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WOMEN'S NATIONAL CRICKET LEAGUE

Spin sensation years in the making

07 January 2015
MS

Molly Strano in action for VicSpirit // Getty Images

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There's plenty to like about young spinner Molly Strano says former Southern Stars captain Lisa Sthalekar

About the Writer:
 @sthalekar93

Lisa Sthalekar is an Australian cricket legend who was the first player to score 1,000 runs and take 100 wickets in ODIs in her glittering Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars career. This summer, she is staging a comeback for the Sydney Sixers in the Women's Big Bash League.

As a former spinner, if there is one thing that gives me great pleasure and joy it’s seeing other spinners perform well.

I take immense pride in the fact that spinners within the men’s and women’s game, especially the shorter formats, tend to be the leading wicket-takers.

However, even more satisfying than general slow-bowler success is watching a young spinner perform well on the big stage, and that has certainly been the case across this summer’s Women’s National Cricket League and Women’s Twenty20 competitions.

There are currently a great crop of young bowlers looking to steal the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars’ slow-bowler positions from Jessica Jonassen, Erin Osborne and Kristen Beams, including Jemma Barsby and Grace Harris from the Konica Minolta Queensland Fire and the trio of spinners from the BreezeAir South Australian Scorpions; Hannah Perry, Alex Price and Amanda Wellington ... just to name a few.

There has been one player, however, that has led the charge and that is Commonwealth Bank VicSpirit off-spiner Molly Strano.

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When I first came across Strano, a tall, gangly player, I thought that she must be a batter or even a faster bowler.

However, to my surprise, she delivered the ball with a perfect seam position for an off-spinner and delivered from a height not regularly seen among Australian spinners.

Across both competitions there have been eleven occasions this season where a bowler has picked up four or more wickets across. Nine out of those 11 returns have come from Australia’s young spinners brigade and three of those nine have come from Strano.

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The most recent of those was last weekend when the 22-year-old ripped the hearts out of VicSpirit's arch nemesis and the side I am a specialist coach for, the Lend Lease Breakers, with 6-46 off her 10 overs.

Despite sitting atop the WT20 bowlers list with 18 wickets at an average of 11.22, it hasn’t been all easy sailing for the young off-spinner who is into her third full season with the VicSpirit.

Having burst onto the scene, Strano experienced what most players call the second year blues.

"Players knew what I did and now had footage of me to study," remembered Strano.

"But I learnt more about myself during in the second season - I needed a few different deliveries."

While she was very good at bowling her stock ball, she discovered that you can't afford to keep serving up the same ball at the top level, unless you are looking to be punished.

Strano found support in the form of Neil Gray, a spin bowling coach who volunteers his time to work with the spinners within the VicSpirit squad.

Under his tutelage and with the experience bowling to one of the best players of spin in the country, Jessica Cameron, Strano was able to add a few more deliveries to her repertoire and gain that required consistency.

It is this work ethic away from the field that has seen her improve this season.

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Unlike most bowlers these days who are limited to the amount of deliveries they are allowed to bowl, Strano knows that preparation for her is the key to success and therefore needs to bowl nearly every day. 

Along with developing her spin craft, the 22-year-old has also been faced with unexpected changes in leadership at the VicSpirit, having played under four captains so far in her short career.

Each captain tackles the game differently and their use of spinners, depending on the situation often varies, so Strano has done extremely well to adapt in kind.

Commenting on the current Southern Stars and her state captain, Meg Lanning, Strano notes the change.

"She chops and changes a lot more than the other captains I have had," she said.

"I have had to learn to switch on and get use to bowling one over spells."

But bowling just the one-over spells and opening the bowling in the WT20 fixtures has sat extremely well with the young spinner.

With a slight giggle, Strano mentions that it is either "hit or miss. A fine line (bowling at the top)".

As the season comes to a tight finish with teams jostling for finals positions, I believe it will be players like Strano and the next wave of young spinners that will stand up and be counted.

With hard work the backbone of any success, Strano is well placed to finish as the leading wicket-taker in both competitions and announce herself as the top specialist spinner in the country.

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