Alex Blackwell: Meg played a magnificent innings

Australia won with nine balls remaining, but nonetheless Alex felt her team had to fight for it.

A file photo of Alex Blackwell.   -  AP

It’s quite admirable that even at 32, Alex Blackwell exhibits the same energy and enthusiasm that she perhaps showed in her debut for Australia against England in a one-day international in Lincoln in January 2003. A specialist right-handed batswoman, form deserted her on a number of occasions in the nascent stage of her international career and she was dropped from the Australian side. But she bounced back to regain her place and is an integral part of the Australian side of which she is the most senior professional. She has played with Australia’s well-known women cricketers like Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton, Lisa Sthalekar, Shelly Nitschke and Jodie Fields and now she is part and parcel of a team led by the dynamic Meg Lanning.

On Friday, Alex was in the vanguard of a fight-back after her team appeared to buckle under pressure following a hostile opening burst by South African fast bowler Shabnim Ismail. Alex took guard at nine for the loss of two wickets after Shabnim had dismissed both Alyssa Healy and Elyse Villani. Alex acknowledged South Africa’s powerful display when her team went out to bat in pursuit of 103 for a victory.

“It was not a very good start for us. They had a magnificent power play. (Shabnim) Ismail led from the front and we know she is one of the best fast bowlers in the world. Her extra pace and the skid she managed to get was a challenge for us early on. Once we lost three early wickets, the plan was to play smart. The total was still not out of hand,” said Alex at the post-match press conference.

Australia’s chances of a comeback largely depended on Alex’s experience and ability to take stock of the situation since Meg was still unwell to come out and bat. Alex summed up the situation saying: “I was hopeful Meg would not have to bat. The way she came and killed the game off (30 off 19 balls) made the dressing room relaxed. When Jess Jonassen and I were out there, we were in control, but it was still a run-a-ball. We knew the big overs would come, Jess hit a couple of boundaries and we got a big over against the leg-spinner (Dana Van Nierkerk). We knew that was going to make a difference and decided to keep a cool head and wait for those opportunities.”

Australia won with nine balls remaining, but nonetheless Alex felt her team had to fight for it. “We won by six wickets, but we have been pushed. We will go away from this match and look to improve; to keep them to 102 was a good effort. We struggled with the bat early against some quality bowling, credit to them for pushing us. Nice to get over the line, Meg played a magnificent innings.”

The first thing Alex did after the match was to inform the cricket world via Twitter saying: Feels great to get the 1st win on the board at Nagpur. South Africa really pushed us. Gutsy effort from @meglanning7. Alex herself had played a big part with an unbeaten 42 off 46 balls, supporting Meg in the 52-run unbeaten partnership for the fifth wicker that clinched the match for Australia.