Cricket fans have expressed their delight to see Meg Lanning back in action on Tuesday amid fears she could walk away from the game for good. The former Australia captain turned out for Victoria in the Women's National Cricket League against the ACT Meteors, blasting 80 not out from 60 balls.
Lanning's innings powered Victoria to a nine-wicket win, chasing down the ACT's total of 195 in just 27.5 overs. The 31-year-old hit 11 fours in a classy knock - her first since stepping away from cricket towards the end of the WBBL season.
Lanning has taken a number of breaks for personal reasons throughout her career, and stepped away once again late last year. She had been captaining the Melbourne Stars in the WBBL, but opted to sit out the final few games in a development that left fans saddened.
That came after she announced in November that she was retiring from international cricket, but would continue in T20 and domestic leagues. Her latest break had fans fearing that Lanning was considering retiring from all forms of cricket, but her return for Victoria has put that to bed. She is also due to take part in the Women's Premier League this year with the Delhi Capitals in India.
"She's taking a few days out for some personal reasons," Melbourne Stars coach Jonathan Batty said of Lanning's latest break in December. "We're reassured she's all OK, which is the most important thing, but we're giving her that time and space and respecting her privacy in what she needs to do. We're taking it on a game-by-game basis at the moment and we'll give her all the time she needs to make that decision but she's definitely out for the next couple of games."
Some return to action for Meg Lanning in the WNCL
She smashes 80* off just 60 balls with 11 fours as Victoria hammer ACT by 9 wickets, chasing down 196 in just 27.5 overs
She has now hit 4 50s in this #WNCL season
— Mohit Shah (@mohit_shah17) January 16, 2024
Fantastic to see Meg playing.
— Tigerman (@TigermanMelb) January 16, 2024
She's just out there casually reminding everyone why she's one of the best in the game! 🏏💥
— Jam Ayaz (@jamayaz1s) January 16, 2024
— Sugu (Megastar fan) (@MegHPK07) January 16, 2024
Awesome to see Meg smiling 😊 and enjoying herself!
— lisa (@pixiem24wicks) January 16, 2024
Meg Lanning return allays fears of cricket retirement
In announcing her retirement from international cricket in November, a teary Lanning said she'd lost her hunger to compete at the elite level. "The decision to step away from international cricket was a difficult one to make, but I feel now is the right time for me," she said. "I've been incredibly fortunate to enjoy a 13-year international career, but I know now is the right time for me to move on to something new."
Alyssa Healy has since taken over as Australia captain in all three formats, and admitted it was important for the team to have some clarity over the leadership situation. "We wanted Meg to come back and we wanted Meg to lead the side," Healy said. "But it was just sort of filling in while we could and also probably living series-to-series, which we identified that's not probably doing us any favours. We actually need to look long term and work towards World Cups and work towards big series and tournaments."
Life without Lanning didn't exactly get off to a good start for the national team, who lost a Test match against India in December - their first defeat in red-ball cricket since 2014. However they bounced back with a 3-0 clean-sweep of the ODI series and a 2-1 triumph in the T20s.
Lanning is widely considered one of the all-time greats of women's cricket, and captained Australia to five World Cup triumphs. She amassed 8352 runs at international level in 241 matches and captained Australia 182 times - more than any other player from her country.
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