A who’s who of cricket legends came together to raise more than $7.7 million for bushfire-hit communities in an entertaining exhibition match in Melbourne on Sunday.
A late switch from New South Wales to Victoria due to weather reasons did not rob the event of its star power, with Ricky Ponting captaining a side that included Brian Lara, Wasim Akram, Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, 16-year-old Phoebe Litchfield and AFL legend Luke Hodge.
Ponting’s side beat an Adam Gilchrist-led team – containing Courtney Walsh, Yuvraj Singh, Shane Watson, ex-footballer Nick Riewoldt and Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith – by one run in a 10-over clash.
Far more important was the cause, though, and the donations came thick and fast through the hit-and-giggle action.
Australia’s professional players, via the Australian Cricketers Association, pledged $2 million through a grassroots cricket fund to help cricket clubs and cricket communities affected by the fires.
Cricket Australia also contributed $2 million, while the sum of almost $8 million, at the time of writing, included the high-profile sale of Shane Warne’s baggy green cap.
More donations are expected, with items from the match being auctioned.
“The cricket family can be so proud … the commitment to bushfire relief is now $7.7 million,” Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts said at the after-match presentation.
“We’d love to get that to $10 million. In addition to all of that, Australian cricket will be contributing 4000 volunteer days for the rest of this year to help communities right around our amazing country rebuild.”
The exhibition clash followed a women’s Twenty20 international between Australia and England, which the hosts won to book their spot in the tri-series final against India on Wednesday.
A strong crowd watched both fixtures and were also enthralled by Sachin Tendulkar, who faced an over from Australia bowlers Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland in the innings break of the exhibition.
The Indian cricket legend said he had not batted in the middle for “five-and-a-half years” but looked at home at the crease.
It was one of the day’s highlights, but there were plenty.
Lara showed he had not lost any of his incredible ability, with a range of exquisite strokes. He hit two sixes and a four off one Andrew Symonds over in a 11-ball 30, before he retired.
Litchfield – a highly rated prospect – had the chance to bat with both Lara and Ponting and showed her class in an entertaining cameo, while great friends Hayden and Langer enjoyed the chance to wind back the clock and open the batting together.
Chasing 105 to win in 10 overs, Watson blasted 30 from nine deliveries before retiring, while Symonds produced some lusty blows.
Four-time premiership player Luke Hodge showed his skills were not limited to Australian Rules, bowling well as the Ponting XI won narrowly.
“All of the players have had a ball … fantastic to be a part of it,” Ponting said.
Australia bounces back from India loss
Earlier, Australia needed to beat England to reach Wednesday’s tri-series final after Saturday’s loss to India.
And Australia proved too good, spinner Sophie Molineux (3-19) and speedster Tayla Vlaeminck (2-18) crucial with the ball.
Opener Beth Mooney made 50 for the victors but just one other batter – Rachael Haynes (24) – passed 12 in a total of 7-132 from 20 overs.
It was Australia’s lowest total batting first since the Twenty20 World Cup in India in 2016, when it made 132 against England.
Australia defended it on that occasion and did it again, with Vlaeminck removing England openers Amy Jones (9) and Danni Wyatt (11).
Molineux then struck in three successive overs, the left-arm spinner making things difficult for the tourists.
The run-rate rose steadily and despite a late partnership from Katherine Brunt (23*) and Lauren Winfield (23), England fell short to finish at 7-116.
“Obviously [we] didn’t put the score on the board that we would have liked, but I think that the wicket was actually keeping a little bit low,” Australia captain Meg Lanning told Seven.
“There was lots of bowled and LBWs today. So we adjusted pretty quickly with the ball and it was a great effort with the ball. I thought all our bowlers did a great job.”
Lanning praised Vlaeminck’s early efforts with the ball and said the quick can be a “real weapon” for Australia going forward.
The skipper is hopeful Australia can deliver a more “complete performance” in the final.
“I think we can definitely get better … putting that complete performance together hasn’t quite happened yet, so hopefully Wednesday is the day,” she said.
Wednesday’s final begins at 1.40pm AEDT.