Australia’s Perry, Litchfield, McGrath Flex Batting Muscles Against India

Gunning down a 283-run target with ease, Australia notched up their second-highest successful run-chase in ODIs with a clinical six-wicket win in Mumbai. Annesha Ghosh describes how the troika of Phoebe Litchfield, Ellyse Perry and Tahlia McGrath snuffed the life out of India’s bowling attack

Ellyse Perry (L) celebrates her fifty with Phoebe Litchfield during the India vs Australia ODI ODI i

With a total of 282 on the board – India Women’s highest in ODI cricket against Australia – the hosts went into their defence at the Wankhede Stadium in the three-match ODI series opener on Thursday high on confidence. But their optimism was short-lived as Australia responded with their second-highest successful run-chase in ODIs, thanks to three dogged fifties from their batters. Outlook India takes a look at the troika of half-centurions in green and gold who snuffed the life out of India’s bowling attack during their comprehensive six-wicket win.

Phoebe Litchfield Makes Merry In Rollercoaster December

Phoebe Litchfield (R) plays a shot during the first ODI between India and Australia in Mumbai. AP

The 20-year-old left-hand opener hit pay-dirt at the start of the month, bagging an INR 1 crore bid from Gujarat Giants at the WPL mini-auction. Less than a fortnight later, her maiden outing in the longest format in Asia saw her collect an unenviable diamond duck in the one-off Test against India last week at the Wankhede, courtesy a run-out. Her second dig in that game ended for just 18 as her “get-out-of-jail shot”, the reverse sweep, proved no match for off-spinner Sneh Rana’s accurate lines.

Cut to the first ODI on Thursday: Litchfield struck a match-winning 78 – her fourth fifty-plus score of the year in ODIs – and was adjudged the Player of the Match. “It [adapting to international cricket] has been a challenge. The Ashes was a big learning curve for me,” said Litchfield, who earned the first of her 19 international caps during the five-T20I series in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai last December.

“The WPL auction was pretty cool. To play in India… I would come for free. It was so cool to be picked up and I am really excited about it. To be over here for the Test match for the first time was an awesome experience and one I'll never forget, and to then win today was the icing on the cake for December.”

Cramping Ellyse Perry Triggers Glenn Maxwell 'Flashback'

Ellyse Perry plays a shot during the first ODI between India and Australia in Mumbai. AP

An Australian batting all-rounder powering through cramps to steer their side towards victory in an ODI at the Wankhede wasn’t the topic of intermittent chats just at the venue’s media box or among the 500-strong crowd at the stadium’s Garware Pavilion on Thursday. Turns out, Litchfield, too, felt a sense of deja vu while watching her batting partner, Ellyse Perry, in action during her brisk 75-run knock.

Coming in at No. 3, the feted all-rounder made her intent clear from the get-go, hitting a four and a six off consecutive balls from pacer Pooja Vastrakar in the second over of the chase. The 33-year-old smashed nine fours and two clean sixes in all in her 72-ball innings, playing the aggressor in her momentum-shifting 148-run second-wicket stand with Litchfield, following the dismissal of captain Alyssa Healy in the opening over. 

India’s seven-pronged attack struggled to stifle Perry, whose only adversary on the day seemed to be what majorly had been Maxwell’s during his epochal 201 not-out at the same venue a little over a month ago, during Australia’s league stage ODI World Cup win against Afghanistan.

"She had a cramp in her calves and it was pretty funny,” said Litchfield of Perry, smiling. “I sort of had flashbacks to Glenn Maxwell's innings but she just was pretty much cramping and struggling. But I think she cramped and then hit a six down the ground. So, that's Ellyse Perry for you. She got into the game a bit more after she started cramping because she realised she won't be there for too long from that point.”

Tahlia McGrath’s Hat-Trick Of Fifties

Tahlia McGrath (R) plays a shot during the first ODI between India and Australia in Mumbai. AP

If feeling at home away from home had an embodiment, the Australia vice-captain has proven to be every bit that on their ongoing tour of India. After standing head and shoulders above the rest of the Australian batters during their maiden Test defeat to India Women last week, McGrath followed up her 73 and 50 from the red-ball fixture with an unbeaten 55-ball 68 at No. 5 in the curtain-raiser of the ODI leg on Thursday.

With Beth Mooney, McGrath strung together yet another 'McMooney' classic as the duo capitalised on the start provided by Litchfield and Perry, and added a rapid 88 off just 68 balls for the fourth wicket. A measure of the 28-year-old’s fluency with the bat – and her sizzling form – was borne out by the 11 fours she struck, the last of those – slayed over mid-off – sealing Australia’s emphatic win in the 47th over.

“Tahlia is in some very good form and she's hitting the ball so nicely and crisply. It was a pleasure to watch from the dugout,” said Litchfield. “The way she takes the game on, knows when to go through her gears and that cover drive doesn't get old.”

Annesha Ghosh is an independent sports journalist.