Teen prodigy eclipses Lara, Tendulkar in Bushfire Bash
For several months, 16-year-old Phoebe Litchfield has been touted as a future star of cricket.
After as video of her batting in the nets went viral last July, Litchfield made her WBBL debut in November, becoming the youngest player ever, male or female, to score a Big Bash fifty.
The teenager was quickly selected for the Australia A squad and Governor-General's XI, before mustering a match-saving 82 not out for the New South Wales Breakers in January.
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Litchfield quickly developed into a cult hero among the Australian cricket community, but the scale of her popularity was not fully appreciated until Sunday's Bushfire Bash.
Some pretty good shots here.— NSW Breakers (@NSWBreakers) July 9, 2019
Introducing Phoebe Litchfield. pic.twitter.com/IR1umhErky
There were countless sporting legends on display at Junction Oval on the weekend - Sachin Tendulkar faced an over from Ellyse Perry, Brian Lara's cover drives were exquisite, Brett Lee bowled with firey pace and Adam Gilchrist's smoked the biggest six of the day.
Each player signed a shirt for the Big Appeal, which went up for auction on the Cricket Australia website. Surprisingly, as of the 6:30pm on Sunday evening, the highest bid was not for Lara, Tendulkar, or even Ricky Ponting.
It was for the 16-year-old prodigy from Orange.
The yellow and green top signed by Litchfield comfortably held the highest bid on the website, someone offering $3450. In comparison, Tendulkar and Lara's shirts were going for $2325 and $1825 respectively.
This is incredible, the three-highest bids for signed jerseys in this match.— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) February 9, 2020
Phoebe Litchfield - $2,325
Brian Lara - $1,275
Sachin Tendulkar $1,175
Still almost three days to go in the auction as well, so get bidding!#BigAppeal pic.twitter.com/9xu8PQ2igD
Litchfield's batting prowess was on display at the Bushfire Bash, coming to the crease at No. 4 for the Ponting XI.
The 16-year-old cracked her first delivery towards cover, the ball exploding off the middle of her bat. It was a sublime start, so much so commentator Mark Howard confused her for an Australian legend batting at the other end.
"Ponting, glorious stroke through the covers," exclaimed Howard.
"It's Phoebe, it's Phoebe," Damien Fleming quickly corrected.
Litchfield wasn't able to cultivate a massive score, her patient innings of nine overshadowed by explosive innings from Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds and Lara.
However, she looked more than comfortable at the crease; she was in complete control, until a full delivery was crunched straight to AFL star Nick Riewoldt at cover.
"The Australian public is going to see a lot of Phoebe Litchfield over the next few years. That was so impressive," Howard proclaimed as she departed.
Phoebe Litchfield batting with Ricky Ponting... awesome. #bushfirebash— Alister Nicholson (@AlisterNicho) February 9, 2020
Yuvraj Singh bowling to Phoebe Litchfield is not a sight I would have expected to see at the start of the year— Rick Eyre on cricket (@rickeyrecricket) February 9, 2020
Litchfield spoke about her growing popularity in November, humbly admitting she is still adjusting to the growing spotlight.
"Right now, it doesn't matter if I'm running the drinks or if I get a game or two, just being around those players and watching them go about their business will be a great thing for me," she said to The Daily Telegraph.
"There's more people watching, but I guess I try not to think about it … I'm taking it all in my stride."
We probably won't see Litchfield representing Australia for a few years, but as her public profile continues to grow, a stellar career in green and gold seems inevitable.