MEG Lanning grew up idolising Ricky Ponting.
So, it was fitting then that this week Lanning’s team equalled the record of her cricketing hero… 21 games unbeaten in one-day international cricket.
At Allan Border Field, Australia’s women’s one-day team came of age in style with a record-breaking 232-run success over New Zealand to win the final game of the three-match series to win the Rose Bowl 3-0.
Sadly, an injured Lanning was unable to make the 21st party, but there is no doubting her influence on a team which can now be compared with the Ponting side of 2003.
Lanning scored 857 runs at an average of 57.13, including three centuries, during her team’s streak, missing two games.
Some might argue that her team deserves the higher praise as their streak lasted more than two years, beginning their unbeaten run on March 12, 2018.
Ponting’s side won their 21 games from January 11, 2003 to May 24 of that year, an unbeaten run that lasted 133 days.
The men’s team also can count a World Cup final success in their winning streak, with captain Ponting scoring 140 as the Aussies smashed India in South Africa.
To some that might put the men above the women, but in other’s eyes Lanning’s players could be seen to be the more deserved of the best in ODI history because their streak covered more than two years.
That would suggest a better consistency. Something that vice-captain Rachael Haynes, who stood in for the injured Lanning when the record was equalled, alluded to after the 3-0 Rose Bowl win over the Kiwis.
“It (the record) hasn’t been something we have spoken about as a group,” Haynes said.
“But we were definitely aware of the attention it has been getting.
“I think it’s going to be one of those things that we reflect back on and be really proud of the achievement.
“It’s been across the course of a few years now and 20-odd players have been a part of that and contributed to the of the team throughout that period. “It’s a really special achievement.”
In fact, fittingly the women used 21 players in their streak, while Ponting used 20.
Haynes was one of four players who played in all 21 games for the women, while Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Brad Hogg played 20 for the men’s side.
When teams are successful over a number of games there will be obvious comparisons and both the sides have a spattering of superstars in their midst.
At the top of the order the men could rely on Adam Gilchrist (667 runs @39.23) and Hayden (770 runs @ 41.58) to get the innings off to a flyer.
Lanning could rely on Alyssa Healy (1132 runs at 56.60) – one of the biggest stars of the women’s game to get her team off to a great start.
Haynes, too, was moved to the top of the order when Nicole Bolton took a break from the game and her and Healy dominated bowling attacks as the streak progressed. Ponting and Lanning both stand up as great captains and batters alike, with both contributing three centuries in their respective streaks.
A successful team also needs a class pace attack and with Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie in his ranks, Ponting had a more than useful trio.
Lanning too could count on one of the world’s best in Megan Schutt, who claimed 30 wickets in the winning run.
Only spinner Jess Jonassen, with 39 scalps, got more wickets than Schutt, confirming the theory that all top sides need a top-class spinner.
Jonassen has claims to be the best in the women’s game and with leg spinner Georgia Wareham also chipping in with 20 wickets, the women had a pretty formidable spin option.
Shane Warne missed the majority of the run because of his 12-month ban for testing positive to banned diuretic drugs, but Brad Hogg proved a more than useful deputy, playing in 20 of the 21 games and taking 25 wickets.
In the all-round department the women arguably had the edge when comparing the two teams, with Elysse Perry arguably the star performer during her team’s streak with Ashleigh Gardner also proving a hit with both bat and ball.
Bichel took 7-20 to keep England to 204 in their innings and then combined with Michael Bevan to see the Aussies home with two balls and two wickets to spare after Ponting’s men fell to 8-135.
Haynes said part of the key to success for the women was a settled line-up, but added the seven players who had made their debut during the streak had played a big part to the success and praised Lanning and coach Matthew Mott for having faith in the youngsters. “I think the selectors, Matthew and Meg have done well in bringing players into that environment,” she said.
“In that time, we have seen the likes of Annabel Sutherland, Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham all given an opportunity and who have become important players for the squad.
“They know what success looks like at this level and are learning more about their own games and most importantly they are making a valuable contribution out on the field.”
Ponting’s team’s streak ended with defeat against the West Indies on May 25, 2003 with a 39-run defeat in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
The women’s team have a chance to extend their winning run to 22 and take the record on their own, but in the COVID cricket world we live in now, who knows when that will be.
Haynes is hoping that if and when it does happen, skipper Lanning is on the field to celebrate with.
“She’s had an amazing impact on this team and done a terrific job as captain,” she said.
“I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities for her to step back in and hopefully if we get a chance to hold the record on our own, she will be part of that.”