When Meg Lanning made the shock decision to retire from international cricket, aged just 31, last November, there was an outpouring of support for a legendary Australian captain who could go down as the best batter of all time.
But amid the plaudits there was no doubt a sense Lanning, who had endured private battles that made her rethink her outlook on the game and life, had given it up way too soon.
Australia had already battled to retain the Ashes in England without her in the middle of last year, then lost a Test in India before recovering to win the white-ball series in December and January after her retirement was confirmed.
It was a sense potentially reinforced again when the Australians lost to South Africa for the first time, across 25 international matches, in Canberra last weekend as the gap continued to close between the all-conquering Aussies and the rest of the world.
That came as Lanning, having returned to cricket for Victoria after exiting the WBBL early last November, was destroying domestic bowling attacks, showing no signs that her fire for runs, or her ability to carve them out at will, had diminished.
Three times since the WNCL one-day competition resumed Lanning has gone into bat, and three times she has returned to the sheds without being dismissed, racking up 184 runs along the way.
Lanning, who only turns 32 in March, has piled on unbeaten scores of 82, 22 and 80, the middle score coming after she was shuffled down the batting order from No.3 to No.6 to give others a chance to bat.
In all three matches she has guided Victoria to wins, the most recent coming on Monday at the Adelaide Oval.
Through seven matches in the competition, Lanning is averaging a staggering 131.33, but even more impressive, she has done so at a strike rate of 111.
Lanning is the only batter in the top-20 run-scorers in the WNCL to be scoring at better than a run-a-ball.
Huge batting averages are not new to Lanning. She finished her stunning international career averaging 53 in her 103 ODIs for Australia.
Her 4602 runs in those games is only third on the Australian all-time list but came off just 4991 balls. Ahead of her are Karen Rolton (4884 off 6117) and Belinda Clarke (4844 off 6488).
They also played way more matches than Lannings’ 103, which, on growing evidence, was not enough for a player who is far too good to be limited to domestic cricket.
But new Australian captain Alyssa Healy recently confirmed there was no going back, that moving on without Lanning was the way forward.
“There is always a lot of expectation and external noise about our team and how we’re performing. They are so used to seeing us winning that I think, at times, they forget that we’ve actually seen quite a lot of change over the last 12 to 18 months,” she said during the Indian tour.
“Within our group we’re really comfortable with where we’re at and the progression we’re on.”
Originally published as Meg Lanning averaging 131 for Victoria in the state one-day competition