Women's Ashes ODIs
Aussie teammates forge new rivalry
Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani kept themselves busy during the player leave period, but it's all business now as the Ashes approach
12 May 2019, 09:00 AM AEST
While Australia’s players enjoyed their six-week break at the end of the domestic summer, a new sporting rivalry for the ages was quietly being forged on the golf courses of Melbourne.
On one side, Australian captain Meg Lanning.
On the other, her international and state teammate Elyse Villani.
Self-confessed novices, the pair decided to hone their skills during their leave period, inspired by a coaching session they were treated to during their ODI series against New Zealand in March.
Can whack cricket balls...can whack golf balls! 🏏⛳#WATCHME @GolfAust pic.twitter.com/DNnCkNR4oV— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@SouthernStars) March 1, 2019
Being ultra-competitive athletes, stakes had to be set. And so the Villani-Lanning Cup was born.
"It’s been nice," Villani told cricket.com.au. "Meg got herself some clubs and we’re trying to hit the golf course once a week and we’ve now got an ongoing Villani-Lanning Cup.
"It’s currently one-all, but the only result that really matters is the person that won it last, and that was me.
"It’s a great way to just switch off and have a bit of fun, have a bit of a laugh and just having a hobby outside of cricket is really important in maintaining that work-life balance."
The rivalry is now complete with a trophy, surfaced by Villani from somewhere in the depths of her parents’ house.
"I have no idea what it was once used for but it’s the perfect size,” Villani laughed. "It’s nice to just hang that on your golf bag as a carry-over champion, which is what I'm experiencing at the moment.
"And just rubbing it in Meg’s face at any opportunity until the next week comes around and then it’s game on again."
The quality of the golf might not be of Starc-Healy Cup quality, but Lanning says she’s enjoying having a new way to unwind away from the pressures that come with life as a full-time cricketer.
"It’s good just to do something a bit different,” Lanning said. "Our expectations aren’t very high which is a good thing, it’s pretty relaxed, so that's what we’re after.
"We have a bit of fun and solve the world’s problems on the golf course."
There’s talk of taking the clubs on tour for the Ashes in the United Kingdom this June and July, although don’t expect to see the pair challenging the team’s undisputed best golfer, wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy (who boasts a handicap of eight), any time soon.
"We’ll definitely be taking our clubs on tour with us, but I think we’re going to be pretty selective about who we play with," Villani said.
Golf-course antics aside, Lanning and Villani have returned to training alongside fellow Victorians Ellyse Perry, Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham.
Australia’s Ashes preparations will kick off in earnest from Monday, when a three-week camp begins at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
"I’m looking forward to getting to Brisbane and getting back together as a squad, it’s been a little while," Lanning said.
The Australian squad for the Ashes is expected to be named next month, with the touring party to arrive in the UK in late June.
The first match of the multi-format, points-based series – which features three ODIs, one Test and three T20Is – will be played at Leicester’s Grace Road Oval on July 2.
CommBank Ashes Tour of England
First ODI Grace Road, Leicester, July 2
Second ODI Grace Road, Leicester, July 4
Third ODI St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, July 7
First T20 County Ground, Chelmsford, July 26
Second T20 The County Ground, Hove, July 28
Third T20 Bristol County Ground, Bristol, July 31