ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020
The Icewoman: Lanning set for milestone match
Aussie captain Meg Lanning's ability to perform brilliantly under pressure has set her apart through her storied career - and she'll be hoping that continues against Sri Lanka
Laura Jolly previously wrote for News Corp Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, and is now cricket.com.au Women's Cricket Editor providing dedicated coverage to all aspects of the women's game
Beware Meg Lanning with her back to the wall – that is when she is at her most dangerous.
Nothing brings out the best in the Australian captain than a do-or-die situation, with everything on the line.
It is no coincidence that Lanning's T20 International average of 35.48 leaps to 48 in knockout matches.
Today, Lanning will play her 100th T20 International when Australia take on Sri Lanka at the WACA Ground.
With 2,661 runs to her name, she is already her country's greatest scorer in the format, and only two players, New Zealand's Suzie Bates and West Indies Stafanie Taylor, have scored more in all women's T20Is.
Since making her T20I debut in 2010, the 27-year-old has been part of three World Cup wins with Australia – and captain for two of those.
But with the rise of a host of competitive nations, this home T20 World Cup is perhaps Lanning's greatest challenge yet.
Her team's form was hit-and-miss in the lead-up to the tournament and after dropping their opening match to India, it is likely Australia will have to win their remaining three group games to reach the semi-finals.
If Australia are to progress to the knockout stage, Lanning's performances with bat and as leader on and off the field will be critical.
History – and Lanning's own ruthless competitiveness – suggest she will rise to the occasion.
"She just has the ability to do things that other players can't do," Australia vice-captain Rachael Haynes told cricket.com.au.
"And when she does, it's generally a quite phenomenal feat and a match-winning innings."
Playing 100 T20Is is an important milestone in the career of a player who will go down as one of the finest to play for Australia, but more than that, it is her ability to perform in crunch situations that has set Lanning apart.
Her whirlwind 133 not out against England in Chelmsford last July sealed an outright Ashes win at a ground where the hosts had never been beaten.
And there's no forgetting one of her more memorable T20 World Cup performances, against South Africa in Nagpur in 2016.
Then, despite missing more than half her team's fielding innings due to being violently ill, Lanning strode to the crease with her team in all sorts at 3-9 chasing 103 and ruthlessly smashed 30 runs from 19 deliveries to seal victory with nine balls to spare.
"Meg is just a pressure performer," Australia pace bowler Megan Schutt said. "The way she's come out and played in some innings, I remember watching her when she was so sick in India, coming out and winning us the game against South Africa we were in a terrible position … it just seems to be the real pressure moments that she stands up and shows her leadership as well."
In the world of professional sport, where everyone is competitive – they wouldn't be at the top echelon if they weren't – Lanning might just outdo them all.
While the Australian captain may have a laugh at her own expense when it comes to her notoriously bad record at the coin toss, deep down, it drives her crazy.
Even her beloved niece, Harper, is not immune.
"I'm not a really good loser… I love all sports no matter what it is, even if I'm playing with little Harper, my niece – I let her win a little bit but not all the time, she's got to learn!" a laughing Lanning told cricket.com.au last month.
"I'm really competitive and I love when there's a lot riding on a game.
"I feel I perform well when there's a lot on the line and I just want to play well for the team, really.
"I know that if I can contribute then that's going to help the team win, and I love winning and hate losing."
Twenty20 cricket suits Lanning.
There's no time to mess around – just get out there and go.
It's the way Lanning approaches most things in life, be it on or off the field.
She is notoriously messy – why tidy things up if you just need them later, right? – and when Lanning commits herself to a task, there will be no procrastination.
Lanning has no time for distractions like Twitter, having quit the platform unceremoniously several years ago.
Australia allrounder Erin Burns even describes Lanning as the fastest eater she's ever encountered.
"It's very efficient, that's actually true," the Australian skipper said. "I actually find myself finishing my meal and everybody else like halfway through it.
"I feel like I'm there to eat the food – why sit down and wait?
"Once I've decided that I'm doing something, I do it really quickly."
Although, Lanning admits that haste actually worked against her early in her T20I career.
It took the right-hander 28 innings to post her first international 20-over half-century – a surprising statistic, given both her current record in the format, and the fact she struck a century in just her second one-day international.
In her 66 innings since, she's passed 50 on 14 occasions and struck two hundreds.
"Sometimes you can go too hard when you get to the T20 game, so it probably took me a little while to work out what the tempo was for me to get the best out of myself," Lanning reflected.
To her teammates, the Meg of today is not much different to the player who debuted for her country in 2010.
What her older teammates, who have been there since the start, have enjoyed is seeing Lanning make the most of her natural talents and transforming herself into an elite athlete, as well as a standout leader.
"She's always been quite determined, that was something that really shone through, you could tell that she wanted to be a very good cricketer," Haynes said.
"She's turned into a pretty incredible athlete and the transition she's made, she's one of the fittest, strongest and obviously the best batter in the world as well, so she's certainly evolved as a player."
Schutt's first encounters with Lanning were on opposing teams in state cricket.
It was when Schutt made her ODI debut in 2012 that she realised just how special her new teammate was.
"She made her superfast (45-ball) hundred in the Rose Bowl against New Zealand and I was like, 'who is this woman?!'," Schutt recalled.
"I had only ever really played against her in Victorian stuff, and she had obviously dominated then but the whole Victorian team dominated us every single time anyway.
"It was when I stepped up to Australian level and I just saw the way she could hit the ball and then later on her leadership qualities, I was pretty amazed."
There's been no bigger moment for Australia – or Lanning – than this home T20 World Cup.
And if Australia find themselves with their backs to the ball and their tournament on the line… look out for Lanning.
2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
February 21: India won by 17 runs
February 24: Australia v Sri Lanka, WACA Ground
February 27: Australia v Bangladesh, Manuka Oval
March 8: Final, MCG
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE
* All matches will be broadcast on Fox Cricket and Kayo, while Australia’s matches will also be broadcast on the Nine Network