Meg Lanning exchanged an early Christmas gift for a ruthless century as Australia's most domineering stroke-maker destroyed New Zealand's hopes of claiming the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1999 at North Sydney Oval yesterday.
Lanning's whirlwind 50-ball 103 facilitated a nine-wicket, trophy-retaining triumph for the Southern Stars and left an already-struggling White Ferns attack to contemplate what punishment awaits when they try to at least draw the series tomorrow.
Dropped at mid-wicket on nine, the 20-year-old opener wasn't about to let another gilt-edged opportunity to reach three figures slip through her fingers before Australia overhauled New Zealand's meagre 177 inside 22 overs.
Lanning might have celebrated her third century of the series yesterday - she was run out for a rapid 87 and 72 in her previous knocks when hundreds appeared a formality - but was instead content to lift her boundary count to 48, including eight sixes.
The Singapore-born Victorian was no slouch in the previous encounter at the Oval on Friday - her 72 came from 53 balls but the scale of her latest assault was in a different ball park.
A dashing right-hander, Lanning was always going to be the key scalp but, by the time she skied Nicola Browne to Sian Ruck in the 18th over, the home side required only another 32 runs to ensure the symbol of women's trans-Tasman cricket supremacy was staying put.
New White Ferns coach Katrina Keenan, a former quick bowler, sounded relieved that she was not subjected to the onslaught as she watched her players cop a pummelling.
She certainly didn't want to be in Rachel Candy's boots - the luckless opening bowler had Alyssa Healy dropped at point without scoring from her sixth ball; Lanning then received her let-off in the medium pacer's second over.
"Unfortunately those things change the game," Keenan lamented. "She [Lanning] just put the foot down after that and basically anything on a length or overpitched she bludgeoned it down the ground through cow [corner] or over extra cover.
"With a player like that, if you're only getting one opportunity, you have to take it.
"We've got the new ball, we're swinging it, doing the right things but we're just not executing in the field in that early stage."
Once Lanning had a reprieve it was effectively game over, with Keenan admitting: "After that we completely lost our way really."
Lanning needed 23 balls to reach her half-century - a milestone achieved when New Zealand's most reliable bowler, Morna Nielsen, watched her first delivery hit clear of the ropes.
Lanning stroked nine fours and another six before raising her bat, and wasted no time celebrating the third one-day ton of her 14-match career. Lanning needed another 23 deliveries to join rivals Suzie Bates and Amy Satterthwaite as century-makers in the series - a moment crowned by her 18th four.
Healy, meanwhile, was also dropped on 17 by Bates and went on to craft a practically anonymous 62 from 69 balls - a fortuitous knock overshadowed until Lanning's departure when the score was 146.
While the New Zealand bowlers bore the brunt of the punishment, defending such a paltry score was going to be nigh impossible once Lanning settled in.
"We didn't execute our batting plan, we've shown we've been able to put together two really good totals in the last two games but 177 and not batting out the 50 overs is not good enough," Keenan said.
Critically for New Zealand Bates, Satterthwaite and Sara McGlashan could not reproduce their earlier efforts.
The captain made 39 but Satterthwaite, buoyed by a 98 and her maiden one-day ton, could manage only nine before she became the first of four runout victims.
When McGlashan was out for 11 a run later, New Zealand were 75 for four and battling to remain competitive. Browne made a dogged 42 from 62 and tailender Erin Bermingham a face-saving 25 but when the innings fizzled out in the 46th over it was always likely the final game was only going to be an opportunity for the New Zealanders to salvage pride.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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