Game 1: Box Hill v Melbourne
Box Hill 5/157 (M. Lanning 54, A. Lanning 49*, S. Tatchell 2/33) defeated Melbourne 4/113 (E. Jones 46 rt no, K. Black 32) by 44 runs
A last over knee injury to Melbourne opener Evelyn Jones was the only thing that overshadowed a strong Box Hill win at the Albert Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Sunny skies and a pleasant breeze greeted players and spectators, and Meg Lanning wasted no time, letting loose on the short boundaries. Racing to 50 within seven overs, and Rebecca Carter (8), playing able support, the Mustangs were looking at a total close to 200.
However, the dismissal of both openers dropped the run rate momentarily. Enter younger Lanning sister Anna and Cassie Brock, who took over. A well compiled 49 to Anna consisted of well timed drives and clever shot placement.
The fast outfield made things for those fielding difficult, as once the ball was past them, the ball mostly raced away to the boundary.
Holding the Mustangs to 5/157 after a blistering start was all Melbourne could ask for.
Chasing close to eight runs an over, quick runs were needed, and it was up to Jones and Kyra Black to start accumulating them. However, tight bowling and missed scoring opportunities began to restrict the Melbourne openers, building the pressure.
Laura Shaw took the highlight in the field, racing in to field her own bowling, diving and picking up before tossing into the keeper. No run out resulted, but it created excitement in a Melbourne innings that began to lose fire at the 10th over mark.
Melbourne’s opening stand of 65 matched Box Hill, before Black was caught short of her ground on 32.
Anna Lanning was once again in the thick of it, contributing to three of the four Melbourne wickets to fall. Through tactical field placement the Mustangs restricted Melbourne to 113.
During the last over, having played the ball into the covers, Jones’ left knee suddenly gave way. It brought her innings to an end on 46, and Box Hill took a 44 run victory.
Game 2: Box Hill v Essendon Maribyrnong Park
Box Hill 3/153 (M. Lanning 84*, A. Lanning 25, C. Hawley 17*, K. Beams 1/19) lost to Essendon Maribyrnong Park 3/154 (E. McIntyre 55*, C Hulett 46*, M. Wright 2/33) by 7 wickets
Once again captain Meg took charge from the very start. On a crisp, fast and hard Junction Oval, another high score was on the cards. With Carter out early to an LBW that hit her full pitch, it was another sister show in the middle.
Both cleared the rope, Anna doing it on the longest boundary towards the pavilion. The pair built a 69 run stand working the gaps and putting the bad balls away. When Lanning departed with the score on 84, Meg stepped up her game, sending thirteen balls to the fence and one over it in a 65 ball innings.
Casey Hawley worked with Lanning later in the innings to steer the Mustangs to a very similar score to the morning game, in very much the same manner.
The target looked imposing, but with an EMP side that had the likes of Molly Strano, Briana Binch and Emily McIntyre from the Victoria Spirit squad, the challenge was set from ball one.
Having got the score to 47, EMP lost Emma Kearney, Binch and Natalie Schilov in quick succession, and momentum swung right back to Box Hill. What no one expected was the 105 run winning partnership that followed between Emily McIntyre and Candace Hulett.
Enter Madeleine Wright and Monique Draycott. Both spinners worked hard to dry up the runs and create chances. With four overs to go, a catch put down on the long on boundary was the clincher. McIntyre and Hulett brought the chase down to a run-a-ball before a single nudged behind square sealed the win.
Tension continued to mount on the sidelines before the winning run. Both teams desperately tried to psyche the other into a false move, but EMP held fast.
Taking one win from the two games means Box Hill remain at the top of the Twenty20 competition ladder after seven rounds. On the topic of Meg Lanning, Coach Alan Carter says the importance of her presence in the side cannot be underestimated.
“It’s not just because of the runs she makes. It’s what she brings to the team, in terms of her approach, the way she is with other players. She comes back to club cricket as fiercely competitive as she is when playing for Victoria or Australia.”
Having had the EMP game come down to the second last ball, the disappointment was felt throughout the Box Hill squad.
“It was our game to lose…we just could not sustain our bowling effort, over by over. There were so many overs where we bowled four good balls, but we couldn’t bowl six. On a wicket and ground (Junction Oval) like this, six good balls would yield five or six singles. We never quite got them to the point where they needed double figures (run rate), so EMP were always in the game.”
However, Box Hill was missing several frontline bowlers, including Sarah Chancellor-Goddard and Danielle Montague (stress fracture). This brought a new set of faces into the team, and Maddie Wright left a lasting impression on Sunday with her tight bowling.
“I was really impressed in both games. For someone so young, she comes on and keeps it really simple. She bowls it straight, and has a really good understanding of where she wants to set her field, and how she’s going to make it hard for the batters.”
Conditions at the Albert Park sports precinct were ideal for cricket, and preparation for a Twenty20 double header is about using the time available.
“At the end of the game, you assess how much time you have, as sometimes breaks can be shorter than others. The players need to be comfortable…getting their mind focused on the next game in terms of the opposition we’re playing (is crucial). I think we’re getting adept at it.”
Box Hill will face Brunswick Park in a one-day match next Sunday, hoping to extend their lead at the top of the table. The Mustangs will be without Meg Lanning, who will be in Perth playing for the Victoria Spirit.
(Special thanks to coach Alan Carter for taking his time out at the end of the day to speak to me)
(To see my photos from the day, find my album here)