For the second time in two weeks, cricketing history was made as the staging of the first ever Rebel Women’s Big Bash League match followed swiftly on from last week’s pink ball day-night extravaganza.
In the first of the day’s back-to-back matches, Melbourne Stars ensured the healthy home crowd were kept entertained after posting an imposing total of 156, which proved too much for Brisbane Heat, who fell 20 runs short in the final over.
It was delight all-round too as Southern Stars’s skipper Meg Lanning provided the headline act with her 90 off 58 balls the deciding factor between the two teams.
Following a public chiding by her teammates for a dire streak in the coin-tossing stakes, captain Lanning was quick to prove that there was nothing to criticise in her on-field skills, as she set about her business right from the word go.
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Appropriately Lanning, the Southern Stars’ prolific captain and run-scorer extraordinaire, was the one on hand to face the first ball of the inaugural tournament. As Lanning cut the ball deftly to third man to get off the mark from that first delivery, history was made.
"The pitch is a road," Lanning modestly conceded after the game.
"The outfield is pretty quick too so it was a batter’s paradise out there. Tough work for the bowlers but whoever bats first is likely to get a decent score in the second game."
Lanning scores 12 hours and two sixes // Getty Images
Joined at the crease in the third over by the Stars’ English import Natalie Sciver, who appeared keen to show what a clean striker of the ball she is too, the pair put on a partnership of 65 at more than a run-a-ball to set the tone. Following Sciver’s dismissal for 33, a succession of batting partners came and went but with Lanning at the crease until succumbing lbw in the final over, the total was always going to be competitive.
Lanning’s counterpart Delissa Kimmince was the pick of the Heat’s bowlers with three for 25 off her four overs and the Heat approached their innings knowing that the Junction Oval’s notoriously quick outfield and batting-friendly deck meant that there was everything to play for.
Kimmince grabbed three wickets for the Heat // Getty Images
Brisbane Heat proceeded to race off the mark, jumping to 1 for 56 by just the sixth over, but it was the regular fall of wickets that proved the killer blow to the visitors’ innings.
The introduction of the leg-spinning duo Alana King and Kristen Beams precipitated the tumble of wickets, with King’s first over a wicket maiden and Beams’ following one claiming the scalp of danger woman Grace Harris for 42.
The Stars sought to make things difficult for themselves towards the end of the match with a couple of dropped chances and run-outs going begging, as well as an entertaining knock of 39 by tennis-convert Ash Barty.
However, the Stars’ total proved too much for the Heat, who could only muster 135 before being bowled out in the final over.
Former tennis pro Barty was impressive // Getty Images
After the match Lanning was quick to praise the tournament’s set up and healthy crowd.
"Absolutely fantastic," Lanning said.
"There’s been a great turnout today and it’s great to see so many young girls here as well. That’s the aim of the competition – to get the next generation coming through wanting to play cricket for Australia."
It wasn’t just girls though, who had turned up to see some of the game’s best go about their job – a number of young boys were clustering around Lanning and her team-mates in search of autographs too.
"There’s been a little bit of a shift in that space," said Lanning.
"With young kids being able to see their idols on TV and know who they are. That’s great recognition for that and where the game of women’s cricket really stands in the public eye now.”
The second of the back-to-back matches begins at 2.30pm AEDT as the Brisbane Heat look to make amends for the morning’s result.