Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes Series
Lanning etches name in history books
Meg Lanning makes her captaincy debut and takes top award
23 January 2014, 10:05 AM AEST
The Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes Series has proved to be a tough challenge for the Southern Stars this summer, following their loss to England in the recent northern hemisphere summer, when they lost the multi-format series by 12 points to four.
But the current series has also allowed some of Australia’s brightest young female cricketers the chance to shine.
Holly Ferling continues to develop as one of the most exciting fast bowling prospects in international cricket.
The 18-year-old somehow managed to squeeze her final year of high school in between the ICC Women's T20 World Cup and the tour of England and is adding a measure of controlled swing to her raw pace.
Ellyse Perry dominated the solitary Test of the series at the WACA with bat and ball, taking eight wickets and scoring 102 runs.
And in the first One-Day International at the MCG on Sunday, Meg Lanning made history by becoming the youngest person, man or woman, to captain Australia.
Elevated to the vice-captaincy in the lead up to the series, Lanning was called upon to step into the captaincy role for the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars after regular captain Jodie Fields was ruled out with a fractured finger.
At the time, Lanning didn't realise she was etching her name in the history books but at 21 years and 200 days she was more than a year younger that Lyn Larsen, who captained Australia at 22 years and 351 days, and also beat the men's record of 22 years and 194 days set by Ian Craig.
It was a big week for Lanning. The day after she took on the skipper's role, the batter was also named the Belinda Clark medalist for her performances throughout the year in a tightly fought contest.
"I didn't know who was going to win," said Southern Stars coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick. "I went in there thinking there were quite a few chances.
"I thought Meg was one of those top chances, she took it and it was a really good reward for her."
The Australian coach had no qualms about bestowing the captaincy role on Lanning in the wake of Fields' injury.
"I have no doubt she would have come into that a little bit nervous but you can't really tell with Meg, it's water off a duck's back with her," Fitzpatrick said. "But she did a fantastic job.
"We knew when we planned out the squad and named her as vice-captain that there was a possibility she could captain this season and as a selection committee we had full confidence in her."
While Perry acknowledged the loss of Fields was a blow to the Southern Stars, the allrounder was also impressed with the way her teammate handled the extra responsibility.
"When a figurehead like that pulls out of the group it changes things," admitted Perry. "But I think what was really pleasing and exciting was that in Jodie's absence Meg stepped up, and not only Meg but the other senior players in the group, to lead the squad.
"From the point of view of being on the field and the way the team was directed it wasn't any different," she added. "It was a really seamless changeover and the squad handled it really well."
Charlotte Edwards, who has captained England since 2005, was also impressed by Lanning's demeanour as stand-in captain.
"I thought she did brilliantly," Edwards said. "For a young player like Meg, 21 years, to take on the captaincy at such short notice, she conducted herself brilliantly.
"No doubt she's going to be a future Australian captain, from what I saw the other day, she said. "She's a great player as well, well done to her.
"I said to her after the game she did a great job. It's great to see young captains and the way she took it in her stride as well."
After the third ODI in Melbourne the series moves into its final phase, giving Australian cricket fans an even greater opportunity to see the Southern Stars in action.
Three T20 Internationals will be played as double-headers alongside the Australian and England men's fixtures, starting on Sunday at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.
The teams then return to the MCG on Friday January 31, before playing the final double-header at Stadium Australia in Sydney February 2.