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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2018 Captain of the year: last woman standing

Meg Lanning's Australians blew away everyone in their path in 2018

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Lanning's Australians lost in only one of her 21 matches in charge in 2018  •  Getty Images

Lanning's Australians lost in only one of her 21 matches in charge in 2018  •  Getty Images

In March last year, Lanning returned to competitive cricket, in the Tri-Nation series in India, after a seven-month layoff. Every time she threw overarm, there was pain and a grimace. A jog back to the dressing room and a session with the physio would follow. Yet she did not hesitate for even a split-second when she pulled off a stunning one-handed leaping catch by putting her right shoulder on the line to dismiss Natalie Sciver. It spoke volumes of her drive and resolve to pull a team of ruthless match-winners out of a tough spot.
In a year where everything to do with Australian cricket revolved around the Cape Town ball-tampering fiasco and a culture review in the aftermath, Lanning and her team provided the fans some relief. A fourth World T20 crown was claimed, one that had Lanning grinning from ear to ear as she lifted the trophy. It was a rare smile from a rampaging batsman who prides herself on perfection and has mastered the art of leading her team without dulling her intensity and unwavering focus.
Apart from that title, she led Australia to an ODI series win in India, followed by a win in a T20I tri-series where England were the third side.

The key moment

In promoting Ashleigh Gardner to No. 3 in the World T20 final, Lanning gave a peek into her thought processes and captaincy. Australia were only chasing 106, but the loss of a wicket in the fifth over might have warranted a degree of caution. Lanning, rusty in the tournament, could have used the platform to play herself in. Instead, she turned to Gardner, who responded with a 26-ball 33 to make light work of the target. Earlier in the match, Gardner's three wickets had dented England's batting charge. It was a lesson in empowering personnel.

The numbers

0 Number of Australians, male or female, who had gone past 2000 T20I runs when Lanning did, during a tri-series fixture against England in Mumbai in March 2018.
175 Runs Lanning made across four innings, all unbeaten, in that tri-series, including an 88 not out that she shellacked during the course of Australia's 209 for 4 in the final against England.

What they said

"As a former player, the most pleasing aspect of this tournament was to see the belief these players had, not only in their skill and role within the side but more importantly in each other. They were a happy bunch and it showed on the field."
- Former Australia women's allrounder and Lanning's former team-mate Lisa Sthalekar in a newspaper column

The closest contenders

Virat Kohli
The year began with a Test win in Johannesburg, in a lost series. The year finished with a win that led to a first-ever Test series victory in Australia. In between, there was a Test win in England, and four losses, yet laced with Kohli's batting brilliance. In ODIs, he was an unstoppable force.
Eoin Morgan
He led England to an ODI whitewash at home against the old enemy. The year couldn't have got better from there.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo