 in an ODI without the master chaser in their XI.
Ellyse Perry shared a 148-run second-wicket stand with Litchfield, scoring her own 72-ball 75, while Tahlia McGrath's unbeaten 68 iced the victory.
Perry – who joined Litchfield in the middle four balls into the innings after Alyssa Healy was dismissed for a duck – was instrumental in allowing her younger teammate time to work into her innings, as she immediately took up the attack to India.
Her own fifty came off 45 balls, the joint fastest of her one-day career, and featured two enormous sixes – the second of which came as she battled cramp on a hot Mumbai evening.
"Ellyse is amazing to bat with, as soon as you feel under pressure, she just whacks a four or a six and the scoring rate keeps going, which is awesome," Litchfield said.
"She started to cramp in her calves, which was quite a funny thing, I got flashbacks to Glenn Maxwell's innings (in the World Cup at Wankhede) ... I think she cramped and then she hit a six down the ground.
"That's Ellyse Perry for you, she just took the game on a bit more after she started cramping because she was like, 'I probably won't be out here for long'."
Australia's CommBank Tour of India
Test match: India won by eight wickets
December 28: First ODI, Australia won by six wickets
December 30: Second ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
January 2: Third ODI, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
January 5: First T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
January 7: Second T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
January 9: Third T20I, DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai
Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle (Test only), Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris (T20s only), Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
India Test squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Shubha Satheesh, Harleen Deol, Saika Ishaque, Renuka Singh Thakur, Titas Sadhu, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar