Phoebe Litchfield – ‘I’ll play the reverse-sweep whether it spins or not’

Phoebe Litchfield can do it all. She takes gravity-defying flying catches as a habit. In fact, India batter Jemimah Rodrigues, her team-mate at Northern Superchargers in the women’s Hundred, joked that she doesn’t want to be Litchfield’s friend anymore after one such blinder resulted in her dismissal. But Litchfield also bats stylishly and plays a mean reverse-sweep. It’s a shot that the bowlers still don’t expect her to play, despite it being one of her strengths. She displayed that stroke multiple times in her maiden women’s Hundred season last year as well as the WBBL in the past few seasons. Those exploits led Gujarat Giants to splurge INR 1 crore (USD 120,000 approx) on her for WPL 2024.
Litchfield attempted the reverse sweep against Sneh Rana in the one-off Test in India last month but chopped on. However, that did not deter her as she exhibited the shot multiple times during her chart-topping show in Australia’s clean sweep of the three-match ODI series against India. None of the batters from either side played the reverse sweep in the ODIs as much as Litchfield did. She brought it out on 12 occasions and scored 22; Alyssa Healy attempted the reverse-sweep four times, the next-most.

“I still play it no matter if it spins or not,” Litchfield said of the reverse-sweep after her 119 at the Wankhede Stadium in the third ODI. “It’s more about the area of the ground I can access rather than [thinking] if it’s spinning, and then if it is spinning it’s probably a good option because it’s hard to play with a straight bat.”

Litchfield finished the ODIs – her first in India – with 260 runs, scoring two fifties and a hundred. But she also identified a possible area to work on – the conventional sweep. In each of the three games, she fell while attempting a sweep. She missed a slog sweep and was bowled by Rana in the opening game, feathered an edge attempting the shot off Shreyanka Patil in the second, and top-edged a slog sweep towards cover off Patil on Tuesday.

“I have got to work on the conventional sweep because it’s got me out every ODI innings hit so far. The reverse is a strength of mine and I practice it a lot on the nets and just work on my wrist speed. I think that’s an important factor of it. And just sort of controlling it. One of them went in the air close to [Pooja] Vastrakar [at backward point] today. It’s just all down to practice.”

But there was a phase during her second ODI century where she felt the pressure. Healy and Ellyse Perry had been dismissed in relatively quick succession and Patil was brought on for a two-over spell. With close-in fielders in position, Patil stifled Beth Mooney before dismissing her and Tahlia McGrath off successive deliveries.

Litchfield was on 91 off 88 balls when Healy was dismissed and crawled to 98 off 107 before the Patil double-strike. She then played a pristine drive to beat mid-off and got to her century off 109 balls.

“I thought I was going to bring it up with Pez [Perry] as a fairy tale,” she said. “But it took me a long time to get to the hundred and it was nerve wracking to say the least. Then with the wickets falling around me it was a bit stressful. But I just stayed really calm. I probably scored each run in singles.”

Litchfield is only 20, and is already being spoken about in the same league as former Australia captains Meg Lanning and Belinda Clark – that she termed “huge honor”. If her first year in international cricket is anything to go by, it won’t be outlandish if Phoebe Litchfield is the name that comes to mind when talking about the best batters in the world over the next five years.

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