Australia’s women simply love playing T20 cricket at North Sydney Oval. Heading into the first of three matches against Pakistan, they had won all nine short-form internationals they had previously played at the picture-postcard ground. And under clear blue skies on Tuesday, the reigning world champions in this format were in no mood for that impressive run to end.
Having restricted Pakistan to 118 – a subpar total considering the quality of the wicket and the boutique ground’s short boundaries – the home side made short work of the modest run chase, knocking off the required runs with more than six overs to spare. The convincing eight-wicket victory makes it 10 on the trot at North Sydney.
With Meg Lanning’s side beginning the defence of their World Cup title against New Zealand on 12 February in South Africa, preparations went largely to plan against Pakistan. Megan Schutt was economical and destructive in equal measure, collecting five wickets for just 15 runs, while Ellyse Perry had bowling figures of 2-3 before she opened the batting and brought Australia home with an unbeaten half-century.
Schutt’s first five-for saw her become just the fourth Australian woman to take five wickets in a T20 international, after Molly Strano, Jonassen and Julie Hunter, and set the hosts up perfectly for what was a straightforward run chase.
“I’m glad I ticked the box because I’ve had a lot of four-fors in my life but I’ve never been able to do that,” Schutt said. “It’s cool to have, but it’s just a number and I’m sure it will be beaten.”
The in-form Perry was promoted to the top of the batting order due to what Lanning described as “a slight niggle” to regular opener Beth Mooney, and she took full advantage with an assured 57 not out from 40 balls. It was Perry’s third half-century in her last four T20 innings, having enjoyed knocks of 75 and 72 not out on last month’s tour to India.
This was never an easy assignment for Pakistan, coming off the back of a three-match ODI sweep for Australia. But sensing there were runs to be made in North Sydney, captain Bismah Maroof elected to bat first.
After an encouraging 27-run opening stand between Muneeba Ali and Javeria Khan, Perry and Schutt went to work in a blistering 12-ball spell, taking four wickets between them for the addition of just five runs to Pakistan’s total. At 32-4, the visitors needed to stem the flow of wickets, and Omaima Sohail (30) did her best alongside Ayesha Naseem. The 18-year-old showed why she is tipped for a bright future with a powerful 24 from 20, including three towering sixes, before falling to Alana King (2-16).
Jess Jonassen also got in on the action as Pakistan’s tail surrendered, but the pick of the wickets had come earlier, courtesy of King, to dismiss Nida Dar for eight. The Australian spinner somehow clung on to a fiercely struck drive that whizzed back towards the bowler’s end. King’s lightning-quick reactions sparked wild celebrations in the middle of the pitch – and quite possibly spared the scrambling umpire, Shawn Craig, from serious injury.
As Australia began their run chase, captain Lanning, who averages 53 in T20 chases, was bowled by Sadia Iqbal for just 14 off eight balls. Tahlia McGrath was also clean bowled on the same score, attempting unsuccessfully to sweep Dar. But there was to be no collapse. Perry and Ashleigh Gardner (30 from 19) ensured victory was comfortable as the Australians take a 1-0 series lead into the second game of the series in Hobart on Thursday.