Megan Schutt put her hatred of North Sydney Oval to one side and spinner Alana King took one of the great return catches as the bowling duo tore Pakistan apart in an ominous sign for Australia’s T20 World Cup defence.
The reinvention of superstar veteran Ellyse Perry as a T20 batter also continued with stunning effect as she smashed an unbeaten half-century, opening the batting, in an emphatic eight-wicket win over the tourists in Sydney.
All-rounder Ashleigh Gardner also played seemingly unimpeded by the vitriolic fallout from her criticism of playing on Australia Day, smashing an unbeaten 30 off 19 deliveries as Australia won with 38 balls to spare.
“She’s been great,” Schutt, who had thrown her support behind Gardner on social media, said after the victory.
“She wears her heart on her sleeve but she’s someone who gets the job done.
“I’ve checked in via text and she’s been great. She’s a tough little cookie.”
While Perry and Gardner did the job with the bat, the victory was earned with the ball as Schutt, bowling with a point to prove after being overlooked for the ICC T20 Team of the Year, tore through Pakistan’s middle order to restrict the visitors to just 118 at North Sydney Oval.
Playing at the ground where she and the Strikers won last year’s WBBL title, she finished with the incredible figures of 5-15 to claim the third-best figures by an Australian woman in T20 cricket.
“I normally really hate North Sydney Oval,” said Schutt, who took a WBBL record 6-19 at the venue last November.
“I’ve had some bad memories here so it’s nice to actually swing that around.
“It’s been a good 12 months, but prior to that, my stats weren’t great.”
KING’S CROWNING MOMENT
Leg-spinner King has had an incredible 12 months in international cricket, and plucked a screamer off her own bowling which left the TV commentators in disbelief.
King took 2-16 from her four overs but the highlight came just four balls after the drinks break when Nida Dar smacked a drive back down the ground which ended up in King’s outstretched right hand.
It wasn’t a simple reflex action, either – she had to take a few steps to her right and then dive to get her hand to the ball, with teammates immediately rushing over to congratulate her.
“That was a bloody good catch,” Schutt said.
“But we did label it a level two because we noted there was a little bend in the arm so it wasn’t full extension and there was only one foot off the ground.”
PERRY’S TIME TO SHINE
With opener Beth Mooney dealing with a minor niggle after her sizzling century in the third ODI the decision was made to elevate Perry as she tries to lock down her spot in the team ahead of the World Cup in South Africa in February.
The veteran all-rounder was outstanding with the ball, knocking over both openers to finish with 2-3 from her two overs, and she was equally impressive with the bat as she brought up her half-century off 36 deliveries and finished unbeaten on 57 in the victory.
“She wasn’t making the XI in the Comm Games and now she’s opening the batting and scoring runs,” Schutt said.
“We have ‘evolve’ as one of our statement pieces, and she’s been the trademark to that.”
Perry may stay at the top for Thursday’s second match, which has been in the headlines after star Gardner called out Cricket Australia for holding a game on a day which has brought “hurt and mourning” to First Nations people.